ZOJ Declaration on Current Situation in Judiciary

The Conference of the organisation Judges „For Open Judiciary“ held in Bratislava on 21 March 2014 after evaluating the current situation in judiciary adopted this position:

 

Judges negatively view the procedure in which serious legislative modifications related to judicial power based on motions of the Parliament Members directly in the Parliament are adopted whereby the judges in this procedure are excluded. The proposed motions relate to all key laws and provisions of the Slovak Constitution that were adopted by the end of the 90-ties, after long-lasting and complicated negotiations among the representatives of judges, the Government and the Parliament, and that fulfilled the requirements for integration of Slovakia with the European Union. These legislative provisions were based on European standards and on the independence of judicial power and they should be fully respected also today.

 

Unacceptable are mainly the efforts establishing the security checks and providing a possibility to remove judges from their positions in a way other than regular disciplinary or criminal procedures. Motions of the Parliament Members do not make it clear why current way of creating the Judicial Council is not satisfactory and why it is necessary to modify its creation in a way that give the Slovak Government and the Slovak Parliament stronger powers. It is not possible to find out real effects to efficiency and confidence of the Slovak Courts. We find positive only the proposed separation of the positions of the President of the Slovak Supreme Court and the Chairman of the Slovak Judicial Council. We therefore invite the Members of the Slovak Parliament not to continue the legislative procedure without any regular expert discussion and to enable mainly the judges to comment these serious modifications within a regular consultation procedure.

 

It is surprising that the Slovak Judicial Council has not adopted any position to these efforts of the legislative and executive powers, where judges and the public rightfully expect that this should be the main body to guarantee the independence of the judicial power. Judicial Boards are also inactive though they are the bodies of the Court self-administration.

 

We will inform the international judicial associations about current situation and we will ask them to monitor the Slovak Republic how the fundamental criteria and conditions for a democratic country with rule of law are maintained.

 

Done at Bratislava 21 March 2014

 

JUDr. Katarina Javorcikova

ZOJ President

A memory can also be a new beginning

On 14th April 2011 passed away Juraj Majchrák – former judge, Vice-President of the Supreme Court SR, a longtime President of the Association of Judges in Slovakia and signatory of the initiative For Open Judiciary (ZOJ). He achieved in his life what many of us only desire – natural reverence and respect at home and abroad. He connected the work of a judge with the efforts to transform Slovak judiciary into an independent and credible judiciary.

The way to achieve this goal is still very far. There is lack of distinctive personalities in the jury, such as was Juraj, who would be able to motivate and convince the judges that just as important as the performance of decision-making activities of a judge is also responsibility for the judiciary as a whole, for its professional and moral standard. When in the '90s Association of Judges in Slovakia fought for the adoption of legislation that would make the judiciary indeed the third power in the state, Juraj as its representative had always been associating the requirements with the responsibility of judges for the performance of the judiciary.

We have achieved a lot, something we have already lost. Our credibility in society is low enough and the answer why this is so are different between the judges themselves. When we began to fight for the new face of justice in the '90s, most of the judges were as on the same ship. We thought that we are on one side of the barricades against the executive branch, which has no interest in strengthening our position and powers. However, in parallel with the way we seemed to succeed to achieve the status of judges, which e.g. the judges Czech Republic were jealous of, the process of internal decay of our apparent unity started. Although judges seized, among other things, leading positions in the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Council, it did not lead to the strengthening of our position and respect in society. The result is rather the opposite.

Juraj liked to use one unnamed author's statement "There is not enough darkness to put out the light even from the smallest candle." There's a profound truth. The problems will not go away if we do not speak about them loud. And if we do not start to solve by ourselves the problems that most people can see, someone else will have to deal with them for us. And sooner or later, the will issue us a bill...

In a newspaper interview in 2004, Juraj said "Evil is allowed by decent people who are silent." He knew what he was talking about and the judges knew it as well. The situation has not changed much since then. Most decent judges are still quiet, even if there is the need to speak.

Judge Juraj Majchrák will not come between us anymore. He will not speak in the way typical for him, when all of a sudden everything seems clear and convincing and proposed solutions acceptable. His legacy, however, remained here and it is important to remember.

So that we do not remain those decent judges thank to whom the things we do not agree with can happen in judiciary.

 

14th April 2013

 

JUDr. Juraj Babjak

Vice-President ZOJ 

Invitation to the elections of members of the Judicial Council SR

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to invite you to the elections of eight members of the Judicial Council of the Slovak Republic I convoked to 29 May 2012.

Despite several legal opinions  I guarantee to you that the elections will be held in accordance with the Constitution of the Slovak Republic. Each of you had the option to candidate in accordance with the constitutional conditions and each of you has the right to take part in the elections.

We have the right to decide in secret vote about the future development in the judiciary during the forthcoming five years. This is a unique chance for us judges to choose the way because we stand at the cross roads. There is one way I continuously stress and it is the guarantee of independence of judges, material coverage for fluent performance of the judicial position, right to legal opinion and fulfilment of the international judicial standards for judges. I will not repeat the unquestionable facts when the politicians decreased wages with promotion and support of some of us, when justice ministers made press conferences on decisions of judges in cases they were not aware of at all, they publicly informed about filed disciplinary motions against judges. This is the other way, because there are colleagues who cooperated and supported projects with the aim to subordinate judiciary to the politicians, when we are the only public actors who guarantee our functions by our property what was unique in the whole European Union and in the civilised world. That is why  I will on Monday use my judicial right and I will go to vote.

Report on the current state of the Slovak Judiciara, 2012

A report  „The Slovak Judiciary: Its current state and challenges“ by Lukasz Bojarski, polish lawyer and member of the Polish National Council of Judiciary; and Werner Stemker Köster, investigating judge at Rotterdam Discrict Court, who became the special reporter for Slovakia of The Nederlands Judges for Judges Foundation in 2009. Made on request from Open Society Foundation. 

Download (MS Word)

Bullying in Black Gown

Harabin [Supreme Court chairman] is vengeful and he misuses his powers, say Supreme Court judges.

The situation at the Supreme Court allegedly resembles the totalitarian era of fear before 17 November [1989, when communist regime began to collapse in former Czechoslovakia].  A handful of judges who have taken the liberty to criticize the chairman, Stefan Harabin, have decided no longer to keep silent and have spoken out about bullying and the circumvention of the law committed, as they say, by Harabin.  Not only can they not further their education, go on official trips, and adjudicate cases that are interesting, but they have recently been swamped with an amount of work with which one cannot cope without causing delays.  This is to be ensured by a new work schedule for the next year that Stefan Harabin has prepared for them.  It is said to be a "thank you" for a recent article published in this weekly, in which we reported that the Supreme Court chairman had failed to let judge Berthotyova attend an international conference in Prague.  Even the US ambassador to Slovakia had unsuccessfully intervened in the matter.

The Supreme Court has rejected the above interpretation, though.

 

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