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Law on united courts confirmed by the Parliament

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, April 8
Parliament confirmed the law on courts with 82 votes to 24 against on April 5. The parliamentary majority was happy with the decision. However, the minority “threatened”saying that the president will veto the changes, as they are anti-state.

The High Council of Justice is in charge of overseeing the judicial system. It is permitted to appoint or dismiss judges and to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges as well.

There are 15 members in High Council of Justice who are chaired by the Supreme Court Chairman Kote Kublashvili. Kublashvili will retain his chair through the constitution.

All other members of the council hold their seats for a four-year term; the same rule applies under the new system.

According to new rules, six members will be elected by the parliament via secret ballot from candidates nominated by NGOs, law schools and the law departments of various universities and the Georgian Bar Association.

These six members should be confirmed by the parliament with a two-thirds majority vote. In order to avoid a deadlock, the bill envisages holding of second round of voting in case in the first round candidates fail to gain support from two-thirds of the MPs. A simple majority– 76 votes–will be enough for a candidate to be confirmed as council member.

The bill, however, also emphasizes that no anti-deadlock measure should apply to two out of the six seats, meaning that two candidates should certainly be confirmed with two-thirds majority.

Other eight seats on the council are filled by judges, elected by the judiciary’s self-governing body, Conference of Judges. The current rule also makes it possible for a judge to be elected not directly by this conference, but by its nine-member administrative committee. The latter rule will be abolished in the new system.

The law strips the Supreme Court Chairman of his current exclusive right to nominate candidates for council membership; every judge will have the right to nominate a candidate. The voting process will be confidential.

Through the changes, practically all the members of the council will have to leave their positions.

In the case that the president vetoes the law, the parliament will overcome it and the law will come into force anyway, said majority member, Davit Saganelidze. The parliament chair underscored that the law was adopted based on long-term consultations and on the Venice Commission Recommendations.

“99% of the Venice Commission recommendations were foreseen,” Usupashvili said.

The parliamentary minority claims that the Venice Commission Recommendations have not been taken into account and the law will hinder Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic path.

“Despite the warning, the Georgian Dream adopted the law. The president’s responsibility is to care about Georgia’s pathway to Europe and our country to obtain an Association Agreement with the EU. The president should veto the law,” MP, Chiora Taktakishvili stated.

The Venice Commission positively assessed most of the draft prepared by the Minister of Justice on the united courts. However, the commission had several remarks and recommendations. One of the main recommendations was that for members of the council to remain in their positions until the expiration of their terms.

If the president signs the law, it will come into force in a month period after signing.