The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary Reacts to the Planned Judicial Conference
The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary believes that in the current situation, the election of a judge member/s of the High Council of Justice by the Judicial Conference is unjustified.
The XXX Conference of Judges is scheduled for October 31, 2021. According to the agenda, the Conference should elect a judge member/members of the High Council of Justice of Georgia (HCOJ). It should be noted that none of the HCOJ members’ term has expired, and no information on the early termination of a member’s term has been made public. Consequently, it is still unknown which member is leaving the Council and for what reasons.
The High Council of Justice, which is supposed to guarantee the independence and efficiency of common courts, for years, along with the government, has become one of the main actors undermining justice. The Council is the body allowing the group of influential judges to maintain its power. Consequently, the election of judge members of the Council is of particular importance for changing the culture of informal governance in the court system.
In parallel with proper public and political efforts, if individual judges undertake real actions, the High Council of Justice can drive the renewal of the system and facilitate a fundamental reform. It is therefore of particular importance that both judge and non-judge members of the Council are elected on the basis of a high professional and political consensus. Unfortunately, over the years, the observation of this process has shown the opposite trend. Consequently, as a rule, the leaders of the influential group of judges and individuals associated with them become the members of the Council.
The signing of the April 19 agreement and the expiration of the terms of four judge and five non-judge members created an expectation of an actual renewal of the Council’s composition. However, in May 2021, the Judicial Conference elected four judge members. Later, without providing any justification, the Georgian Dream refused to appoint non-judge members of the Council based on a consensus with the parliamentary opposition. As a result, for about five months there have been no appointees of the legislative body in the High Council of Justice. This contradicts the constitutional logic of the separation of powers and significantly undermines the credibility of the justice institutions.
Given the need for the reconsideration of the composition of the Council and the procedure for selecting its members, and the presence of five vacancies to be filled by non-judge members, a guaranteed vote gains particular importance for the influential group of judges. Holding a judicial conference in this situation raises reasonable doubts that the influential group, guided by the desire to consolidate power, is trying to make this important and strategic decision in the absence of reforms. The group is using the cover of the severe political crisis, directing the public interest away from the problems of the court system.
In view of all of the above, the Coalition calls on:
judges of common courts:
- To refrain from electing judge members of the High Council of Justice until the rules of composition of the Council are modified in a way that ensures the election of the members of the High Council of Justice in a transparent and fair environment.
Parliament of Georgia:
- To promptly start working on the fundamental justice reform, by, inter alia, ensuring the appointment of non-judge members of the High Council of Justice on the basis of a broad political consensus.
- For implementing the reform in the right direction and avoiding mistakes made in the past, to create a working format in which interested civil society organizations, professional and academic groups, the Public Defender, and international partners will have the opportunity to participate. This group should adequately assess the Waves of Judicial Reforms and their impact.