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President vetoes court reform bill

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, January 26
The President Giorgi Margvelashvili vetoed a package of bills, known as the third wave of the judicial reform, and sent his “motivated remarks” to the legislative body which according to him were necessary to put the draft in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations.

The President stressed that one of the main reasons he vetoed the bill was increased power of the court chairpersons and less influence of ordinary judges.

Some Georgian Dream representatives stated the President’s decision over the veto was “surprising and inconsistent”, while the President’s administration said there was nothing surprising in the solution.

The majority can override the President’s veto without taking his remarks into account, as the Georgian Dream party holds 115 seats in the 150-member legislative body, in which just 76 votes are needed to override the veto.

The Parliament of Georgia approved the package of bills over the court reform initiated by the Ministry of Justice with its third and final reading on December 29, 2016.

The bill offered the introduction of an electronic case assignment system from 2018.

It also suggested lifting the obligation of a three-year probationary period for judges before their lifetime appointment. The draft said that acting and former members of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, who had at least three years of working experience, would not have to take the three-year probationary period. However, all other judges would have to do this.

The draft also said the number of Supreme Court judges should be no less than 16.

The President’s remarks for the veto included:

Court chairpersons should be elected by judges and not be appointed by the High Council of Justice, an independent organ created to co-ordinate the judiciary system and to promote the effectiveness and independence of the judiciary.

One and the same person should no longer be a chairperson of the court and the court’s chamber at the same time.

The three-year probationary terms would not be used if a judge previously fulfilled the condition.

The law should specify the number of the Supreme Court judges.

The Council of Justice Judges should have the opportunity to be represented more solidly, since the court chairperson will no longer be member of the Council.

The rules of collection and dissemination of information about candidates during a competition should be specified.

The President and its administration claim the remarks are in full line with the Venice Commission comments.

Majority member Gia Volski says overriding the President’s veto is not the government’s aim; he says the majority is interested in the President’s view and the motivation behind his remarks.

Meanwhile, fellow majority representative Eka Beselia stressed the President’s veto was “strange and unclear”, saying it would hamper the “very important court reform”.