According to the constitution, the courts act independently, but in practice they are subject to political influence and even whim. When former president Carlos Menem encountered judicial opposition to administrative reforms, for instance, he managed to expand the Supreme Court from five to nine members, with one of the new appointees being his former tennis coach. This gave Menem a so-called “automatic majority” for his projects, and insurance against political scandals such as an illegal arms sale to Croatia.
When the political winds shifted, though, congressional allies of president Néstor Kirchner managed to force the resignation of Chief Justice Julio Nazareno and Justice Guillermo López. They also successfully impeached Justice Eduardo Moliné O’Connor, who now has more free time for the tennis courts. Kirchner has been slow to appoint replacements, and some observers have questioned whether the new appointees will be the best legal scholars or simply more political cronies.
Meanwhile, important cases in the lower courts drag on for years and even decades due to corruption, inefficiency, or political influence. The most high-profile example is the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires ’s Once neighborhood, which killed 87 people. Former president Kirchner pledged to pursue the matter—in which both former Iranian diplomats and Buenos Aires  provincial police have been implicated—with greater diligence, but neither his administration nor his wife’s brought any significant new developments.
Justice may also vary according to social class. The military caste, for instance, escaped judgment for their Dirty War crimes with almost complete impunity except for a handful of top officers (all of whom were later pardoned by Menem, though he himself had been imprisoned during the dictatorship). Rich and powerful civilians have avoided detention even when the charges have been murder, but petty thieves can count on jail time. The Kirchner administration voided an amnesty that had limited prosecutions of Dirty War suspects, though, and some of them are currently on trial.