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Committee Hearings of Supreme Court Candidates Completed

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Georgian Parliament’s Legal Issues Committee has completed interviews with 20 candidates of the Supreme Court judges. Interviews with individual candidates were launched on September 23 with the participation of the parliamentary majority, opposition and civil society organizations and lasted for a month and a half.

Committee hearing represents one of the stages of a lengthy process of judicial selection, which started in May 2019. The process aims at increasing number of the Supreme Court judges from eight to 28. To be appointed in the Supreme Court, a candidate needs the support of the majority of lawmakers. If approved, the elected candidates will become the Supreme Court judges for lifetime tenure.

The list of judicial candidates includes Chief Prosecutor Shalva Tadumadze, his First Deputy Mamuka Vasadze, incumbent Chairman of the Constitutional Court Zaza Tavadze, as well as incumbent judges of the Tbilisi City Court and the Court of Appeals.

The process of committee hearings was marred by a number of noisy sessions, including the one, where the issue of alleged falsification of Tadumadze’s graduate diploma was raised. Moreover, a noisy incident took place between Eka Beselia, independent lawmaker and Georgian Dream MP Vano Zardiashvili during an interview with one of the candidates, followed by the latter’s decision to renounce his MP mandate.

Similar to the previous stages of selection, interviews with the candidates at the Parliament’s Legal Issues Committee passed amid strong criticism from opposition parties, civil society organizations and non-judge members of the High Council of Justice.

Slamming “the clannish rule” in the judiciary, opponents called on the government “to vote down” the 20-member list of candidates. “I think, we should not support the candidates who were nominated through such faulty process,” MP Tina Bokuchava of the United National Movement said.

Independent lawmaker, Eka Beselia noted about the need of declaring mistrust to the 20-member list of judicial candidates. “The High Council of Justice has not selected the best candidates, [rather opposite], the majority of them are the persons affiliated with a narrow group of judges, the so called “clan,” she said.

Anna Dolidze, non-judge member of the High Council of Justice, also called on MPs to vote down the list. “Our radical and principled demand to the Parliament is to vote down the list of candidates. This has no alternative. The Georgian Parliament should not make a choice between bad and worse; each candidate on the list has been selected by “Murusidze-Chinchaladze clan,” she said.

The Legal Issues Committee is now set to make a conclusion including recommendations about each judicial candidate. The conclusion will be discussed at the Parliament’s plenary session and lawmakers will vote for candidates without hearings.

Background

The process of selection of candidates of the Supreme Court judges commenced the last December, when the HCoJ submitted a ten-member list of nominees to the Parliament, triggering criticism from civil society organizations, parliamentary opposition and part of the ruling party lawmakers, prompting the Parliament to postpone the discussions till its spring session.

On May 1, the Parliament of Georgia made amendments to the Law on Common Courts, clarifying the selection and nomination procedures. Shortly after the law approval, the High Council of Justice announced a competition for filling 20 vacancies in the Supreme Court.

In total, 139 candidates submitted applications, with 50 candidates becoming shortlisted through secret ballot on June 20. On September 4, following a month-long process of public interviews with candidates, the HCoJ released a list of 20 candidates to be submitted to the Parliament for election.

If the Parliament does not endorse any of the 20 candidates at the plenary session, the High Council of Justice will then submit to the Parliament a new candidate from the list of 50 candidates composed in June. If the Parliament does not support candidates nominated from the 50-member list, a new competition will be announced to fill the position of the Supreme Court judge.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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