I’ve always wondered where Spanish judges, particularly local ones, find justification for their habit of ignoring judicial precedent and ruling whatever the hell they feel like. Having read Azorín’s Los pueblos (1904) yesterday evening, I think I’m getting closer.
It contains the story of Don Alonso, a rural judge in Ciudad Real, who is presented with the new Spanish translation of yet more jugements du président Magnaud, which has made the journey all the way from Barcelona to accumulate dust in the window of a bookshop in the provincial capital.
El buen juez sits up all night reading the work of his illustrious colleague and the next day goes into court and hands down a sentence that astounds the town and horrifies his family. But he goes home satisfied:
[T]he spirit of Justice is so subtle, so undulating, that after a certain amount of time the moulds fabricated by men to contain it, that is to say, laws, come to be restrictive, antiquated, and so, until the legislators make other moulds, a good judge should make, for his own use, some modest little provisional moulds in the factory of his conscience.
Mario Vargas Llosa writes that the story was actually intended by the editor to be a review of the Magnaud volume, but José Payá Bernabé points out that it also reflects a sensational case of the time.
Tomás Maestre Pérez, professor of legal medicine and toxicology, fought a ferocious battle in 1904-5 to save from the Guadalajara prosecutor and the garrote two peasants, Juan García Moreno and his son Eusebio, who had been condemned to death for the murder of a relative, Guillermo “Oil Man” García. Maestre believed the death was suicide, and Azorín was influential in a national campaign to save the pair.
There’s a biography of le bon juge here, but I don’t think any of his writings are online yet.
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