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Georgian Attorneys Assess Judicial Reform

13.11.2008
Beginning in 2009, Georgian judges will be appointed for life. They will leave their posts only in case of disciplinary mistake, resignation due to age or personal appeal. The attorneys express their discontent with this recent decision.

Gulo Kokhodze, Akhaltsikhe

Konstantine Kublashvili, head of Supreme Court of Georgia made a statement on the upcoming court reform. He highlighted the most important reform as being the decision to appoint judges for life. “Guarantee of immunity, stability and continuity of judges” – this is how Konstantine Kublashvili described the amendment.

“By implementing this law (appointing judges for life), we will terminate the creation of the new judge selection and appointment system.
According to new system of judge appointment, a nominee will be appointed as a judge for life if he/she successfully passes the justice exams, wins in a competition in supreme council of justice, completes the required justice academic coursework and is selected from a special rating list created for selecting potential judges. The subsequent amendments to the Georgian Constitution will be adopted this year and will enter into force from 2009,” stated the head of Supreme Court of Georgia. 

Judges will leave their posts only in case of committing a disciplinary error, resignation due to age and personal appeal.

Konstantine Kublashvili says that this part of the court system reform will help to create an independent court system in Georgia. 

Human Rights Centre tried to find out what attorneys think about this area of the reform:

Eka Abashidze, attorney: “The fact that judges will be appointed for life does not guarantee that their decision will be fair, well-thought out and will not be free from outside influence. If a jury system starts functioning in the court, this might give me some hope that the court decision will be fair.
If a judge does not want to reveal facts or reveal the complete picture of a case, the fact that the judge was appointed for life will not be helpful. Moreover, why should a young and talented lawyer wait until a judge dies in order to become a judge and be considered for the position?”

Magda Beridze, attorney: “I think that judges must not be appointed for life. There must be some definite time, until a definite age that judges serve in their positions. We have many young and smart people and they should have the opportunity to become judges. Judges must not have the chance to use their open ended position for manipulation.”

Ana Khachaturiyan, lawyer and attorney: “I think this reform will contribute to positive developments in the court system. If judges are appointed for life this will make them more responsible and there will be more fairness in the system.”

Avtandil Teliashvili, attorney: “A judge must have security guarantees. When a new phase of judge selection is held, tensions mount and judges feel that their positions may be compromised. This is when they become negligent regarding cases. If judges are appointed for a short period of time, it will be ordinary people that are affected because judges will not pass judgment to their cases with due attention. Only those who are really dignified people must become judges. If a judge makes a mistake, the law on disciplinary responsibility can be addressed and if proven guilty, the judge will be dismissed.

A jury system is beneficial but only in larger countries. Everyone knows each other in Akhaltsikhe District (in South Georgia) and therefore it will be easier to press jury members and the system will not work as it is intended. Moreover, adoption of the jury system in Georgia will create stumbling blocks in case discussions. I think it will be better if dignified and well-paid judges pass their judgment in cases rather than an unqualified jury.”

Otar Gamkrelidze, professor: “I think the quality and professionalism of judges in Georgia is not very high and there is an increased potential that under qualified judges will be selected for life service. Consequently, the way that the Georgian court system operates on a whole may worsen. If judges are selected for a definite period of time, unqualified judges can be dismissed. Today judges are under pressure and are forced to make biased decisions. Judges can be appointed for life only when there is a minimum or no possibility of appointing unqualified judges.”

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