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Five run for Judicial Council seat

FIVE candidates, including Štefan Harabin, who earlier this year failed in his bid to get re-elected as Supreme Court president, will run for a vacant seat on the Judicial Council, which oversees the operation of the judiciary in the country. The deadline for submitting candidacies elapsed on October 13, with Harabin’s critics dubbing the November 25 election as a “litmus test of the condition of the country’s judiciary” as 1,400 judges will be voting to pick their representative on the council.

(Source: SME)

FIVE candidates, including Štefan Harabin, who earlier this year failed in his bid to get re-elected as Supreme Court president, will run for a vacant seat on the Judicial Council, which oversees the operation of the judiciary in the country. The deadline for submitting candidacies elapsed on October 13, with Harabin’s critics dubbing the November 25 election as a “litmus test of the condition of the country’s judiciary” as 1,400 judges will be voting to pick their representative on the council.

Harabin’s challengers include former member of the council Dušan Čimo, who was dismissed only one week before the key September 16 election of the Supreme Court president and the council’s boss. The For an Open Judiciary association, an independent judiciary initiative unifying judges who are critical of the performance of Harabin, is backing Čimo, who was originally elected to the council in February 2012 by the right-leaning parties.

Former vice-chair of Bratislava Regional Court, Lenka Praženková of the Supreme Court, Jozef Vanca of the Košice Regional Court and Martin Bargel of the Žilina Regional Court are also running for the post.

This election will have symbolic meaning and its result will show “whether the judiciary will conserve its current state, or if contrarily it will move towards reforms”, Grigorij Mesežnikov, president of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), told the SITA newswire.

A recently passed constitutional amendment, which divided the post of Supreme Court president from the position of Judicial Council boss as of September, has left one position in the council vacant. The council has 18 members. The president appoints three members, while the government and parliament send each of their three appointees to the Judicial Council. Nine members are elected by judges.

The Judicial Council was set up to defend the interests of the judges, but it also submits proposals for appointing judges to the country’s president and decides on placement of judges to different courts, among other tasks.

Harabin, who previously headed the council, is backed by 10 judges of the Supreme Court and claims that he is running because he was addressed by a huge number of judges, SITA reported.

Čimo, a long-time critic of Harabin, enjoys the strongest support for returning to the Judicial Council as along with the For an Open Judiciary association he also is backed by the Trnava Regional Court’s council and 12 judges of the Supreme Court, according to the Sme daily.

According to Čimo, as quoted by the public service Slovak Radio (SRo), elections will show to what measure the judges accept the current style of managing judicial affairs “and to what measure they sense reform efforts I personally was part of”.

Čimo was recalled from the council by Smer deputies in the parliament only one week ahead of the September 16 election of the Supreme Court president and head of the Judicial Council, after parliament’s deputy speaker Jana Laššáková proposed his dismissal. Smer MPs offered no detailed explanation for sacking Čimo. Opposition MPs called the move a deliberate effort by Smer to secure votes for the election for the new Supreme Court and Judicial Council head, SITA wrote.

Harabin, who has been showered with criticism from political ethics watchdogs, activists and a number of judges for the way he has run the top court and his negative influence on the country’s judiciary, has repeatedly deemed the elections of his successor to the Supreme Court illegitimate.

Meanwhile, on October 6, the General Prosecutor’s Office said that deputy general prosecutor for the penal section Peter Šufliarsky has not tracked any legal reasons for the prosecution to act in the case of the September election of the Supreme Court president, the TASR newswire reported.

Šufliarsky met with newly elected Judicial Council head Jana Bajánková to discuss circumstances of the vote on that day with Bajánková claiming that the vote was in line with the rules.

However, Harabin, who has been critical of the current composition of the Judicial Council dubbing it a “political advisory body of Justice Minister Tomáš Borec”, now uses the vote as one of the arguments for running for the council.

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