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Judge members of the High Council of Justice elected

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, June 11
The Conference of Judges elected seven members of High Council of Justice (HCoJ). The event attracted much attention and caused various controversial assessments as the day should have been the starting point of successful court reform in Georgia.

HCoJ is an independent body, created to coordinate the judiciary system and to promote the effectiveness and independence of the judiciary. The main functions of the HCoJ are: organization of the qualification exams of judges, selection and appointment of judges of trial and appellate courts, disciplinary proceedings, legislative drafting and analytical work, quality management and fostering relationships with the public.

The HCoJ consists of 15 members. Through the changes in the law on united courts, President and chair of Supreme Court, Kote Kublashvili, was deprived of the right to nominate the candidates for the council and membership of MPs was also banned. Instead, the Parliament will elect six non-judge members of the council from candidates nominated by legal advocacy NGOs, the Georgian Bar Association and law schools and faculties of institutions of higher education.

After the changes in the law, duties were suspended for 7 out of 8 members of the HCoJ, as they did not meet the criteria of the new legislation. However, they were permitted to run for the position.

Three judges made use of this right and two of them were elected at Sunday’s conference, regaining their seats on the HCoJ. These included – Ilona Todua, a judge from Tbilisi City Court and Shota Getsadze, the Chairman of the Chamber of Administrative Cases at the Tbilisi City Court. It should be noted that the latter presided over Bidzina Ivanishvili’s citizenship case in December 2011, when Ivanishvili was the opposition leader.

Five seats were taken by new members, three of which are the Supreme Court judges: Zaza Meishvili, first deputy chairman of the Supreme Court and chairman of chamber of criminal cases, as well as Levan Murusidze and Paata Silagadze.

Other two new members are: Tamar Alania, a judge from the Tbilisi Court of Appeals and Merab Gabinashvili, a judge from the Tbilisi Court of Appeals and chairman of the investigative chamber in the same court.

The process was complicated and two rounds were needed for electing the 7 members of the council. The only candidate who was elected through the first round was Meishvili.

Through the changes and after various consultations, only the chairman of chambers at various courts were eligible to be nominated for these three seats, excluding ‘non-chair judges’ from the race for these three seats out of seven. MPs of the Georgian dream initiated the prohibition to be banned and all the judges to take place in the race of the three seats, however, the initiative was rejected by many of the judges.

Some judges also tried in vain to change the sequence of issues on the agenda of the conference in a way that would have given them a chance of voting out Supreme Court Chair Kote Kublashvili from chairing the Conference of Judges. However, the initiative was also rejected.

The Georgian Dream government seems not to be satisfied with the outcome of the conference. Minister of Justice, Thea Tsulukiani, expressed surprise how the conference could elect “the most odious candidate, Meishvili in the first round.”

Kublashvili criticized Tsulukiani for the statement, stressing that the process was "transparent and Maishvili was one of the fairest and most devoted candidates for justice.”

Head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Kakha Kozhoridze, stated that the judges “were not as brave in their decisions as they should be.”

According to him it was surprise for him when many of the judges refused to compose the agenda by themselves and shifted the function to the administration. Kozhoridze also stated that the judges were not able to ask questions to the represented candidates. However, the head of GYLA stated that the procedural issues were held transparently and refrained from criticism of the elected members. According to him they can be criticized only if they violate some rules in future.