CSOs Slam Judicial Selection Process as “Ceremonial”

The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, uniting 40 local civil society organizations, said that a four-month process of selection of Supreme Court judges “actually had a ceremonial nature and was not directed towards resolving the gravest problems persisting in the judiciary.

On September 4, the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) submitted a list of 20 candidates of Supreme Court judges to the Parliament of Georgia for election.

The parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues will now vote for each of the 20 nominees of the HCoJ. If supported by the majority of lawmakers, each candidate will be appointed to the Supreme Court for lifetime tenure.  

The process of interviews, which lasted from July 17 to August 15, 2019, passed amid strong criticism from CSOs and non-judge members of the High Council of Justice. A part of civil society organizations talked about “clannish rule” in the judiciary, accusing HCoJ of creating favorable conditions to desirable candidates.  

At present, 20 of the 28 seats on the Supreme Court are vacant, including the position of chairperson.

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In a statement released on September 12, the Coalition hailed the process of interviews as “open” and “public,” but noted that “a number of important problems were identified in the process, which were neglected by the Council.”

Among other problematic issues, the Coalition named participation of three HCoJ members in the selection process with two of them having family relations with judicial candidates; as for the third member, according to the Coalition, there were all grounds to suspend his powers in the Council. Though, none of them were distanced from the process.

The CSOs also noted that though being obliged, HCoJ did not publish candidates’ bios timely, thus depriving the public of enough time to familiarize themselves with the information about candidates.

The statement notes that after receiving 137 applications, 50 candidates were selected for interviews in a way that gave way to the doubts that “some HCoJ members acted in concert.”

The Coalition also said that the process of interviews was marred by serious shortcomings. In particular, interviews were too long that infringed upon the interests of candidates, HCoJ staff and monitors.

CSOs also noted that the process of interviews with candidates was held “in a very unconstructive atmosphere,” amid “verbal attacks” by judge members against non-judge members of the HCoJ, Anna Dolidze and Nazi Janezashvili.

The Coalition also slammed as “unclear” the post-interview period, when the HCoJ members evaluated candidates by two criteria – competence and decency.

The CSOs stressed that “the list of 20 candidates with the best evaluation” did not coincide with the final list of candidates submitted to the Parliament.

According to them, it is important that the list of candidates submitted to the Parliament on September 4 also included the judges, who were nominated in December 2018.

“The list does not include some candidates, who made a positive impression due to their knowledge and experience, while the qualification and decency of a number of candidates included in the list arouse well-grounded doubts,” the statement reads.

The Coalition said that “the process of selection of Supreme Court judges passed on the basis of new legislative amendments developed by the Parliament.” However, “the government did not demonstrate a political will to compose the Supreme Court with dignified and qualified staff.”

“The legal framework developed by the Parliament once again enabled the High Council of Justice to pursue the interests of influential judges and government that further aggravates the situation in the judiciary,” CSOs noted.

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