The plenum of the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) decided on Thursday to notify the Judicial Inspection, in order for the latter to verify the alleged pressure that National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi allegedly exerted on judicial auditor Mihaela Focica, but also the recording of the discussion at the Judicial Inspection and the way this institution communicated with the other auditors, CSM officials informed.
The CSM plenum voted to approve the notification of the Judicial Inspection, in order for it to carry out verification that would establish whether the functional and operational independence of the judicial auditors and of the institution they represented was violated, in the exercise of their prerogatives in relation to the press allegation concerning the audit conducted at the DNA, whether there were situations in which the independence of the Judicial Inspection was violated via internal and external pressure, and whether there were situations in which the independence of judicial auditors was violated via internal or external pressure.
The Judicial Inspection must also establish the way the institution’s leadership communicated with the other auditors, exclusively from the standpoint of aspects pertaining to the independence of the judicial auditor, and also whether there was a recording of a discussion, the date of the alleged discussion, the moment its content was brought to the knowledge of the Chief Inspector, the reasons of the potential delay and any other relevant aspects.
At the same time, as a result of the notification filed by the Association of Romanian Magistrates (AMR) and the National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR), the CSM plenum approved that the Judicial Inspection should carry out verifications into the potential impact on the independence of the entire judiciary of the pressure that the DNA Chief Prosecutor had allegedly exerted on judicial auditor Mihaela Focica, designated to investigate possible disciplinary offences committed by some anticorruption prosecutors.
On Thursday, CSM President Mariana Ghena announced that the request lodged by the National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) and the Association of Romanian Magistrates (AMR), regarding alleged pressure exerted by Laura Codruta Kovesi on auditor Mihaela Focica, was received and would be put up for vote in order to include it on the plenary meeting’s order of the day. Subsequently, Council members approved the amending of the order of the day and the associations’ request was set to enter the plenum’s debate.
UNJR and AMR ask CSM to defend Justice against Kovesi’s alleged pressure on inspector sent to audit DNA: Such pressure can’t be ignored
The National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) and the Association of Romanian Magistrates (AMR) have asked the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) to take note and defend the independence of the judiciary against the pressure that Laura Codruta Kovesi allegedly exerted on judicial auditor Mihaela Focica. The associations are demanding an investigation and want those involved heard by the CSM.
“The National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) and the Association of Romanian Magistrates (AMR) are asking the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) to immediately take note – in line with Article 30 of law no.317/2004 – and defend the independence of the entire judiciary against the alleged pressure that DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi allegedly exerted on judicial auditor Mihaela Focica, designated to investigate possible disciplinary offences committed by some DNA prosecutors,” reads the letter that the associations of magistrates sent to the Supreme Magistracy Council on Thursday.
The reaction comes after the press published the transcript of a recorded dialogue between prosecutor Gheorghe Stan, Deputy Chief Inspector of the Judicial Inspection, and prosecutor Mihaela Focica, judicial auditor who carried out verifications at the DNA. According to prosecutor Mihaela Focica’s statements, as shown by the said recording, DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi allegedly pressured her in relation to the task allotted to her, namely the investigation of three DNA prosecutors for the possible committal of disciplinary offences. Likewise, the recorded dialogue also shows that prosecutor Codrut Olaru, member of the CSM, allegedly put pressure on prosecutor Mihaela Focica.
“If the acts mentioned in that recording are confirmed, they represent extremely grave violations of the independence of the judiciary, through DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta interfering in and exerting pressure on the activity of the Judicial Inspection, which infringes on not only the independence of this judicial auditor but also the independence of the judiciary as a whole. Judicial auditors are persons who verify not only the actions of prosecutors and judges, but also their behaviour when exercising their office, or outside of office. Judicial auditors are the only ones empowered to conduct such verifications, except for the case in which magistrates are accused of committing criminal offences,” the letter reads.
The associations claim it is absolutely necessary for judicial auditors to act with full freedom and independence and they must use the independence conferred by the law to investigate all complaints they receive, objectively, efficiently and effectively, regardless of their source and whom they concern.
“The grave interference that judicial auditor Mihaela revealed requires an appropriate reaction from the CSM, the guarantor of the judiciary’s independence. In fact, the interference is admitted and defined as such by prosecutor Gheorghe Stan himself, Deputy Chief Inspector of the Judicial Inspection, who, during the conversation, expresses his outrage with what happened and says ‘This means interference! It’s classical!’,” the UNJR and AMR point out.
In their letter, the associations of magistrates reiterate that the representatives of the Supreme Magistracy Council firmly censured, in recent years, statements made by some politicians, journalists or civil servants, statements criticising the actions of the DNA, and that the CSM deemed back then that such statements affected the independence of the judiciary as a whole.
The UNJR and AMR are asking for an effective investigation, the hearing – during a public CSM plenary meeting – of all persons involved and the drafting of a report endorsed by the Council.
“Now more than ever, the CSM must act to verify the action of the DNA Chief Prosecutor, which, if confirmed, gravely affects the independence and impartiality of the judicial auditor and, in this way, the independence of the judiciary as a whole. Such extremely grave pressures cannot be ignored or overlooked, being absolutely necessary for the CSM to verify them with all seriousness, in its capacity as guarantor of the independence of the judiciary. We are asking for the carrying out of an effective investigation, the hearing of all persons involved, during a public CSM plenary meeting, and the drafting of a report endorsed by the CSM, which would clarify all aspects mentioned in that recording,” reads the letter.
The leadership of the Judicial Inspection (JI) has sent to the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) a letter accompanied by the voice recordings featuring one of the inspectors that audited the DNA – prosecutor Mihaela Focica –, these material being distributed to all CSM members.
“A letter signed by the JI leadership, accompanied by the recordings made public by the press, has been lodged with the CSM. The materials have been distributed to all CSM members for analysis, and debates on the outlining of an official position are yet to take place,” Council representatives told MEDIAFAX.
Mihaela Focica, one of the inspectors auditing the DNA, was recorded talking with JI Deputy Gheorghe Stan. In the recording, she is heard stating that she was summoned at the DNA headquarters and that she fears a criminal dossier against her may be “fabricated” and her child may be left homeless.
According to the recording, prosecutor Focica complained that a criminal dossier could be opened against her, pointing out that the desire was for her to be “brainwashed.” All overtures were allegedly made by the DNA leadership, according to the source, and their end goal was allegedly to force her to withdraw from the team conducting the audit at the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).
Reactions to inspector Focica’s case
Prosecutor General: It’s unprecedented for judicial auditors to wiretap each other
The Judicial Inspection finds itself in an unprecedented impasse, namely the one in which judicial auditors wiretap each other, a situation that must be analysed by the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM), according to Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar.
“We could say that, unfortunately, it’s an impasse of the Judicial Inspection, which finds itself in an unprecedented situation that must be analysed by the CSM, so as to deem what would be the most appropriate managerial measures needed to get out of this impasse. It’s unprecedented for judicial auditors to wiretap each other. We’ll see,” Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar stated at the CSM headquarters on Thursday, referring to inspector Mihaela Focica’s case.
Justice Minister: If true, it’s absolutely unnatural
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Thursday, referring to the case of auditor Mihaela Focica – on whom Laura Codruta Kovesi exerted pressure, according to an audio recording –, that “if true, it’s absolutely unnatural.”
“Of course, if true, it’s absolutely unnatural. I didn’t attend the CSM meeting today, given the fact that I had a Government meeting. Legal procedures will ensue,” Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated at the Palace of Parliament.
Prosecutor Moraru Iorga: I’m astounded that inspector Focica didn’t defend her independence
Prosecutor Mihaela Moraru Iorga, who had a court date in the trial in which she challenged her dismissal from the DNA, stated on Thursday that she is astounded that auditor Focica did not defend her independence, this being “a danger greater than anything else.”
“What I can tell you is that I’m rather astounded by the fact that that auditor did not resort to the rights she had, did not exercise and defend her independence. This is a danger greater than anything else,” Prosecutor Mihaela Moraru Iorga stated on Thursday at the Bucharest Court of Appeals, where her challenge against DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi’s decision to dismiss her from the Directorate is being tried.