Georgian Parliament approved the bill drafted by the Georgian Dream legislators on the selection and appointment of judges on its first hearing on Wednesday.
Parliament Approves Controversial Bill on Selection of Judges
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 21
Two more hearings are left for the bill, which is grilled by NGOs, to be finally approved.
The bill was drafted by Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze and six other ruling party MPs.
It came after made the decision of the High Council of Justice, an independent body which is responsible for selection and appointment of judges in Georgia, to name 10 candidates for the Supreme Court of Georgia in December 2018.
The NGOs and several members of the ruling party stated then that several names on the list were connected with biased judiciary under the United National Movement leadership.
The Georgian Dream vowed more transparent criteria and procedures and addressed the Venice Commission for help to write a document which would have responded to the demands of all parties regarding the selection and appointment procedures of the Supreme Court judges.
The bill by the ruling party lawmakers is disliked by Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, who says that she will send her views to the Venice Commission and OSCE.
The bill offers five-staged selection and appointment procedures for judges.
The first stage: After a vacancy opens for the Supreme Court judges, in one month time, the High Council of Justice announces reception of applications, which will continue for four weeks.
A candidate must be over 30, with high education in law [MA or an equal degree at least], with working experience and knowledge of the national language.
A candidate must have at least a five-year experience of working as a judge. A former judge with five-year experience, if 10 years are not passed since the suspension of duty, is allowed to run in the contest. A candidate might also be a high-class law specialist with five years of experience, who had passed judge qualification exams.
After the reception of applications is closed, the High Council of Justice is obliged to upload the list of applicants, their biographic data and the decisions of the council [whether a candidate meets the criteria] on its webpage.
The second stage: The High Council of Justice, which is composed of 15 members, conducts closed voting concerning the candidate. If a vacancy is opened for one or two seats in the Supreme Court, three times more candidates, with best results, move to the following stage. If the vacancy is opened for no less than three seats, then 2, 5 times more candidates are allowed to continue the fight for the Supreme Court judges. If candidates receive the same amount of votes, those with longer working experience are given a chance. The list of successful candidates must be uploaded on the webpage of the High Council of Justice. If a candidate is at the same time a member of the council, he/she is not allowed to vote.
The third stage: is the hearing of successful candidates, which must be public. On this stage, members of the High Council of Justice ask questions to candidates individually and grant them scores. After the hearing is ended, during the High Council of Justice meeting, the candidates are voted to decrease the number of participants to the needed number. If a candidate is at the same time a member of the council, he/she is not allowed to vote. The list of successful candidates must be uploaded on the webpage.
Fourth stage: Remained candidates are voted in the High Council of Justice. A candidate will be presented to parliament for voting if he/she receives the support of 2/3rd of the council. If a candidate is at the same time a member of the council, he/she is not allowed to vote. If any of the council members think that the approved candidate is not suitable for the future position, he/she is allowed to send a letter to parliament and inform the legislators regarding his/her position.
The fifth stage concerns the voting procedures in parliament.
The NGOs believe that the High Council of Justice, “which is still controlled by a clan,” maintains levers to help desirable candidates appear in the Supreme Court.
The NGOs also say that a council member, who is allowed to also participate in the contest, has access to opponents’ documents and information, which puts him/her in a privileged position.