The Judicial Council selection and dismissal of judges, Supreme Court chair and vice-chairs, Judicial Council vice-chairs as well as members and chairs of disciplinary committees will be held in a secret ballot vote, according to the proposal drafted by Smer and approved by the parliament on June 24.

As of September, the legislation will introduce sterner rules for judges, including mandatory security screenings to determine their eligibility, the TASR newswire wrote. The changes are linked to the constitutional amendment sponsored by both governing Smer and opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH).

The approved bill also changes the way candidates are appointed to the Judicial Council and separates the position of the Judicial Council chair from that of the Supreme Court chair. [The constitutional amendment coupled with these changes also featured the enshrinement of marriage as a union between a man and a woman - ed. note]

The proposal also addresses disciplinary procedures, measures to combat the famous dilatory court proceedings in Slovakia and verification of incapability to work due to illness. Among other changes, the number of vice-chairs at larger-sized courts is increased and the tenure of court chair and vice-chairs is extended from three to five years.

All votes on personnel issues of judges, their appointing or recalling, of members of disciplinary senates and selection of judges representing Slovakia at international organisations will be closed to public, the SITA newswire wrote. The bill was elaborated by Smer MPs Boris Susko, Anna Vitteková, Otto Brixi and Anton Martvoň and it partially connects to the constitutional amendment of Smer and KDH that should tighten up the rules for judges.

The secret votes will worsen the state of Slovak judiciary, the Via Iuris organisation claims. If Štefan Harabin is elected for the chairman of the Supreme Court, public will not learn which of the Judicial Council members voted for him, Via Iuris warns, as quoted by SITA. The organisation added that other votes of the Judicial Council, too, evoked serious concerns about the bias and qualification in decision-making of its members. Via Iuris opines that the secrecy on the votes of council members will bring even more questionable personnel decisions, as the pressure of public opinion will decrease.

(Source: TASR, SITA)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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