The committee of parliamentary whips decided on Tuesday to introduce on the House’s order of the day on Wednesday the other two bills amending Law no.304/2004 on the organisation of the judicial system and Law no.317/2004 on the functioning of the CSM, for debate and final vote. Prior to the debate on the two legislative acts, Florin Iordache’s amendment to the House regulations will be put up for vote, so that after the time allocated for debates expires the admitted amendments would be put up for vote as a package and only some of the rejected amendments would be put up for vote.
According to the decision adopted by the committee of parliamentary whips, the first point on the House’s order of the day on Wednesday will be the amendment of its regulations so that the admitted amendments would be put up for vote as a package, while only some of the rejected amendments would be put up for vote after the time allocated for debates expires.
On Monday, the committee on regulations adopted a report rejecting PSD House member Florin Iordache’s initiative, but his proposal will most likely be adopted by the plenum.
After the amendment to the regulations is put up for vote, House members will start the debates on law no.304/2004 on the judicial system and law no.317/2004 on the CSM.
The special committee on judicial laws completed its report on law no.304/2004 on Monday, while the report on law no.317/2004 was set to be finalised on Tuesday.
The PSD-ALDE majority seeks to finalise the debates on both laws during the plenary meeting on Wednesday, as well as the final vote on the two bills.
The first judicial bill – amending law no.303/2004 on the statute of judges and prosecutors – was debated, article-by-article, last Wednesday, in a 13-hour meeting, and the final vote was cast on Monday. The legislative act was sent to the Senate on the same day, where it entered debate under urgent procedure, the report on the bill – necessary for the bill to enter the plenum – set to be ready by next Monday.
The Senate has the last say on all three judicial bills.
Special cttee continues debates and adopts amendments to Law no.317/2004 on the CSM
On Tuesday, the special committee on judicial laws continued its debates on the proposed amendments to Law no.317/2004 on the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM), and was set to start the debates on the Judicial Inspection too.
Requests concerning defence of the judiciary’s independence to be solved by CSM’s plenum
Thus, at the proposal tabled by the Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) and the Association of Romanian Magistrates (AMR), the special committee on judicial laws has adopted an amendment to Law no.317/2004 on the CSM, which stipulates that requests concerning the defence of the independence of the judiciary as a whole are to be solved by the CSM’s plenum.
The text of the adopted amendment reads: “CSM’s appropriate sections have the right and obligation to take note ex officio in order to protect judges and prosecutors against any act that may affect their independence or impartiality or may create suspicions about their independence or impartiality. Likewise, CSM’s appropriate sections protect the professional reputation of judges and prosecutors.”
The amendment goes on to say: “The requests concerning the protection of the independence of Justice as a whole are to be solved by CSM’s plenum, after each section had its say on the request concerned.”
At the proposal of PSD House member Eugen Nicolicea, the term “judicial system” – which appeared in the initial form of the proposed amendment – was replaced by “justice,” so that “the independence of the judicial system” became “the independence of Justice.”
President of the CSM is by right President of the Section for Judges
At the same time, on Tuesday the special committee on judicial laws adopted another amendment to Law no.317/2004 on the CSM, which stipulates that the President of the Section for Judges is by right President of the Supreme Magistracy Council, which means the President of the CSM can no longer be a prosecutor.
Here is the full text of the adopted amendment:
“The President of the Section for Judges is by right President of the Supreme Magistracy Council and is elected from the members stipulated under Article 4 – for a term of one year, which cannot be renewed – by the elective assembly which consists of the members stipulated under Article 3, paragraph a)-c), as follows:
- a) judges elected members of the Supreme Magistracy Council, namely 2 judges from the High Court of Cassation and Justice, 3 judges from courts of appeals, 2 judges from tribunals and 2 judges from courts
- b) members by right, the President of the High Court of Cassation and Justice and the Justice Minister
- c) appointed members, the 2 representatives of civil society.”
The amendment was tabled by ALDE and PSD.
The law currently in force stipulates that “the President and Vice President of the Supreme Magistracy Council are elected by the plenum, in the presence of at least 15 Council members, with the vote of a majority of members.”
The adoption of this amendment means that the President of CSM will be a judge and can no longer be a prosecutor.
The amendment was adopted with the votes of PSD, ALDE and UDMR.
Justice Minister and ICCJ President can no longer enact disciplinary action against magistrates
The special parliamentary committee on judicial laws adopted on Tuesday an amendment to Law no.317/2014 on the functioning of the CSM, according to which only the Judicial Inspection can enact a disciplinary action against a judge, prosecutor or assistant magistrate, the Justice Minister and the President of the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) being eliminated from this procedure.
“Article 44, paragraph (3) is modified and will have the following content: (3) The disciplinary action in the case of infractions committed by judges, prosecutors and assistant magistrates is exercised by the Judicial Inspection, through the judicial inspector,” reads the amendment adopted by the special committee.
The article currently in force stipulates, under paragraph (3), that “the disciplinary action in the case of infractions committed by a judge is exercised by the Judicial Inspection, through the judicial inspector, by the Justice Minister, or by the President of the High Court of Cassation and Justice.”
The modification was proposed by the CSM and undertaken as legislative amendment by the USR and ALDE.
Prosecutor General Lazar: Notifying CCR about judicial laws, one of our ideas
Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar stated on Tuesday, at the Palace of Parliament, that notifying the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) about the judicial laws is one of the options considered, pointing out that he is still analysing the juridical instruments that can be used.
“It’s a sensitive situation that we are analysing to see which are the juridical instruments with which we will act from now on, in the days to follow. I’ve pointed out many times that if somebody wants to modify the judicial laws it shouldn’t do it within some special committee, nor via emergency procedure, because we need laws which all Romanians could trust. We need a well-shaped judicial system, a European judicial system,” Augustin Lazar stated.
Asked whether he considers notifying the CCR about the judicial laws, the Prosecutor General answered: “It’s one of our ideas.”
The three bills amending the judicial laws – with the Senate having the last say on them – are in various stages in the parliamentary circuit.
The amendments brought to the judicial laws within the special committee have sparked discontent among some magistrates and some parts of the civil society, with several protests taking place.
On Monday, the House adopted – in a 179-90 vote – the amendments to Law no.303/2004 on the statute of judges and prosecutors, in a final vote meeting convened ad-hoc. Likewise, it adopted – in a 167-90 vote – the amendments to the ANI Law, which stipulate that the interdictions enforced against Senators and House members which were found by the National Integrity Agency (ANI) to be in conflict of interest in 2007-2013 will cease by right. Also on Monday, the Senate’s Standing Bureau established the timetable of the urgent debate of both legislative acts – the deadline for the filing of amendments was set for Thursday, while the relevant committees will have to draft the report by next Monday, December 18.
The third bill, the one amending Law no.317/2004 on the Supreme Magistracy Council, entered the debate of the special parliamentary committee on judicial laws, chaired by Florin Iordache.
On Monday, the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) decided to ask Romania to lodge with it, by 15 January 2018, information about the amendments brought to the judicial laws, amendments that would then be analysed during the GRECO Summit in March. Urgent assessment of the bills on the judicial system will be carried out, the “ad-hoc procedure in exceptional circumstances” being triggered.
The legislative proposal that modifies Law no.303/2004 on the statute of magistrates received a favourable report from the special committee on judicial laws and was voted, solely in an article-by-article fashion, last week, after approximately 11 hours of debates, despite the opposition put up by PNL and USR.
The most important modification that House members have brought to the current text of the law introduces the accountability of magistrates.
In what concerns the judicial system’s organisation, another challenged provision concerns the setting up of a section for the investigation of magistrates.
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.
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.”
Special cttee reconsiders article on super-immunity for magistrates and rejects it
On Tuesday, the special parliamentary committee on judicial laws reconsidered the amendment tabled by USR and ALDE, which sought to introduce enhanced immunity for magistrates, and rejected it after the representatives of the two parties announced the withdrawal of their proposal.
USR House member Stelian Ion asked the special committee to reconsider and reject the amendment according to which magistrates cannot be criminally probed without the CSM’s consent.
Stelian Ion claimed that the amendment was at first adopted at USR’s proposal and with its endorsement because the committee’s debates took place much too hastily.
Upon his request, Chairman Florin Iordache said that since the initiator no longer endorses the amendment the latter is considered cancelled, so that it will not be included in the final report under the chapter of rejected amendments.
ALDE no longer endorsed the amendment either, even though it was listed as initiator, alongside USR.
“The carrying out of a criminal probe against a judge or prosecutor, for crimes committed while exercising their prerogatives or in connection to their prerogatives, can be ordered only after the Section for Judges or the Section for Prosecutors is notified. The stipulations of Paragraph (4) are to be appropriately implemented,” reads the amendment initially adopted by the committee at the proposal of UNJR, CSM, USR and ALDE.
In the law currently in force, the immunity of magistrates concerns solely police searches, detention, pre-trial arrest, and house arrest.