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Court OKs Puerto Rico Commission

March 24, 2002

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BOSTON (AP) _ A special commission formed by Puerto Rico’s governor to secretly investigate government actions does not violate due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution, an appeals court panel ruled.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a federal district court decision that barred the commission from conducting investigations without instituting regular trial procedures.

``This decision lets the commission continue its fight against corruption,″ said Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderon, who formed the panel by executive order in 2001.

Plaintiff Daniel Pagan, Puerto Rico’s former Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, said he will ask for a review of the decision by the full appeals court.

Pagan was implicated in two of the three investigations completed by the commission; his co-plaintiff, former budget director Jorge Aponte, was implicated in one.

Calderon said she formed the Independent Citizens’ Commission to Evaluate Government Transactions to increase trust in government institutions plagued by scandals during the past New Progressive Party administration.

Both Pagan and Aponte were members of that administration.

The commission operates under strict confidentiality. Witnesses are not allowed to take notes or record their testimony. Witnesses who are not considered suspects are not allowed to have attorneys present. Only the governor has the right to publicize the findings or evidence collected by the commission.

The appeals court panel said that because the commission simply makes recommendations and does not have the power to charge anyone with a crime, there was no way it could violate due process rights.

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