Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Luís Nunes de Almeida 1946-2004

Luís Nunes de Almeida, president of Portugal’s Constitutional Tribunal and an ex-officio member of the republic’s Council of State, was on his way to deliver an annual lecture on constitutional law at Aix-la-Chapelle when he died of a heart attack in the Spanish hotel where he and his wife were stopping overnight.
Appointed in April last year to the office that made him the fourth most senior figure in the Portuguese constitution, he had served 20 years on the tribunal that assesses the constitutionality of laws and was its vice-president for 14 years.
His learned jurisprudence and impartiality were respected across the political spectrum, though his centre-left leanings were no secret: he served a term in parliament on the Socialist benches in the early 1980s, and played a major part in the constitutional reform that dissolved the Revolutionary Council and liberalised the economy.
In the aftermath of the 1974 revolution, he had been involved with the Socialist Left Movement (MES) and his penchant for backroom political machinations earned him his English-language nickname, ‘Plot’. In later years, he was an ally of António Guterres on the wing of the Socialist party that opposed alliance with the right-wing Social Democrats.
Nunes de Almeida had suffered a heart condition for several years and underwent a coronary by-pass. He had been through several stressful experiences in recent times. Earlier this year, he was caught up in the political crisis sparked by the appointment of Portugal’s then premier, José Manuel Durão Barroso, to preside the European Commission. President Jorge Sampaio sought his counsel on whether the situation demanded an early general election – the option preferred by a majority in opinion polls – or could be resolved by the appointment of the new leader of the majority conservative bloc, Pedro Santana Lopes, who took over as prime minister in July.
Nunes de Almeida’s name figured marginally in a long-running and labyrinthine corruption investigation known as the Moderna case, in which he and two other senior judges were alleged to have accepted fees and benefits in kind for giving classes in a private university. An investigation by the superior council of the judiciary found no basis for charges of impropriety.
The judge was a senior freemason, a member of the 33rd-degree supreme council in Portugal’s largest Masonic body, the Grande Oriente Lusitano, of which he was tipped as a future grand master. His funeral Mass was preceded by a private Masonic ritual, celebrated for the first time since 1882 within a Portuguese Catholic church.
Earlier in his career, he was a senior aide in the ministries of social affairs and industry, and chairman of the bankruptcy court. In private practice, he held several company directorships and was involved with the country’s leading business schools.
  • Luís Manuel César Nunes de Almeida, jurist, born 16 July 1946; died 6 September 2004

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