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2007 Justice Prize

Carlos Cerda

Judge Carlos Cerda Is a Minister of the Santiago Court of Appeals in Chile. He studied law at the Universidad Catolica de Chile and received a Special Doctorate in Law from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, as well as a Doctorate from the University of Paris II. He has served as Secretary to the Ministers for the Supreme Court of Chile, Secretary to the Court of Santa Cruz, and then as a Judge in Santa Cruz. Judge Cerda also served as Rapporteur for both the Santiago Court of Appeals (1974-79) and the Supreme Court of Chile (1979-82). He became a Minister of the Santiago Court of Appeals in 1982 and was its President from 2002 to 2003.

Judge Cerda conducted investigations into gross human rights abuses during the regime of General Augusto Pinochet, issuing indictments against 38 members of the Chilean military and their civilian collaborators engaged in kidnapping and murder. For his courageous work, Judge Cerda received the support of Bar Associations in other countries. An editorial at the time declared that 'one judge demonstrated that it can be done, and 'that it¹s worth the effort. In standing up to the Pinochet regime, Cerda risked his career, the respect of his peers and was temporarily removed from the bench. He continues to this day to bring members of the Pinochet regime to justice for corruption and tax evasion.

He is widely admired as Chile’s leading legal scholar and would certainly have been appointed to Chile’s Supreme Court were it not for his principled stance against the Pinochet regime. Cerda has been dedicated to teaching young lawyers and judges-in-training, based on his philosophy that "judges are guardians of the human condition when threatened by power, who pursue justice, inner peace, with prudence, without pride or concern over reward or personal security, and most importantly, with independence." Judge Cerda has served as Professor of Law at leading Chilean law schools, including the Universidad Catolica de Chile and the Universidad Diego Portales, where he was Associate Professor of Procedural Law (1984-86) and director of the department of Procedural Law (1984-91). When Judge Cerda was a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School from 1987 to 1988, the International and New York bar associations issued a statement calling Cerda "one of the most brilliant jurists in Chile today;" saying, "his rectitude, courage and honesty is unquestioned by even his opponents."

Judge Carlos Cerda's life is seen as a testimony, both in academics and the judiciary, to a deep commitment to the values of law. He has studied profoundly what it means to be a judge and his resolutions bear witness to the type of judiciary committed to current and ongoing challenges. Judge Cerda says, "I advocate for judges that are guardians of the human condition, when threatened by the various aspects of power. And judges that pursue justice with inner peace, with prudence, without pride or concern over reward or personal security, and most importantly, with independence."