Are the new judges in Croatia appointed against the law?

Is it possible that State Judiciary Council (SJC) is wilfully breaking the law? Whatever the causes, intentional or unintentional, the effects are the same.

On Thursday, February 3rd, newly appointed judges of various court levels attended the swearing-in ceremony in Croatian Parliament.

The judges and their oaths should be believed and respected. The issue here is that the law regulating appointment of new judges has been changed recently (Law on State Judiciary Council) and the appointment of new judges is not as simple as it used to be. Namely, to qualify for appointment the candidates should complete special educational courses at Judiciary Academy attached to the Ministry of Justice. The appointments were speeded up to avoid forcing the candidates to complete the said academy and adjust themselves to a number of new regulations, which in turn were enacted as a part of the process of Croatia joining the EU.

Therefore:

  • On January 20th, 2011 SJC appointed 18 judges
  • On January 27th, 2011 SJC appointed 13 judges

The appointment of over thirty new judges within a week is unheard of in Croatian legal tradition. The president and member of JSC, Ivan Turudić, is also a head of the county court in Zagreb, position that he should not hold at the same time according to the law.

Further more SJC is obliged by the law to make its sessions public and accessible to the press, this was generally honoured with sole exception of the above mentioned two sessions (January 20th & January 27th). In one incident the sole member of the press arrived uninvited but was denied access to the session.

To be fair, the new law came in power when the process of naming the new judges already started. The selection process already begun and application deadlines ended, so it was correct and proper to apply the old law. However SJC committed another breach, according to the old law they should have asked parliamentary Committee for the Judiciary for their opinion on the matter. This was not done and that is in accordance with the new law, however since the process started under the old law it stands to reason that all the elements of the old law should have been honoured.

The matter is further complicated by the fact that some of the applicants never received official note of appointment and the whole process was not posted in the Official Gazette of Croatian government.

It is either a case of usual shabbiness in Croatian judiciary or the last ditch attempt to quickly appoint politically suitable candidates before EU. Probably it is a bit of both.

Written by: ~D. Lesar
Translated by: ~B. Bubanj

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