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GYLA publishes Council of Justice monitoring

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Tuesday, June 22
Georgian Young Lawyers' Association has published the 9th monitoring report of the High Council of Justice On June 21, 2021. According to the report, clan rule remains the main challenge of the system “due to the current regulation on the selection of board members, through which only members of the influential group of judges are included in its composition.” The rule of electing non-judicial members of parliament also fails to ensure the election of independent, clan- and government-free individuals.

The next issue is the appointment of judges in the first and second instance. GYLA reports that the ‘clan’ controls 2/3 of the votes sufficient for decision-making in the council, which allows it to appoint candidates for the position. The selection, appointment, and transfer of judges without competition is an important lever for the ‘clan’ to gain influence. Despite a number of legislative changes, the competitions held by the board have been constantly criticized.

NGO writes that one of the levers of clan power is the chairmen. When appointing them, the council uses the so-called ‘revolving door’ system. Through this mechanism, all influential members of the clan hold important positions in the judiciary at all times. They alternate between the positions, which significantly reduces the opportunity for other judges to be involved in management.

“The deadlines for disciplinary proceedings are delayed, with the council not reviewing any complaints filed in 2020 when the maximum time for disciplinary proceedings should not exceed 5 months.”

GYLA has concluded its report with recommendations, which should be ensured by amending the normative acts by relevant institutions. Among 30+ recommendations were the following:

- Replacement of the existing majoritarian system for the election of board members. Establish gender, regional, and instance quotas (as defined by law, but need to be clarified) when electing judge members of the Council;

- Abolish the quota of chairmen in the council. A member who, meanwhile, holds a position other than that of a judge shall resign as soon as he is elected.

- Appointment of non-judicial members to the council with mutual support (from the government and the opposition). Setting gender quotas;

- Transparency of the rules for electing non-judicial members of Parliament;

- Opportunity for candidates in the first and second instances to appeal against the refusal to go from the interview to the voting stage;

- Appointment of judges of 1st and 2nd instance by 2/3 of votes of judges and non-judges;

- Develop a procedure/criteria that clearly demonstrates the merits of favoring a particular candidate when transferring a judge to another court (including without competition);

- The candidate who receives a separate 2/3 of the votes of the judge and non-judge members of the council must be nominated to the Supreme Court;

- Election of Presidents in the courts of first and second instance;

- Abolition of the administrative positions of the Chairpersons of the Board and the Chamber (acting), the Deputy Chairperson;

- Improving the procedure for nominating the President of the Supreme Court;

- Determining 2/3 of the votes required for the appointment of an inspector and improving the competition rules for selecting one;

- Indicate the specific circumstances in the justification of the appointment of judges of the first and second instance in such a way that the interested person receives comprehensive information about the good faith of the judge;

As Nikoloz Simonishvili, GYLA chairman has explained at the presentation, the High Council of Justice, which is supposed to guarantee the independence of the judiciary, is in full chargenof the court, since it has 2/3 of the votes in the decision-making process and the appointment of judges.

“Its strengthening is facilitated by the rule of appointing chairmen. The members of the clan with the highest hierarchy are in the position of chairmen, and they determine many issues of political importance. Complaints regarding disciplinary liability are simply not considered, while the law stipulates that they must be reviewed within 5 months. In fact, the council shows loyalty to judges and avoids responsibility. The legitimacy of the clan was further strengthened by the refinement of procedural norms,” Simonishvili claims.

The largest opposition faction in parliament, the National Movement - Power is in Unity, has launched an initiative to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry that will study clan governance in common courts, determine political and clan decisions in the field of justice.

Khatia Dekanoidze, MP from UNM, says that the report prepared by the inquiry commission will be sent to international members. According to the draft resolution, the ad hoc commission should study the existence of interest groups in the judiciary, their formal and informal influences, hierarchies and statuses, facts of corruption, and nepotism.

"Georgian Dream" calls the establishment of this commission of inquiry a political campaign. The leader of the ruling party Irakli Kobakhidze says that they will not participate in this political campaign, but they will fulfill the requirements of the regulations.

NGOs have been talking about clan governance in court for years. The solution of judicial challenges is part of the so-called Charles Michel Agreement and has been referred to by all international partners of Georgia.