The Coalition Statement on Deficiencies of Judicial Disciplinary Proceedings
The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary is reacting to important deficiencies of the judicial disciplinary proceedings, which have a negative effect on judicial independence and undermine public trust in the court system.
Despite four waves of judicial reforms during the last few years, the system of judicial disciplinary liability does not ensure fairness, impartiality and effectiveness of the process. This is caused by the concentration of power in the hands of the dominant group of judges, and shortcomings of the legislation.
The legislative framework does not ensure sufficient independence of the Independent Inspector because he/she is elected by majority of the full composition of the Council. Correspondingly, non-judge members cannot actually influence the decision-making process. Furthermore, the legislation does not adequately regulate the process of selection of the Inspector and does not ensure objectivity and fairness of the competition.
The Inspector’s independence has also become doubtful because of the way he was elected. On January 23, 2020 the High Council of Justice elected Zurab Aznaurashvili as Independent Inspector. The competition was not carried out in a transparent manner, thereby strengthening distrust towards the elected Inspector.
The position of the Independent Inspector was introduced to curb excessive power of the Council with respect to disciplinary proceedings. However, the rules for his selection and connections of the current Inspector to the dominant group of judges, cast doubts on the independence and effectiveness of this institution.
In addition to insufficient guarantees of the Inspector’s independence, delays in disciplinary proceedings create another important problem. The Third Wave of Reform established terms for initial review and examination of disciplinary cases. The actual proceedings violate these terms and are protracted. In 2019 the Council carried out only two meetings dedicated to disciplinary issues. Correspondingly, a small number of disciplinary complaints have been considered so far. The failure of the Council to fulfill its duties creates a perception of the ineffectiveness and partiality of disciplinary proceedings.
The system of judicial disciplinary liability is aimed at strengthening reputation and public trust in the court system. At the same time, the system contains a potential risk of being misused as an instrument for exerting pressure on individual judges. Correspondingly, it is highly important to ensure the independence of the Independent Inspector, who is an essential element the system.
Additionally, the bodies involved in judicial disciplinary proceedings have to address complaints on judicial disciplinary violations timely, objectively and effectively to promote judicial accountability and public trust in the court system.
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