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Watchdog finds nepotism in courts

VIA IURIS, a judicial watchdog group, conducted a study last year in which it found that as many as 30 percent of newly-appointed judges have close family ties with incumbent judges or court employees.

VIA IURIS, a judicial watchdog group, conducted a study last year in which it found that as many as 30 percent of newly-appointed judges have close family ties with incumbent judges or court employees.

The analysis further shows that only one quarter of newly-appointed judges have work experience outside the judicial environment. It also contains recommendations for changing the selection procedures for judges.

The organisation is convinced that systematic changes in the selection of new judges could prevent nepotism, and that Justice Minister Tomáš Borec could easily improve the situation by appointing non-judges to the commissions in charge of selecting new judges, the TASR newswire reported, quoting a Via Iuris press release. Such a rule was implemented in a revision of the law on judges and judicial assistants in 2011, but the commission still consists mainly of judges.

“To prevent cronyism, judges should not be selected only by [other] judges,” Kristína Babiaková, a lawyer working with Via Iuris, said in press release on July 22. “Even international recommendations say that selective commissions should consist of other professions’ representatives.”

The recent ruling of the Constitutional Court (CC) deemed part of the selection rules adopted in 2011 unconstitutional, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Alexandra Donevová said in response.

“It would not be good to apply these rules, and thus no change of candidates for members of selection committees would be appropriate,” Donevová said, as quoted by TASR.

However, Babiaková explained that Via Iuris knows about the recent CC ruling and that the watchdog’s proposal does not violate it.

Moreover, the CC has not published the full wording of that ruling and the change in legislation may take some time to take effect. Therefore, Via Iuris is trying to use all available options to improve the selection of judges, she said in a press release.

Via Iuris implemented its research on the basis of existing findings, which show that public trust is key in the relationship between society and the courts. The analysis contains recommendations including changes in the composition of the selection commission, determining specific criteria for the choice of a selection commission and the Judicial Council alike, and the introduction of balance in the written and oral parts of the selection procedure.

“These and other measures that are set forth in detail in the analysis which would to a great extent remove doubts regarding objectivity in the selection of judges,” Babiaková said in press release.

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