Mon, 25 Sep 2023

MEXICO CITY (CN) - Lawyers for an embattled Mexican Supreme Court justice accused of plagiarizing both her undergraduate and doctoral theses premiered the latest installment of what has become a laughter-eliciting affair for the country's legal community. 

The academic qualifications of Supreme Court Justice Yasmin Esquivel Mossa first made headlines in December after allegations surfaced that she plagiarized her undergraduate thesis. Some weeks later, an ethics panel at the National Autonomous University of Mexico confirmed the plagiarism. UNAM, which granted Esquivel's law degree in 1987, presented three other nearly identical papers and said Esquivel's was a "substantial copy" of one presented the year before.

Esquivel's attorneys meanwhile urged the UNAM ethics committee to throw out the case against her on Thursday, claiming in that a Mexico City judge ruled in May that she did not plagiarize her thesis. The lawyers announced the development in press conference in Mexico City but did not make the decision public, saying instead that they plan to present the case documentation to the UNAM ethics committee.

"This firm and unassailable judicial declaration issued by the legally competent authority has resolved that the author of the thesis in question is Yasmin Esquivel Mossa, and therefore she is the legitimate holder of the copyright to the cited intellectual work," attorney Alejandro Roman told reporters.

Esquivel's lawyers say the judgment came out of a civil case that the judge filed against Eduardo Baez Gutierrez, a man she accuses of having presented a thesis nearly identical to hers in 1986. Baez reportedly failed to appear in court, leading Judge Maria Magdalena Malpica Cervantes to rule in favor of Esquivel.

Despite Baez having turned his thesis in a year ahead of Esquivel, the already zany saga became more bizarre when audio surfaced in January of the man admitting to having copied from the judge.

After months of such comical turns, Mexico's legal community received Thursday's announcement with rolled eyes. 

UNAM law professor Javier Martin Reyes used the term "clown show" to describe Roman's assertion that a civil case win on a technicality somehow absolves Esquivel of the ethical implications of plagiarism. He also pointed to an important word in the university's name: autonomous. 

"Regardless of the details in the ruling, a civil decision cannot put conditions on the UNAM to take corresponding action," Reyes said. 

Sergio Lopez Ayllon, a research professor in the law department at the Mexico City-based think tank CIDE, called the announcement "ridiculous" and said that Esquivel's lawyers have their jurisdictions mixed up. 

Copyright infringement, for example, is a federal matter, he said, and the UNAM was in no way a party to the cited civil case. As for Baez's failure to appear in court, he said it does not prove Esquivel's authorship of the thesis. 

"The eventual decision of the UNAM ethics committee is not an issue of copyright, but rather one of inappropriate conduct, which is the plagiarism," said Lopez, adding that a civil case in no way obliges the UNAM to take any action whatsoever. 

UNAM law professor Rodrigo Brito Melgarejo noted that members of the ethics committee may ultimately consider the civil case, but the ruling is in no way binding. 

"In the end, the decision remains in the committee's hands," he said.

UNAM had not responded to a transparency request regarding the matter by the time of publication. 

Esquivel has also been accused of plagiarizing her doctoral thesis at another Mexico City university. The justice has staunchly claimed innocence throughout the scandal.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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