The High Council of Justice (HCoJ) has voted for and submitted for the Parliament’s final approval the final 20 out of the 48 finalist candidates to fill the vacant seats at the country’s top bench. The candidates are:
- Tamar Alania;
- Merab Gabinashvili;
- Shota Getsadze;
- Miranda Eremadze;
- Mamuka Vasadze (First Deputy Prosecutor General);
- Maia Vachadze;
- Tamar Zambakhidze;
- Shalva Tadumadze (Acting Prosecutor General);
- Zaza Tavadze (Acting Chair of Constitutional Court);
- Vladimer Kakabadze;
- Levan Mikaberidze;
- Giorgi Mikautadze (Secretary of the HCoJ);
- Paata Silagadze;
- Nugzar Skhirtladze;
- Lali Papiashvili;
- Nino Kadagidze;
- Lasha Kochiashvili;
- Ketevan Tsintsadze;
- Alexander Tsintsadze;
- Gocha Jeiranashvili.
The High Council of Justice, the body overseeing the judiciary, is composed of 15 members. The Council includes Chair of the Supreme Court, eight judge members elected by the Conference of Judges, as well as six non-judge members with five elected by the Parliament and one nominated by the President of Georgia.
Vote overshadowed by protest
The candidates of the Supreme Court judges were being selected amid protest of a group of independent lawyers outside the HCoJ, condemning “clannish rule” in the judiciary. According to Kakha Tsikarishvili, one of the group members, the judges are chosen through nepotism and their devotion to the “clan” rather than competence.
“The Parliament of Georgia [should] acknowledge the existing problem…Georgians should know what it means to be a dishonest judge and should not give [such] dishonest judges an opportunity to hold [the position of high] judicial authority,” he said.
Dimitri Tskitishvili, a judge member of the HCoJ, who also chaired the selection commission, said “all the procedures carried out in the frames of the HCoJ, were fully transparent,” and that “all of the actions were in line with legislation.” Tskitishvili said all the candidates meet “the high standards of being a Supreme Court judge,” and expressed hope that parliament will endorse all of them.
Calling the selection process “a show,” non-judge member of the HCoJ, Nazi Janezashvili said many out of the selected 20 candidates do not have relevant qualifications and should not have made the final list.
Selection of candidates
HCoJ wrapped up a month-long process of interviews with 50 candidates of the Supreme Court judges on August 15. It then took two weeks to assess the candidates before submitting a final list of 20 candidates to the Parliament.
The process of interviews, which was live-streamed by the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s Facebook page, and the performance of the candidates, but especially the way they were interviewed was met by strong criticism from civil society organizations. The process was accompanied by bitter confrontation between judge members of the council and non-judge members. The judge-members accused their opponents of sabotaging the process for political reasons, while the non-judge members said their opponents were waving through their cronies, while blocking some qualified candidates, thus serving the “clan” of politically connected justices.
The process of selection of candidates of the Supreme Court judges started in December 2018, when the HCoJ submitted a ten-member list of nominees to the Parliament. The selection procedures were slammed by civil society organizations, parliamentary opposition and a part of the ruling party MPs for the lack of transparency, while some of the candidates caused an uproar due to their past involvement in controversial, politically motivated cases. As a result, all ten withdrew their candidacies.
On May 1, the Parliament of Georgia amended the Law on Common Courts, clarifying the selection and nomination procedures of the Supreme Court judges. Shortly after the adoption of the law, the High Council of Justice announced a call for filling the 20 vacancies in the Supreme Court.
A total of 139 candidates submitted applications, and 50 of them were shortlisted through secret ballot on June 20. Two of the shortlisted candidates – Levan Tevzadze and Amiran Dzabunidze – withdrew their names, so the interviews were held with the remaining 48.
The parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues will hear each candidate in an open hearing. The Parliament will then vote for each candidate at its plenary. A candidate needs the support of the majority of lawmakers to be appointed to the Supreme Court for a lifetime tenure.
The Supreme Court should be composed of at least 28 judges, according to the new Constitution. The post of the chair of the Supreme Court is also vacant since Nino Gvenetadze resigned over a year ago, citing health-related problems. According to media reports, the acting Prosecutor General, Shalva Tadumadze, who is among the 20 candidates, is likely take her position.
02/08/2018 – Supreme Court Chair Nino Gvenetadze Steps Down