Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has restructured the former Interior and Justice Ministry and named Juan Carlos Esguerra, LL.M. '73, to head the new Ministry of Justice and Law. "Esguerra is the ideal person to assume this office at a very important moment for justice in this country," said President Santos at the July 11 ceremony announcing the appointment. "When the creation of the ministry is mature and ready, Juan Carlos will take office."
The son of a former chief justice of Colombia's Supreme Court, Esguerra was the first Colombian student to enroll in Cornell Law School. After earning his master's degree, he joined the law faculty at Universidad Javeriana, accepted a position as his country's Vice Minister of Communications, and entered private practice at Esguerra, Gamba, Barrera, Arriaga & Asociados, where he focused on administrative and constitutional law. Called back to public life, he helped draft a new constitution in 1991, became Colombia's Minister of Defense from 1995 to 1997, and served as Ambassador to the United States from 1997 to 1998. In the years since, he has published numerous legal articles, authored a book about constitutional remedies, and been an ad hoc Justice for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
"I am very honored to become Minister of Justice, and remain deeply committed to justice, which is the most beautiful cause I know," says Esguerra, speaking from Bogotá by telephone. "The essence of the task itself is beautiful, and there is much work to be done."
As the Minister of Justice, Esguerra is responsible for defining and redefining existing legal policies; presenting new bills to Congress; reviewing laws issued by Congress; administering the prison system; handling international legal issues; and helping ensure the quality of legal education in Colombia's law schools.
A member of the Cornell Law School Advisory Council since 1992, Esguerra fondly remembers the LL.M. program, citing the impact of the late Rudolf Schlesinger ("an absolutely marvelous professor and a great human being"), an expert on international comparative law; the late John W. Wade ("one of the wise men of the tribe"), who taught torts as a visiting professor from 1972 to 1973; and John J. Barceló, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of International and Comparative Law and the Elizabeth and Arthur Reich Director of the Leo and Arvilla Berger International Legal Studies Program. On Professor Barceló, Esguerra states, "He has been a very important influence throughout my life. He honored me with his friendship, and we have been friends ever since."
"I consider Cornell one of the greatest experiences in my life," says Esguerra. "I learned an enormous amount from my professors, and my time at Cornell was absolutely crucial in my becoming the person I am today."