- Mexico’s Supreme Court (“SCJN”) has decided or will decide on the fate of key policies promoted by President López Obrador.
- Lacking a super majority in Congress to amend the Constitution, López Obrador has seen several of his legislative bills declared unconstitutional, like an overhaul of the electoral system, while others are still pending full review by the SCJN, such as the Electric Power Industry Law.
- Open confrontation between the President and the SCJN has become more evident this year. A slate of candidates summited early November by the President to fill an open seat in the SCJN heralds closer alignment with Morena—the President’s party—and reflects how the SCJN is central for cementing the future of López Obrador’s self-described “Fourth Transformation of Mexico.”
- The composition of the SCJN will play a decisive role well beyond the end of the López Obrador administration (September 2024) in areas that are critical for the overall business climate, such as energy, tax policy, antitrust, the role of the armed forces in public security, telecom, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence regulation, among others.
López Obrador and the SCJN
On November 7, 2023, the former President of Mexico’s SCJN, Arturo Zaldívar resigned prematurely, a year before the end of his term and after serving in the Court for 14 years. The day after his resignation, Mr. Zaldívar joined the campaign of López Obrador’s favored candidate to succeed him as president, Claudia Sheinbaum. Mr. Zaldívar’s resignation caused a political uproar and was widely perceived as a move that allows López Obrador to get a new SCJN Minister for a full new term. The Constitution only permits ministers to resign for “serious reasons,” and it is expected that Zaldívar will have a prominent role in a future Morena administration, including that of Attorney General after the two-year cool-off period required by the Constitution.
Out of 11 magistrates on the SCJN, four have entered the bench during López Obrador’s tenure, following Senate confirmation: Juan Luis González Alcántara y Carrancá (12/2018), Yasmín Esquivel Mossa (03/2019), Ana Margarita Ríos Farjat (12/2019), and Loretta Ortiz Ahlf (12/2021). This new vacancy in the Court allows the President to nominate a fifth Supreme Court minister, who will serve for a 15-year term.
The President accepted Zaldívar’s resignation and, on November 15, 2023, sent to the Senate his slate of candidates to replace him. The candidates are all women who currently work in his administration, are members of his Morena party and are aligned to his political ideology and government program. Two of them are also related to important members of the party (one is the sister of the Interior Minister and the other is the sister of the Major of Mexico City).