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01 Dec 2023

Lawyers and Civil Society Representatives Conduct Comparative Discussion on the Role of Court Presidents

On November 30, 2023, the Georgia-based Group of Independent Lawyers and NGO Democracy Index – Georgia, with USAID Rule of Law Program support, organized an international online discussion on the role of court presidents.

Twenty-three participants, including lawyers, judiciary experts, and NGO representatives, engaged with experts from Georgia, the Czech Republic, and Poland. The participants discussed the role of court presidents (CPs) in Georgia and other countries and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) Warsaw recommendations regarding the powers of chairpersons.  

David Kosar, Head of the Constitutional Law Department at Masaryk University Faculty of Law explained the role of CPs in Hungary, Poland, the US, Spain, Australia, and Pakistan. He noted that in some countries, CPs play a significant role in the selection, promotion, and disciplining of judges. In others, their power is mainly confined to financial and administrative duties. He also described the CPs’ interactions with political actors, which may involve advising ministries or even parliamentary committees. In these interactions, CPs represent the interests of the judiciary/courts.

Carolyn Hammer, the Rule of Law Advisor at OSCE/ODIHR, reviewed the 2023 Warsaw Recommendations on Judicial Independence and Accountability. The Warsaw Recommendations are a practical tool for stakeholders across the OSCE region. Though there is no specific chapter dedicated to the CPs, different parts of the document cover their role. The recommendations say that if a court chairperson is elected as a member of the judicial council, he/she must resign from the chair’s position. Moreover, the document mentions that chairpersons should not have the power either to initiate disciplinary proceedings or adopt a disciplinary measure. They also emphasize lawfulness, fairness, and transparency of judicial transfers while referring to CPs’ authority to transfer judges.

Nazi Janezashvili, Director of the Georgian Court Watch (GCW), examined the Georgian context. She analyzed the legislation and practice concerning the court presidents. She found problematic the way that the same people were appointed to CP positions again and again, the High Council of Justice’s use of pro forma justification when selecting a chairperson, and the tenure of CPs once appointed.

This was the seventh online talk series organized through the International Network of Judicial Reformers, which connected 59 judiciary experts from 23 countries across Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the USA.

Link to the discussion: https://youtu.be/QDpsLazotcU?si=Y2qzyOPWqj4dWw9u 

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