On May 29, the Plenum of the Supreme Court elected Vasil Roinishvili, 43, as a new justice of the nine-member Constitutional Court for a ten-year term. Roinishvili was the only candidate for the post. Roinishvili’s rushed appointment has been strongly criticized by the non-judge member of the High Council of Justice, the opposition and the civil society outfits.
21 of the 24-member plenum, of which Vasil Roinishvili himself is a member, attended the session. The Supreme Court told Civil Georgia that Roinishvili’s candidacy was supported by 18 members of the plenum, two were against and one abstained. Roinishvili himself did not take part in the voting.
Vasil Roinishvili, who was presented to the plenum by the Chairman of the Supreme Court Nino Kadagidze, will take office from the day of taking the oath. He will replace Zaza Tavadze in the Constitutional Court, who has been the Chairman of the Constitutional Court since 2016 and his 10-year term as a judge expires on June 15, 2020.
Roinishvili has been a Supreme Court justice since 2009. Since June 2017, he has served as the Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia and the Chairman of the Chamber of Administrative Cases.
Under the previous administration of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, in 2008-2009, Roinishvili was the Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Georgia. Earlier, from 2006 to 2008 he held the position of Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara.
Prior to that, in February – June 2004 Roinishvili served in the Security Ministry under Zurab Adeishvili. In June 2004 – December 2006 he worked in the Prosecutor’s Office as the head of HR department, reporting to Adeishvili.
Zurab Adeishvili, an influential figure of former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s inner circle, served as the Security Minister during February – June 2004 and as Chief Prosecutor until January 2008. His track record has been widely criticized by human rights groups for summary sentencing and widespread prisoner abuse, and he has also been vilified by the current administration as one of the pillars of Saakashvili’s rule. He was recently sentenced sentenced two years in prison in absentia by the Georgian court on charged of closing down Iberia TV and seizing its broadcasting license in 2004.
Nazibrola Janezashvili, a non-judicial member of the High Council of Justice, criticized the election of Vasil Roinishvili at a briefing on May 29 and said that he supported so-called “clannish rule” in a judicial system and with this decision, the “influence of the clan” in the Constitutional Court increased.
According to Janezashvili, Roinishvili’s 10-year term as a Supreme Court justice expired in December 2019, but a few days before the expiration of his term, the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) of Georgia, the body overseeing the judiciary, extended his term of office.
Janezashvili recalled that Roinishvili was also among the candidates for judges of the Supreme Court, who were nominated by the Council of Justice to the parliament in December.
The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) also responded to the decision of the Supreme Court’s plenum, saying that the “proper discussion” at the session did not take place during the election of the candidate.
“GYLA negatively assesses the decision of the plenum and considers it a threat to the credibility of both the plenum of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court,” the organization said.
Ana Natsvlishvili, a member of the Lelo movement, also criticized the election of Vasil Roinishvili, saying that the appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court proceeded in violation of the Constitution, as long as his “qualifications” and “flawless reputation” were not properly examined.
In response to questions about the “clannish rule” in the judiciary, Vasil Roinishvili said that there were no clans, but confirmed that he had a friendly relationship with Secretary of the HCoJ Mikheil Chinchaladze.
Mikheil Chinchaladze said that they had consulted on the issue the day before and it was known to the decision-makers that the chairman of the Supreme Court, “most likely”, would nominate Vasil Roinishvili for the post. According to him, other candidates were also considered for the post during the consultations. However, Chinchaladze did not name them.
The Constitutional Court consists of 9 judges appointed for a term of 10 years. Three of them are appointed by the Plenum of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s pick is nominated by the Chairman of the top Court. 2/3 of the attendees of the Plenum are required to make a decision.