On July 7, Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), a local watchdog, said in its 8th monitoring report of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), that despite positive changes in the judiciary system, shortcomings that prevailed “have not been substantially eliminated,” as “a clan” – a handful of judges holding sway over their colleagues – maintains its influence.
According to the report, covering the developments in 2019, any amendments to the current normative framework, which do not change the decision-making mechanism, ultimately strengthens “the clan,” that uses both progress and shortcomings of the legislation to increase its powers.
The report notes that legislative reform carried out last year, which fully changed the appointment procedure of Supreme Court Justices, failed to prevent “the clan” from nominating candidates acceptable for them.
Moreover, judges in the first and second instances of the court were mostly appointed “based on biased decisions” as the “the clan” controls 2/3 of votes required for decision-making, GYLA stressed.
Noting the “the clan” consists mostly of court chairpersons, the watchdog said “the vicious practice” of appointing persons loyal to the ‘clan’ as court/chamber/panel chairpersons is also maintained. According to the report, for years, the chairpersons “have been perceived as the instrument utilized by the Council to control judges.”
The report further refers to the amendments of the “Third Wave” of judicial reforms, regulating the issue of conflict of interests, which stipulates that a member of the HCoJ cannot take part in discussions about a judicial candidate if he or she participates in a competition. GYLA said HCoJ members did not fulfill the said requirement that “created unfair and unequal conditions.”
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.