Supreme Court President Cristina Tarcea said JusMin Tudorel Toader’s manner of seeking the opinion of the Superior Council of the Magistrates on OUG No. 7 falls short of the requirement for sincere cooperation, arguing that although the ordinance does not have catastrophic effects on the justice system, “it was the last straw.”
Speaking Monday night on private broadcaster Antena 3, Tarcea described the circumstances under which the Justice Minister had asked for CSM’s opinion on the controversial OUG No. 7.
“The draft Emergency Ordinance had been handed over the day before. I understand that on that evening, the CSM Legislation Department worked out a point of view on the opinion to be issued. The CSM plenary meeting was held the next day at 9 a.m., with the Minister of Justice also attending. (…) One of the subjects of debate was whether or not we put the opinion on Ordinance 7 on the agenda. We almost unanimously agreed that, as we hadn’t at least read the ordinance – I for myself hadn’t even seen it – we cannot just hastily produce an opinion in an hour or two. The minister was there with us and he participated in that conversation. I consider the fair way to act would have been for him to tell us to issue the opinion, because the government meeting was scheduled in a few hours time. He did not inform us about that. This is about respecting rights, about loyal cooperation between institutions. I tell you that this is not an example of loyal cooperation, and I also tell you that the mere request for an opinion does not amount to formally requesting it. This is not about faking the appearance of respecting a right, that right must be respected in its substance. In order to issue an opinion you need time, not only to read, but also to understand what the document states. The OUG has 5-6 pages. Had I known that it was going to be approved on that day, I would have definitely sat down to read and examine it,” Tarcea explained.
The head of the supreme court also asserts that although Ordinance 7 does not have “catastrophic effects,” it “was the last straw.”
“The issue is the lack of loyal cooperation, the lack of sincerity and the double standard. As you see, we are all going through a period of crisis. It’s a crisis of mistrust, of lack of dialogue. The ordinance doesn’t have catastrophic effects for the justice system. There are many elements that can never be accepted. But this was the last straw. It’s the lack of dialogue, the lack of confidence, the contempt the magistrates, judges and prosecutors equally, are being treated with. This ordinance was not sent to the High Court of Cassation and Justice. That morning I was informed that it had been sent to me, I checked the fax and e-mail incoming documents, and I had not received anything,” Tarcea said.
Law does not provide for 3-judge panel draw; ‘hand-picked’ judges – urban legends
The head of the Supreme Court, Cristina Tarcea, said on Monday evening that the law does not provide for the draw of the three-judge panels and has described as “urban legends” the information that appeared in the public space that some judges were “hand-picked” in some cases.
“Let’s clarify one thing: the law does not provide for the draw of 3-judge, 2-judge, 1-judge panels. The law does not stipulate that. Are we going to draw above what the law provides for? It is very dangerous, all the more so as Ordinance 7/2019, the famous ordinance these days, the Governing Board not only of the High Court, but of any court in the country, was forbidden to establish rules that are not laid down by law. Consequently, if the law does not stipulate the draw of 3, 2, 1 panels, the Board of the Supreme Court and of other courts, the Superior Council of Magistrates are not allowed by regulation to rule on other matters that are not provided by law. (…) CSM has nothing to clarify, because it is not the CSM’s attribute. CSM’s attribute is that of guarantor of the independence of the Justice. Lawmaking belongs with the legislators, the interpretation and enforcement of the law belong with the judiciary, respectively the courts. (…) The red line means observing the separation of powers in the state, and this principle must always be respected when we like it and when we do not like it,” Tarcea told private TV broadcaster Antena 3.
Asked about the judges who would be “hand-picked” in some cases, Tarcea argued that these are “urban legends”.
“Let’s clear up the issue with the judge ‘being hand-picked.’ This is impossible. Hand-picked means for someone to get into a specific case because that what he wants or a president tells him, ‘You get into that case right this second.’ This cannot happen. The only thing that can happen is that the change of the members of a panel of judges is made by a decision of the Board. (…) I have heard of judges ‘hand-picked’ with the High Court. Supposedly the president and the vice-president of the High Court. There are so many urban legends in the judiciary, not only in the Romanian society, and so many people judge and interpret without the curiosity of reading the text of the law,” Tarcea explained.