JUSTICE POLITICS

Judicial laws: Senate adopts bill amending law no.303/2004 on statute of magistrates

The Senate adopted in Tuesday’s plenary sitting, as decision-making chamber, the legislative proposal for the modification and supplementing of Law 303/2004 on the Statute of judges and prosecutors.

There were 80 votes in favour.

The Senators adopted a few amendments proposed by Serban Nicolae in the plenary sitting, by rephrasing some rejected on Monday by the special parliamentary committee on justice laws.

The National Liberal Party (PNL) and Save Romania Union (USR) left the plenary sitting hall around 14:30, to participate in the joint plenary sitting for the debate on the budget, which, according to the schedule approved by the joint standing bureaus, should have started at 14:00.

The PNL and USR representatives supported a small part of the amendments they had drawn up which were rejected in the special committee.

The People’s Movement Party (PMP) senators left the plenary works in the morning, in the beginning of the debate on this bill.

The Opposition tried to take the bill off the Senate’s order of the day, Popular Movement Party (PMP) leader Traian Basescu even proposing the removal of the bills on the judicial laws from this session’s order of the day.

USR Senator Vlad Alexandrescu demanded that the bill be sent back to the committee, for the latter to draft a supplementary report.

The Senate’s plenary meeting was suspended on Tuesday after USR Senators occupied the central rostrum of the plenary hall, interrupting Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu’s speech.

USR Senators held signs reading “all for Justice.” Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu announced his decision to suspend the meeting until order is restored.

The Liberals were the first to demand the postponement of the debate on the statute of magistrates’ law. PNL Senator Mario Oprea demanded that the amending of law no.303 and law no.304 be removed from the order of the day of the Senate meeting, invoking a provision of the Senate Regulations, according to which the special committee’s report is to be sent to Senators three workdays before the debate. He pointed out that the Senators received the report on Tuesday, at 10:25 a.m. Put up for vote, the Liberals’ demand was rejected in a 71-38 vote.

In his turn, Popular Movement Party (PMP) Senator Traian Basescu proposed that all bills concerning the judiciary be removed from this session’s order of the day.

“Part of the modifications brought to these laws are good. These are laws that have been in force for 13 years and areas that require certain adjustments have been noted. On the other hand, because of the speed of the proceedings, formidable errors have also been made. (…) Against the backdrop of the talks in society, I believe it would be best for Parliament to leave the holiday period as a period of debate on the form that these laws have taken, to be able to convey the correct message, to be able to receive society’s concerns and to pass some laws that both society and politicians would approve of,” Basescu added.

He pointed out that if the judicial laws are maintained on the order of the day then PMP lawmakers will walk out of the plenary meeting.

His proposal was also rejected by the Senate in a 71-38 vote.

USR Senator Vlad Alexandrescu asked that the bill be sent back to the committee, for the latter to draft a supplementary report.

“The magistrates have gone on strike and have come out on the courts’ steps. We cannot treat this lightly. We are on the verge of modifying the balance of powers in the state, and this cannot be done in a day or a week,” USR Senator Vlad Alexandrescu stated, being quoted by news.ro.

His request was also rejected in a 71-38 vote.

The moment PMP Senators left the meeting hall and the debate on amending law no.303 on the statute of magistrates started, several USR MPs displayed hand-shaped placards reading “all for Justice.”

During the Senate debates on amending law no.303/2004, USR Senator Mihai Gotiu read a petition within the plenum, its 65,000 signatories asking Senators to distance themselves “from the interests of the lawbreakers for whom an independent judiciary is synonymous with a short walk to prison”.

“Romania’s citizens know that a democratic society cannot function without a strong and independent judiciary. However, this judicial system, whom foreign partners have labelled – not seldom – as being redoubtable, remarkable, or excellent, is being jeopardised by the modifications proposed now. The package of Judicial Laws is on your tables. We ask you that on the day of the vote you should say NO! We ask you to be on the good side of history, in a moment in which it’s clear that Romania’s European future is being decided,” the petition reads.

Its signatories reminded the criticism that magistrates, the CSM, the DNA, the DIICOT, the Romanian Presidency and even the European Commission levelled against the amending of the judicial laws.

“Their adoption would mean the cancellation of all the efforts that Romania has carried out for transparency and good governance in the last ten years. We, those who elected you to represent our rights in Parliament, ask you to respect the trust you were invested with. And we also ask you to distance yourselves from the interests of lawbreakers for whom an independent judiciary is synonymous with a short walk to prison,” according to the petition read by the USR Senator.

 

On Monday evening, after approximately nine hours of debates, the special committee on judicial laws adopted a positive report, with amendments, on the bill amending law no.303/2004 on the statute of magistrates.

The report was adopted with 12 votes in favour, 6 against (PNL and USR) and one abstention.

The special parliamentary committee on judicial laws adopted on Monday an amendment to the law on the statute of magistrates. The amendment stipulates that the Romanian President can justifiably refuse only once the nominations made for the offices of Prosecutor General, DNA Chief Prosecutor and DIICOT Chief Prosecutor. The amendment was proposed by Senator Serban Nicolae. Before, the President was not limited to a single refusal.

Parliamentarians also adopted an amendment, also tabled by PSD Senator Serban Nicolae, according to which information concerning magistrates, inter-institutional cooperation, and judicial procedures represents information of public interest, except for that information which the law stipulates as having a non-public character.

“Information concerning the statute of judges and prosecutors, the judicial system, the functioning of the CSM, inter-institutional cooperation between courts and prosecutor’s office on one hand and any other public authority on the other hand, as well as judiciary procedures, represents information of public interest, except for that information for which the law stipulates a non-public character,” reads the amendment adopted by the special committee.

Thus, modified was the text adopted by the Lower Chamber, which stipulated that “by derogation from any other laws or provisions, the information, decisions, rulings, protocols, orders, and any other acts issued or co-signed by the CSAT [Supreme Defence Council] or by an intelligence service, and which concern or have a connection with the judicial system, represent information of public interest.”

Another amendment establishes that the solutions adopted by a prosecutor can be dismissed by the hierarchically superior prosecutor “if he deems them to be illegal or groundless.”

Likewise, the committee members adopted an amendment tabled by the Association of Romanian Magistrates (AMR) and the Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR), endorsed by PSD and ALDE, according to which “the sections’ decision can be challenged via appeals lodged with the Section for Administrative and Fiscal Litigation of the Court of Appeals, within 15 days since it was brought to knowledge, without going through the preliminary procedure. The Court of Appeals’ decision is final.”

At present, the sections’ decision can be challenged within the Supreme Magistracy Council’s plenum. The latter’s decisions are final and irrevocable.

At the same time, the members of the special committee on judicial laws decided on Monday that the state’s accountability does not eliminate the civil, penal, or disciplinary accountability of judges and prosecutors that exercised their prerogatives with bad faith or severe negligence. Severe negligence occurs when the judge or prosecutor gravely, undoubtedly, and inexcusably ignores the norms of substantive law or procedural law.

Parliamentarians have also decided that the person who, during the trial, contributed to the judge or prosecutor’s committal of the judicial error is not justified in repairing the damage caused. For the repairing of the damage, the aggrieved party must take legal action against the Finance Ministry. The competence of solving the civil action belongs to the court in whose jurisdiction the complainant resides.

The state’s payment of the sums owed as damages is to be carried out within a period of six months at most since the final court ruling is brought to knowledge.

According to another amendment, within a period of two months since the final court ruling is brought to knowledge, the Finance Ministry will ask the Judicial Inspection to establish the existence of bad faith or severe negligence on the part of the judge or prosecutor who committed the judicial error, in line with the procedure stipulated by law no.317/2004 on the Supreme Magistracy Council.

On the other hand, the members of the committee rejected several amendments tabled by USR, including one eliminating the separation of the judges’ and prosecutors’ careers.

 

Tariceanu quotes Stalin and declares himself dissatisfied that the Laws on Justice weren’t amended more substantially

 

Senate’s Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated form the tribune of the Superior Chamber that the Laws on Justice had to be amended by a more extensive manner and that the members of the specialized Committee performed a “much more modest work”. The ALDE leader criticized the magistrates, the protesters and the representatives of the opposition, and at one point he quoted “comrade Stalin’s formula”.

“Unfortunately, neither the joint specialized Committee, nor the colleagues in the Deputies’ Chamber made a substantial amendment of the Laws on Justice. Working in a climate that all of you know, especially a hostile one, marked also in Parliament by aggressive and irrational tones, our colleagues in the specialized Committee made a much more modest work, however, I would say it is precious and necessary to the same extent” Tariceanu began his intervention at the debates on the amendments brought to the Statute of judges and prosecutors (Law no.303/2004).

“Paradoxically, some people had the feeling that the changes brought to the draft laws which we will debate are unbearably extensive. Who are those who suspect us, even accuse us of radically overthrowing the legal framework in which Justice operates? Well, first of all, these are the heads of the great Prosecutor’s Offices and the magistrates who usually fall into a column behind them. Then, a part of the public opinion that acts in the virtual space or repeatedly occupy the streets in Bucharest and in other cities. Last but not least, some voices that are regrettably strident and ridiculously unbelievable, from the desks of the parties in opposition” the ALDE leader also said.

In his opinion, the changes proposed to be brought to the three Laws on Justice are “technical”, “completely ordinary”. “Who looks with a lucid and unbiased eye on the texts we are going to debate is hit immediately by the technical, sometimes ordinary nature of the changes and completions which are introduced” Tariceanu added.

Then, the Senate’s Speaker wished to give a brief history lesson to his younger fellows.

“Seeing the attitude of some of you today, who didn’t even lived in the darkest period of the totalitarian communism, and I congratulate them for this, I remind them comrade Stalin’s formula. Do you know what he said? That there are no innocent people, there are only people we didn’t take care enough. And it seems to me that this formula has surprisingly many followers in a country which pretends to be democratic and free” Tariceanu also said.

 

Dan Barna: USR to challenge statute of magistrates at CCR

 

USR President Dan Barna stated on Tuesday that his party will challenge at the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) the Senate’s adoption of law no.303/2004 on the statute of magistrates, pointing out that any instrument must be used to block the coming into force of this law.

“As I said, it’s not the end of the road. We will continue the fight with all instruments and with all legal, parliamentary, and civic means at our disposal. Obviously, we will challenge this law at the CCR, our colleagues from PNL have also announced such a challenge. Basically, any instrument that we identify must be used to block the coming into force of this law. Of course, the President has his opinion. (…) These laws are riddled with reasons for unconstitutionality. My colleagues from the legal department are currently working to finalise the text of the challenge,” Dan Barna stated.

 

 

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