The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), a local watchdog, released a new report on January 23 on the employment of family members of judges in the public sector. The document is based on the asset declarations of 28 Supreme Court judges, 84 Court of Appeals judges and 209 city court judges.
According to the report, family members of one third (90) of 321 sitting judges are employed in the public sector. Families of 51 judges have at least one member employed in the judiciary.
In addition, in 60 out of 90 cases, a family member was employed, promoted to the position or changed the position after a judge was appointed. Family members of judges received salaries worth more than GEL 3 million in 2021.
According to the report, 60 out of 209 judges indicated in their asset declarations that their family members (54 spouses, 6 children, 2 sisters) are employed in the public sector. 33 of them hold positions in different courts. In addition, 13 of the 84 judges of the Tbilisi (70) and Kutaisi (14) Courts of Appeals have children employed in the judiciary.
As for the Supreme Court, based on the asset declarations of 28 judges, IDFI notes that the spouses of eight judges and a child of one of them are employed in the public sector, while six family members are employed in the judiciary.
Family members of judges in the public sector
The organization cites the case of Giorgi Goginashvili, a judge member of the High Council of Justice, as one of the suspicious cases in which the fact of the promotion or rotation of the spouse is observed within a short period of time after the judge’s marriage, when his spouse moved from the position of a specialist of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals to the High Council of Justice.
The report also cites the example of Davit Akhalbedashvili, whose wife was hired as a specialist at the Mtskheta District Court in 2019, after Goginashvili was transferred from that court to the Tbilisi Court of Appeals.
“Additional doubts are raised by cases in which a member of the judge’s family works in the court despite having no visible legal experience,” the report says. To illustrate this, the report focuses on the employment of the wife of Irakli Bondarenko, the acting chairman of the Kutaisi Court of Appeals, as a consultant at the Tbilisi City Court in 2020. The report notes that according to Bondarenko’s previous declarations, his wife has not had any paid work since 2012.
“Similarly, the spouse of Judge Laura Mikava has been hired as a consultant at the Kutaisi Court of Appeals. Previously, he served as a patrol inspector in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Police Department before taking up the new position in 2022.”
The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) emphasizes that not all cases mentioned in the report should be considered nepotism; however, it stresses that since family members of officials, except for the spouse, minor children and persons living with them permanently, are excluded from the declaration, it is impossible to study and identify the full extent of the problem.
Therefore, in order to increase the level of transparency and reduce the risks of nepotism, favoritism and corruption, the organization stresses the need to improve existing mechanisms and introduce additional standards. “Reform in this direction is a priority, taking into account the recommendations outlined in the European Commission’s report on Georgia’s application to join the European Union,” the organization said.
Levan Murusidze’s Reaction
Levan Murusidze, a judge member of the Supreme Council of Justice [who the part of CSOs consider to be a member of the ‘judicial clan’], stated that the real problem facing the judiciary is the ‘furious swearing, cursing and discrediting’ directed at it in an attempt to make people hate judges and defame the judicial system.
According to him, civil society organizations are doing this to make citizens feel that “there is terrible corruption, terrible nepotism and terrible incompetence here [in the judiciary]”. Murusidze believes that what the CSOs are doing is evil.
“I would like to advise you that when you are fighting against Levan Murusidze, you should not try to wipe out and destroy everything around me, because it is not right,” he addressed the CSOs, adding that they would not be able to hurt him by “bullying” him from TV.