Public Defender Negatively Evaluates New Draft Law on Selection of Supreme Court Judges

The Public Defender of Georgia negatively assesses the new draft law submitted to the Parliament of Georgia relating to the changes to the rules of selection of Supreme Court judicial candidates. The proposed amendments fragmentally focus on certain aspects of the selection of Supreme Court judicial candidates, while the main recommendations of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR regarding the shortcomings in the selection process remain unresolved.

In particular, the amendment upholds the existing rule of secret decision-making by the High Council of Justice during the selection of judges, which poses a serious problem in terms of transparency and credibility of the selection process.

The draft law provides not for the justification for the decision of the High Council of Justice (relating to the advancement of candidates to the next stages), but for "justification of the Secretary of the Council", which is of descriptive nature, contains a description of the procedure conducted and general description of candidates advanced to the next stage. This information is already available to the public and it in no case indicates the motives for the selection of a particular candidate by the Council. Thus, the change does not improve the existing procedure and does not make a decision justified.

The second novelty in the draft law is the introduction of a special mechanism for appealing against the decision of the High Council of Justice relating to the selection of judges of the Supreme Court. According to the draft law, a repeated decision on the refusal of submission of a Supreme Court judicial candidate by the High Council of Justice to the Parliament of Georgia cannot be appealed. Thus, even if the body authorized to review a complaint finds a violation, the above will not be binding for the Council as there will be no relevant effective enforcement mechanism.

It should also be taken into account that the decision made in the process of selection of judges of the Supreme Court can be appealed to the Qualification Chamber of the Supreme Court, members of which are the judges elected by the Parliament of Georgia under the flawed procedure in December last year. Since there has not been reasoned decision-making during the selection of these judges and the selection process received quite negative feedback from all key actors (both the good faith and competence of some of the elected judges were questioned), naturally, decisions made by them cannot be trusted.

In view of the above, the draft law fails to address the systemic problems in the process of selection of Supreme Court judges and is merely a nominal attempt to solve the problmes.

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