Bled – A two-day Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe, which focussed on the independence of judiciary at the institutional level and the level of judges, concludes in Bled on Tuesday. Supreme Court president Damijan Florjančič said new situations challenging this were emerging all the time.
Primarily, it is crucial to understand the notion of division of power to legislative, executive and judicial branches, which is one of the fundamental conditions for democracy, Florjančič said on Monday at the conference hosted by the Supreme Court and the Ceeli Institute.
In this triangle, the judicial branch of power is a key and ultimate defender of the rule of law, he was quoted as saying on the web site of the court.
“So there is an interdependence and interaction between democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. There is no democracy without the rule of law and the rule of law cannot be guaranteed without an independent judiciary, and vice versa,” he stressed.
He also highlighted the issue of efficiency of judiciary, which is being increasingly criticised nowadays. The work of courts, which demands careful consideration of all relevant facts before a just and lawful decision can be made, is often misunderstood in public, as it is not in line with the increasingly fast pace of life.
This opens the question of how to make sure that court disputes are solved quickly and efficiently while at the same time allowing for just and lawful decisions.
Another important topic of the conference was access to courts, which is a constitutional right in most countries. However, due to the Covid-19 epidemic, access to courts has been at least partly restricted in all countries participating in the conference. On the other hand, courts had to introduce new forms of work based on modern technologies that allow for the judiciary to operate remotely as well.
This has brought certain questions that have not been solved yet, Florjančič said.
The problems of the Supreme Court were also presented today by the Judicial Council in the 2020 report, which was forwarded to the National Assembly.
The council again warned that the system under which Supreme Court judges are elected by the National Assembly was not appropriate, which became clear in July 2020 and July this year when the National Assembly failed to endorse the proposed candidates for Supreme Court judges. The council said it opposed politicisation in the procedures for election and appointment of judges.
It also said that judges’ pay was too low, not only lower than in the other two branches of power, but lower than those of clerks in judiciary and civil servants. According to the council’s head Vladimir Horvat, a request for a constitutional review of judges’ pay will be filed shortly.
The council also pointed to inappropriate communication of representatives of other branches of power and the undermining of the judiciary’s reputation.
The council warned that the gradual reduction in the number of judges would not be able to continue unless a reform of the court network with the introduction of a single judge is implemented and, at the same time, the courts are provided with adequately trained judicial staff support.