The plenary meeting of the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) this Wednesday was the scene of heated debates over a Judicial Inspection report, the bone of contention being the criticism of anticorruption prosecutors of certain acquittal rulings handed down by courts.
Judge Gabriela Baltag raised the issue, arguing that the CSM should look at the extent to which the criticism leveled by the prosecutors of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) at the final acquittal rulings has affected the judges’ independence.
Baltag said that the respective criticism was laid out in the prosecutors’ information notes and that the Judicial Inspection too has worked out a report on the matter.
“The Judicial Inspection’s report was submitted to the CSM Prosecutors’ Section for an examination as to the extent where assessments of the legality and solidity of the grounds of court acquittal rulings should be allowed in the information notes or in the activity report. (…) The former CSM determined that from the institutional point of view, criticism of the rulings’ legality and grounds is not allowed,” Baltag said, adding that the report of the Judicial Inspection references judges, appellate courts and the supreme court as well, and frequently cites the information notes of the session prosecutor with such remarks as: “Neither the trial court, nor the court of appeal considered the evidence presented in the criminal prosecution case. The ruling is final, but debatable, as the defendant’s acquittal was wrongly handed down. The acquittal decision handed down by the trial court and upheld by the appellate court are ungrounded and are the consequence and the result of a selective and flawed interpretation,” said Gabriela Baltag, mentioning that this cannot be overlooked.
CSM vice president Codrut Olaru requested the postponement of debates in plenum, because the Judicial Inspection’s report needs to be examined by the CSM Prosecutors’ Section.
In his turn, Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar said that the prosecution offices study the acquittal court rulings because this is the legal obligation of the prosecutors.
“If we are to discuss the essence of the case, please note that court rulings are being discussed and the Public Prosecution Office examines the decisions [because] this is the procedure set forth by the law, a procedure that must be carried out in a professional manner in order to help, for us to see where we went wrong. This procedure also implies performing the judicial analysis of the solutions. The critical analysis is done inside the institution and the intellectual level varies with the prosecutor’s experience and depends on whether the respective prosecutor is a beginner, or a newcomer to the judiciary structure, or a more seasoned one. Yet I assure you the prosecutor is independent,” Lazar said adding that substandard professional lingo is not encouraged at the Public Prosecution Office. “There are certain issues and we discuss them with our colleagues at the assessment meetings. Of course some are tempted to place the ball in the other’s court. It’s the first temptation that comes to mind when one wants to justify a solution that is not OK,” Lazar explained.
Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader, who also attended the sitting, said that since the judges are now complaining of the prosecutors, he expects the prosecutors to do the same about the judges in the near future.
“By tradition, CSM was defending the independence of the judiciary of the media, the parties, the politicians. Now the judges complain about the prosecutors. We are at the CSM premises, one party complains that the other party violates their independence. I soon expect the prosecutors to grumble about the judges. (…) I find Mrs. Justice is right when she requires the prosecutors – as they act according to their constitutional statute we are about to clarify, understand and accept – to be careful to accomplish their mandate within the constitutional boundaries and not be concerned about the judges’ activity, because there are control and regulation mechanisms in place for that,” Toader ad