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Žitňanská proposes separate heads for Supreme Court and Judicial Council

Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská revealed an initiative to amend the Constitution with the aim of preventing a single person from simultaneously holding the posts of Supreme Court chairman and Judicial Council chairman, the TASR newswire reported. If the constitutional amendment is passed, the current head of the two bodies, Stefan Harabin, will need to step down as Judicial Council chairman, TASR wrote. But to pass the legislation Žitňanská will need the support of opposition lawmakers.

Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská revealed an initiative to amend the Constitution with the aim of preventing a single person from simultaneously holding the posts of Supreme Court chairman and Judicial Council chairman, the TASR newswire reported.

If the constitutional amendment is passed, the current head of the two bodies, Stefan Harabin, will need to step down as Judicial Council chairman, TASR wrote. But to pass the legislation Žitňanská will need the support of opposition lawmakers.

The minister also proposed that chairs of individual courts should no longer be members of the Judicial Council. She stated, as reported by TASR, they have a high degree of responsibility for their respective courts and also have a relationship with the justice minister who appoints and recalls them. She pointed to the most recent election of the Supreme Court chairman, in which the Judicial Council elected Harabin while he was the sitting justice minister. Žitňanská will propose electoral districts for selection of members of the Judicial Council, with their territories mirroring regional court districts.

The opposition Smer party’s MP and shadow justice minister, Róbert Madej, said that his party will not support the amendment in parliament, the Sme daily wrote. Madej added that Smer considers the amendment purpose-tailored. “It is another fight against one person in the judiciary and the coalition again confirms its frustration with Mr. Harabin,” said Madej as quoted by Sme. Without Smer’s support, the amendment is unlikely to succeed in parliament.

Žitňanská also proposed reintroducing evaluations of judges that were abolished in 2008, saying that court chairs would draw up a statistical record of each judge every year. The evaluation would include the number of cases resolved, and other elements would be compared to the average figure for judges across Slovakia. If a judge has poor results, the court chair would have to report on the remedial measures undertaken. Further evaluations would be conducted once every five years. If a judge is evaluated as unsatisfactory three times they would be required to leave the bench.

Source: TASR, Sme

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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