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Judge says her independence was pressured

THE JUSTICE ministry has cast doubts on the work of Anna Benešová, a judge of the Bratislava Regional Court, who in an earlier interview with the Sme daily accused the court’s management of putting pressure on her to give preference to the complaints of the then-justice minister and presently Supreme Court head Štefan Harabin. She also claims she was advised on how to rule in those cases.

THE JUSTICE ministry has cast doubts on the work of Anna Benešová, a judge of the Bratislava Regional Court, who in an earlier interview with the Sme daily accused the court’s management of putting pressure on her to give preference to the complaints of the then-justice minister and presently Supreme Court head Štefan Harabin. She also claims she was advised on how to rule in those cases.

According to Sme, Benešová has served as a judge for more than 30 years and no complaints were ever raised against her until she ordered the hearings in the cases of Harabin vs. media.

Benešová was a judge in appellate proceedings of two libel lawsuits filed by Harabin against publishing companies of popular Slovak dailies. The proceedings were interrupted as Harabin objected to the bias of judge Benešová based on disciplinary proceedings that had been initiated against her. Harabin was eventually awarded damages in the appellate proceedings by the new judge.

On July 8 the court of the first instance ruled she should be demoted to serve as a judge at a district court. The disciplinary proceedings against Benešová were initiated by the Bratislava Regional Court chair, allegedly because Benešová banned recordings of court proceedings in two cases.

The court ruled against Benešová despite the fact that all but one witness claimed that she never banned the recording of the hearings.

According to Benešová’s lawyer, the two cases involving Harabin and the Slovak dailies are behind the disciplinary proceedings rather than the banning of recordings from her hearings.

Benešová has already appealed the verdict, demanding an explanation why her behaviour was classified as a serious disciplinary offense. In her closing speech she labelled the whole disciplinary proceeding as being based on ulterior motives, SITA wrote.

The justice ministry as well as the court refused to comment on Benešová’s case explaining that the court procedure is not finished. Benešová retains the right to appeal against the court’s decision against her, Sme wrote.

The Bratislava branch of the Association of Slovak Judges (ZSS) takes Benešová’s side.

“Beside the case of Judge Benešová there are several other disciplinary proceedings that have raised doubts about their motives,” Edita Szabová, the head of Bratislava’s section of ZSS told Sme.


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