Deputies cast the final vote on Monday regarding the amendment of Law 303/2004 on the judges’ and prosecutors’ statutes, after having voted on December 6th the piece of legislation by paragraphs, following 13-hour debates. Law no.303/2004 on the statute of magistrates, finalised by the committee, whose articles were adopted last week after approximately 11 hours of debate within the plenary was sent to the Senate and Senators will table amendments that will be then discussed within the special committee.
As many as 179 deputies voted in favour of the draft and 90 deputies against it.
Another bill that entered the final vote within the House on Monday was the bill amending the National Integrity Agency (ANI) Law, which stipulates that the interdictions applied to MPs based on ANI reports that noted their failure to observe the legal provisions concerning conflict of interest in 2007-2013 will cease by right. The bill has been voted with 167 pros and 90 cons. The Senate’s Standing Bureau was summoned at 18.00 to decide the schedule of the adoption of the Law no. 303/2004.
The bills amending the statute of magistrates and the ANI Law were posted on the Senate’s website last week, being registered for debate within its Standing Bureau even though the bills were actually being debated by the plenum of the House. Subsequently, the two bills were pulled from the Senate website, following vehement accusations levelled by the Opposition.
At that moment, the Opposition accused the PSD-ALDE parliamentary majority of acting with premeditation by registering the bills with the Senate even though they were still being debated within the House, parliamentary majority’s purpose being to hastily pass these amendments to the judicial laws, without an actual debate.
The PNL and USR MPs tried to postpone the vote regarding the Law no. 303/2004 on the statute of magistrates and regarding the amendment of the ANI Law, by adopting the strategy of the right to reply: an MP speaking at the tribune invoked the name of another present MP, who, in his turn, according to the regulation, had the right to reply to the one who said his name.
The Chairman of the meeting, the Social Democrat Gabriel Vlase, repeatedly cut the microphone to the members of the opposition, and he even stopped the interventions of the PNL and USR MPs.
The USR MPs whistled during the whole voting session, while Liberals clapped their hands in the desks.
The decision to convene the final voting session was taken by the leaders’ committee at the proposal of the leader of the PSD MPs, Ioan Munteanu.
Normally, the weekly final voting session in the Deputies’ Chamber is Tuesday afternoon.
“What’s the difference between the today and the tomorrow session?” Florin Iordache said, when asked why the Law no. 303 /2004 is subject of the today’s voting, instead of tomorrow’s voting, as normally.
“We don’t hold the Standing bureau meetings depending on how the protesters organize themselves” he added.
Cttee chaired by Florin Iordache adopts report on judicial system, setting up a section for judicial crimes
The committee on judicial laws has adopted – in a 14-5 vote – the report on law no.304/2004 on the judicial system, report that contains the proposed amendments to the law currently in force.
PSD-ALDE and UDMR MPs voted in favour, while PNL and USR MPs voted against the report.
The debates on the proposed amendments to law no.304/2004 on the judicial system lasted four days, the most important amendment being the setting up of the “Section for the investigation of judicial crimes.”
“The section for the investigation of judicial crimes is set up and will function within the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, having the exclusive prerogative of carrying out the criminal probe into the committal of corruption crimes and crimes assimilated to corruption, as stipulated by the Criminal Code and law no.78/2000, of malfeasance in office, and of crimes against the serving of justice, committed by judges and prosecutors, including those who are members of the CSM, but also by military prosecutors and judges,” reads the amendment adopted by the PSD-ALDE majority, vehemently criticised by PNL and USR.
Also adopted was an amendment according to which the Section for the probing of magistrates would start functioning 6 months after the coming into force of the law. The cases which fall under the Section’s prerogatives and which were registered with the competent prosecutor’s offices – including the specialised ones – prior to the coming into force of the law will be solved by the said prosecutor’s offices.
PNL and USR criticise PSD-ALDE’s intention to amend law no.317/2004 on the CSM
Earlier on Monday, the PNL and USR representatives within the special committee on judicial laws criticised PSD-ALDE’s intention to amend law no.317/2004 on the CSM, pointing out that it is not yet clear what variant was proposed concerning the Judicial Inspection, the amendments being made known at the last moment.
Thus, PNL House member Catalin Predoiu, ex-Justice Minister, pointed out during the general debates that PSD-ALDE has no kind of justification to “run roughshod” over the judicial laws.
“Four thousand judges have asked you not to modify this law. The European Commission has asked you to discuss with the Venice Commission. The CSM, here represented, is telling you, in a fairly diplomatic manner, that the bill is imperfect. When I say four thousand judges I’m not referring to the two madams from the UNJR too, let that be clear. Today we are hearing the third variant concerning this Judicial Inspection,” Predoiu said.
“There was one in the statements of Minister Toader, another one drawn-up in Mr Toader’s file cabinet on August 23, we are seeing the third one today, here before you. I don’t know what we’ll eventually vote on and what variants you’ll still bring. This bill is insufficiently discussed, it’s insufficiently thought-out from the standpoint of effects. There is no kind of coherence regarding this bill, there is no need to intervene now, the days before Christmas, as you planned to do on the orders of we-know-who, there is no kind of justification for you to run roughshod over these judicial laws,” Predoiu added.
USR MP Stelian Ion criticised, in his turn, the fact that it was only Friday that he received the latest variant of the proposed amendments.
“You sent us the latest variant on Friday. There are very important details and these things are not done over the weekend, they are not done over a cup of coffee, they must be discussed very well with the magistrates, with the professional organisations, with the CSM. I repeat, the latest proposal you have included was sent only Friday. When could the CSM representatives have consulted the magistrates? When could the representatives of professional associations have consulted their members?” Stelian Ion said.
“I believe it is inadmissible for so many important things to be modified, under important chapters such as the Judicial Inspection, from one day to the next, during a weekend in which this variant was probably discussed in a very close circle. Obviously, such a debate does not exist, and the Constitutional Court will be the one that will eventually settle the infringement of so many procedural and transparency rules,” Stelian Ion added.
Committee on Judicial Laws introduces criteria for election of CSM members
The special committee on judicial laws adopted on Monday an amendment to law no.317/2004, which stipulates that CSM members must have a seniority of at least 7 years as judges or prosecutors and they should not have received disciplinary sanctions in the last 3 years.
“The members of the Supreme Magistracy Council are to be elected from among judges and prosecutors appointed by the President of Romania, who have at least 7 years’ seniority as judges or prosecutors and who did not receive disciplinary sanctions in the last 3 years,” reads the amendment adopted by the committee on Monday, at the proposal of the Government.
The law’s current text stipulates that “the members of the Supreme Magistracy Council are to be elected from among judges and prosecutors appointed by the President of Romania.”
The order of the day also included debates on the proposed amendments and additions to the Criminal Procedure Code and Criminal Code, by reference to the transposition of EU Directive 2016/343 of the European Parliament and Council, dated 09.03.2016, on the consolidation of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at the trial during criminal prosecution procedures.
On the other hand, the PSD-ALDE majority decided last week to work at an intense pace within the committee, the only proposal accepted being for the committee’s proceedings to be suspended on December 14-16, decreed by the Government as days of national mourning following the death of King Mihai.
PSD’s Iordache: Directorate for Investigation of Criminal Offenses in Justice intended to take pressure off judges
The special parliamentary committee for the Justice laws approved on Monday the report on the amendment draft of the judicial organisation law, due to enter debate in the Chamber of Deputies’ plenary.
One of the main modifications adopted by the committee was the setting up of a Directorate for the Investigation of Criminal Offenses of Judges and Prosecutors. This department will start its activity in six months’ time from the law’s entry into force.
Head of justice laws’ special committee, Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Florin Iordache of the Social Democratic Party specified on Monday that setting up a Directorate for the Investigation of Criminal Offenses of Judges and Prosecutors is intended to take the pressure off judges.
“We considered such a directorate should exist, a department made up of prosecutors of a certain rank. They are under Romania’s Prosecutor General’s control and with regard to their appointment, they are elected by their colleagues in the prosecutors’ division of CSM [Superior Council of Magistracy – ed.n.], Iordache replied in relation to the adoption of this amendment to the law on judicial organisation.
He said that such a department “is intended to take the pressure off judges.”
“For judges not to be under so much pressure, be it during the trial phase, or during the ruling phase or when solutions are being passed, it is a good thing that such a division exists under the subordination of the Prosecutor General. (…) You have envisaged certain arguments, we have envisaged some other arguments. We, upon debates, have taken into account all observations and following the vote expressed, we considered that it is a good thing this directorate was set up. It has been clearly established from the beginning the prosecutors’ statute and all we did was copy from the Constitution what the prosecutor’s statute means and as to what Law no. 304 represents, we mentioned that “rationality” which only eliminates potential refutation of solutions one prosecutor or another might receive in court. Bearing in mind that the prosecutors are hierarchically subordinated, there is that independence in relation to the case, to the solution, but lawfulness and rationality allow the hierarchical leader to intervene,” Florin Iordache further explained in Parliament.