Public Defender Responds to Promotion of Judges by the High Council of Justice
The Public Defender negatively evaluates the appointment of judges through accelerated procedures, without competition, by the HighCouncil of Justice.
On 28 September 2015 the HighCouncil of Justice made a decision to initiate appointment/promotion of judges to 7 vacant seats in the Court of Appeal without competition. The decision was based on article 37 of the Organic Law on Common Courts, which provides for appointment of judges to the higher court without competition in exceptional cases, without defining the rules of appointment/promotion. The majority of the Council members did not consider the critical and substantiated opinions of the Public Defender and representatives of non-governmental organizations, which were attending the meeting. As a result, the Council adopted an utterly unjustified and ungrounded decision in the absence of relevant rules and criteria. The critical opinions were based on the fact that appointment/promotion of judges to the Court of Appeal was unacceptable without objective, obvious, fair and transparent criteria and process. In addition, the Public Defender considers that it was necessary to make a decision on announcement of a competition for 68 vacant seats in the common courts. However, the issue was not supported by the High Council members, even though the Public Defender said at the meeting that there existed problems in consideration of cases within reasonable time by the courts of first instance due to the lack of judges.
On 19 October 2015 the High Council of Justice again discussed the abovementioned issue and hastily made a decision on amending the Regulation of High Council of Justice, through which it defined a rule for appointing judges to another court without a competition. Pursuant to this rule, on 29 October 2015 the Council started to interview judges that wished promotion.
According to the Public Defender, the process of interviewing is ongoing with significant deficiencies, which threatens the independence of the judiciary and the public confidence in the processes ongoing in the system. Negligent attitude could be observed among the Council members (this mainly concerns the judge members of the Council) in the process of interviewing. Mainly non-judge members of the Council ask questions during the interviews, while the judge members either are not engaged in the process at all, or at best are limited to general, superficial and technical questions. In addition, members of the Council are constantly changed in the process of interviewing, so that regular attendance of the absolute majority of the Council members is not observed. Unfortunately, there is no impression that the majority of the Council members are interested in the proper identification and assessment of the skills and abilities of the candidates. This is especially worrying when it comes to the promotion of judges to the Court of Appeal.
The Public Defender believes that, given the importance of the issue, the members of the Council shall show more responsibility concerning their commitments, which have already raised legitimate questions in the public and professional circles, and shall manage the process so that the decisions on promotion of judges are objective and grounded enough for outer observers. Continuation of the process of promotion of judges in a formal form, which could be observed on October 29, will not contribute to strengthening of the public trust in the judiciary. The Public Defender continues to observe the process of interviewing of judges underway in the High Council of Justice.