PRESS digest: SME DAILY

News item: Justice Minister Štefan Harabin demands that the Constitutional Court discipline Supreme Court Chief Justice Milan Karabín for refusing to permit a ministry audit of the Supreme Court.


Harabin punishing Karabín
By Marián Leško


The proposal for disciplinary proceedings that Justice Minister Štefan Harabin has laid against Supreme Court Chief Justice Milan Karabín is paradoxical. The minister is doing exactly the same thing that, as Supreme Court chief justice from 1998 to 2002, he criticized the former minister for doing.

Justice Karabín has repeatedly prevented the ministry from auditing his court to see whether it is observing the terms of the Public Service Act. Minister Harabin wants to punish him for this defiance, even though no public authority has confirmed the ministry's power to audit all courts following the abolition of the Public Service Bureau. In other words, Harabin has elevated his understanding of the changed legal situation to the status of a law, and is proceeding as if he were now the extended arm of this 'law'. If he were in the position of Justice Karabín, he would call this behaviour deliberate interference by the executive branch in matters under the authority of the judicial branch.

Milan Karabín refused to allow ministry auditors on his court's premises because if he had, he would de iure and de facto have conceded that the ministry is the superior state organ to the Supreme Court. This might then have been in conflict with Section 141 of the Constitution, which says that "justice shall be administered at all levels independently of other state organs". It might also have allowed something to return through the window of the Public Service Act that was tossed out the door five years ago with the amendment to the Constitution and the Act on Courts and Judges.

Before the Constitutional Court decides whether to cut Chief Justice Karabín's pay by up to 70 percent for six months, it must decide whether Minister Harabin sent his auditors to the Supreme Court in keeping with the Constitution and the country's laws. It might well turn out that the minister, in trying to punish Karabín, actually ended up strengthening the independence of the judicial sector.

News item: The KOZ union umbrella group elected a replacement for outgoing boss Ivan Saktor, who decided to run for mayor of Banská Bystrica.

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