JusMin Tudorel Toader’s reaction: The report is consultative. The conclusion is older: some, to put it generically, don’t want the reformation of the system
On Thursday, the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) adopted – in a 10-8 vote – a negative report on the Justice bills.
Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar has stated before the start of the CSM sitting that the Justice laws amendment bill should receive a negative opinion from the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM), showing that it was criticised by magistrates and the European Commission’s experts.
“It is an important day because the Superior Council of Magistrates is analysing the bill on the Justice laws. It is obvious that the draft was criticised by our colleague magistrates, criticised by the European Commission’s experts and naturally, we should have a negative opinion, if we want to have the CVM monitoring lifted, that’s it,” Augustin Lazar said at the entrance of CSM’s seat.
JusMin: They entered the meeting with positions expressed prior to the debate
In fact, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader subsequently stated that he was expecting this result.
“They entered the meeting with positions expressed prior to the debate. They said the vote will be negative, which means they came to the debate with a decision taken before the dialogue, and it’s not that I estimated it but I knew this. (…) I knew very well their positions and the options that some of them have are almost publicly known. My absence was deliberate, I knew their options, they knew my option, I would have backed the bill sent for approval. I knew their position and mister general said there will be a negative report; the report is consultative. The conclusion is older: some, to put it generically, don’t want the reformation of the system,” Tudorel Toader stated for Antena3 private broadcaster.
After the CSM’s plenary meeting, CSM Judge Bogdan Mateescu announced he voted against the bill drafted by the Justice Ministry.
“The judiciary would have certainly been injurious. I voted with all conviction for a negative report. It’s a superficial bill, which doesn’t take into account the proposals of the courts and prosecutor’s offices, that doesn’t take into account the proposals twice adopted at CSM level. The things that interest the system, the technical things that were transposed from a small level, the things with massive impact, the likes of the Judicial Inspection being subordinated to the Justice Ministry, the changing of rules in what concerns the recruitment of magistrates, aspects concerning the appointment of prosecutors,” Bogdan Mateescu stated.
Likewise, Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar pointed out, during the meeting, that the CSM plenum must issue a negative report.
“I would like someone to explain to me whether there is a reason that the person that is politically appointed at the helm of the Justice Ministry should form the team of the Prosecutor General who comes before the CSM as a candidate with a project, that project is approved. Then there are a lot of expectations for this Prosecutor General to implement, alongside his team, the project on the priority directions for the Public Ministry. On the other hand, we are now coming and we are forming a team up to the level of chief of office prosecutor, without consulting him, there is no mention on whether the Prosecutor General should be consulted, who should be the chief of office prosecutor, the chief of service, of section so on and so forth. He must show the results that the civil society rightfully expects. Not to mention the CSM. I’m yet to understand the reason behind this idea, of building this team at the helm of the Public Ministry this way… In essence, like I publicly said, a negative report must be issued, but firmly, to send a firm message to the public opinion,” Augustin Lazar said.
During the meeting, CSM President Mariana Ghena stated that she would have expected the Justice Minister to attend the debates.
“I’m surprised, unpleasantly this time, because I had harboured special esteem for the Justice Minister. I’m surprised by his absence at the plenum’s meeting. I’m confused, I don’t know how to deem or interpret this absence. Maybe it’s a position of honour, maybe it’s a position of dignity or maybe it’s restraint for the fact that maybe he would have been more or less inconvenienced by having to answer questions that each of us would have had for him. Maybe the minister should answer or maybe he shouldn’t. At any rate, I’m convinced that for every one of us his absence, at least to back his bill on the Justice laws… for me it’s an aspect that confused me and that will probably be reflected – I don’t know how and to what extent – in the vote I’ll give,” CSM President Mariana Ghena stated.
The new Justice laws modify the procedure for appointments at the Public Ministry. The Prosecutor General and the DNA Chief Prosecutor would be nominated by the Justice Minister, however the decision to appoint them would be taken by the CSM’s Section for Judges. At present, the Prosecutor General, their First Deputy and Deputy, the DNA Chief Prosecutor, their Deputies, the Chiefs of Section of these Prosecutor’s Offices, as well as the DIICOT Chief Prosecutor and their Deputies are nominated by the Justice Minister and appointed by the Romanian President, with the CSM’s green light.
Another modification concerns the procedure of appointing the holders of leadership positions at the High Court of Cassation and Justice. Thus, the new Justice laws stipulate that the President of the High Court of Cassation and Justice is appointed by the Romanian President, as is the case now, but the nomination would no longer come from the CSM’s plenum but from the CSM’s Section for Judges, based on the principle that “judges should decide for judges, prosecutors should decide for prosecutors.”
Another modification refers to making the Judicial Inspection, currently subordinated to the CSM, subordinated to the Justice Ministry.
Likewise, the bill stipulates that future magistrates should have at least 30 years of age and 5 years of seniority in a juridical profession.
The new package of Justice laws also brings modifications in what concerns the magistrates’ accountability, pointing out that the state is to be held materially accountable when a judicial error occurs, but subsequently the state will legally turn against the magistrate that caused the damage.
How the CSM voting went. Prosecutors vote together against Justice laws
The list of CSM members who cast votes in favour of a negative report on the package of Justice laws includes Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar, CSM President Mariana Ghena and prosecutor Codrut Olaru. Ten CSM members voted for a negative report, eight voted for a positive report, and the Justice Minister stated that many of them entered the meeting with their votes ready.
Here is the list of ten CSM members who cast votes in favour of a negative report on the Justice laws, according to judiciary sources quoted by Mediafax:
Mariana Ghena, Judge
Mihai Andrei Balan, Judge
Andrea Annamaria Chis, Judge
Mihai Bogdan Mateescu, Judge
Florin Deac, Prosecutor
Codrut Olaru, Prosecutor
Cristian Ban, Prosecutor
Nicolae Andrei Solomon, Prosecutor
Tatiana Toader, Prosecutor
Augustin Lazar, Prosecutor General
The other eight votes, in favour of a positive report, were cast by:
Judge Cristina Tarcea, High Court of Justice President
Judge Simona Marcu
Judge Gabriela Baltag
Judge Lia Savonea
Judge Nicoleta Tint
Judge Evelina Oprina
Civil society representatives:
CSM member, after negative report on Justice bills: Some arguments referenced the political area
Romeu Chelariu, CSM member, stated for MEDIAFAX that some arguments used in the CSM meeting, which saw the issuance of a negative report on the Justice bills, referenced the political area but “also other branches of government too.”
“It was a technical vote, but with political nuances, considering that some arguments expressed by some CSM members referenced the political area. This is shown by the talks that took place. Arguments that have to do with the political area, with other branches of government, were used. The argument used in the speech had references concerning other branches of government. The political area, they did not refer strictly and with priority to technical elements, to the impact that the laws would have on the judiciary,” CSM member Romeu Chelariu stated for MEDIAFAX.
He added that the vote has basically issued a negative report on all proposals, including those concerning the setting in line with CCR rulings. “We must consider primarily the CCR rulings, which we know are generally mandatory. Personally, I believe the laws put up for the plenum’s discussion represent, overall, progress, not regress. My personal point of view is that a favourable report should have been issued,” Chelariu added.
Alistar: It was a political vote, the report was negative also for the setting in line with CCR rulings
CSM member Victor Alistar, representative of the civil society, stated after the CSM’s vote on the Justice Laws, that this was a political vote, not a technical vote, and that there was the option for the Council’s representatives to issue a report with observations.
“It was a political vote. There were three options: [positive] report, negative report and report with observations. Those observations would have set right all the elements that the prosecutors and judges had transmitted to the CSM. What point would there have been for judges not to be able to have a say on the issue of career separation, and for people to effectively throw away all of today’s work,” Victor Alistar stated for Antena3 private broadcaster.
He added that the plenum of the Supreme Magistracy Council issued a negative report on all proposals, including those seeking the setting in line with Constitutional Court rulings.
The split within the CSM has been visible in recent months, stemming from the boycott of plenum meetings because of the attempt to replace the leadership of the Judicial Inspection which carried out an audit at the DNA.
Presidential spokesperson: Gov’t, Parliament cannot ignore CSM opinion on justice legislation
Presidential spokesperson Madalina Dobrovolschi in Thursday said that President Klaus Iohannis took note of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) opinion on the justice legislation, stressing that the government and Parliament cannot ignore this signal.
“The President of Romania has taken note of the CSM assessment, which is identical to his own analysis. The President considers that CSM, as a guarantor of the independence of the judiciary, has thoroughly and with great professional judgment assessed the proposals of the justice minister before rejecting them. Although this is an advisory opinion, the government and Parliament cannot ignore this clear signal from the CSM,” Dobrovolschi told journalists at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace.