FROM now on, candidates approved by the Judicial Council, the top body overseeing the operation of the judiciary in Slovakia, might not be appointed automatically. President Andrej Kiska will first look into their background, the Sme daily suggests. The Judicial Council has already sent Kiska a list of eight judges who are now awaiting their appointment.

Kiska has turned down five of the six candidates nominated in a Smer-dominated vote in April to serve on the Constitutional Court for the next 12 years, picking only Supreme Court judge Jana Baricová.

Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška and Prime Minister Robert Fico panned Kiska for his refusal to pick three candidates for the court, with Fico suggesting that “the powers of the president start and end where he has the possibility to choose three of six”, according to Sme.

Yet, when speaking at the open-air Pohoda music festival as part of a political talk show, Kiska restated that he was entitled to reject all the judges who were offered to him. According to him, it is one of the key positions in the country and he does not regret that he went into a conflict with the ruling Smer only a couple of weeks after being sworn in.

Kiska reiterated that the composition of the Constitutional Court could help purify Slovakia’s judiciary.

“Our judiciary needs serious change,” said Kiska, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

However, Kiska also told the Pohoda audience that he consults all steps with experts, as he himself is not a lawyer.

In this context, Sme posed the question of whether Kiska would appoint candidates who are suspected of succeeding at the courts thanks to family ties and cronyism. Kiska’s spokesman Peter Petrus told Sme that the president is dealing with the process of appointing the new judges, but would not comment on particular candidates.

According to Petrus, the president wants to set a “clear, transparent, and understandable process of decision-making over the appointment, similar to how it happened in the case of the constitutional judges”, Sme reported.

Based on judges’ property declarations, from 1,383 active judges who in 2012 submitted reports, 277 had close family relations to another judge or employee at the court, which means every fifth judge, the political ethics watchdog Transparency International Slovensko suggested in November 2013. Only seven out of 64 Slovak courts do not employ a judge with at least one relative in the judiciary, the organisation wrote on its blog.