The First 10 Steps of Judicial Reform
On October 9, at the initiative of non-governmental organizations, a presentation of the 10 steps concept of judicial reform and a signing ceremony was held. The concept was developed taking into account the multi-year observations and studies of the non-governmental sector. It aims to improve the functioning and system of the judiciary, strengthen the independence of judges, and introduce democratic mechanisms of internal governance. The document was signed by 8 political entities, thus committing themselves to implement the reforms given in the concept as soon as the new parliament convenes after the 2020 parliamentary elections. It should also be noted that the concept does not require constitutional changes.
Event Organizers: Transparency International Georgia, Democratic Initiative of Georgia, Open Society Georgia Foundation, Partnership for Human Rights, International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED), Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, Human Rights Center.
Signatory political parties: United National Movement - United Opposition Strength in Unity - Grigol Vashadze, Democratic Movement - United Georgia - Nino Burjanadze, Strategy Aghmashenebeli - George Vashadze, Georgian Labor Party - Lasha Chkhartishvili, Movement for Liberty - European Georgia - Elene Khoshtaria, Party “For Justice” - Eka Beselia, Lelo for Georgia - Badri Japaridze, Party “Citizens” - Levan Ioseliani.
The First 10 Steps of Judicial Reform
(Which does not require constitutional changes)
We, the signatory political parties, agree on the necessity to institutionalize the Georgian justice system, free it from informal influences, encourage internal democratic processes and establish highest standards. Therefore, we agree and support the concept of reform set out in this document. In order to achieve this goal, after the convening of the new Parliament, we agree to collaborate on the following:
- The Parliament shall adopt a resolution of political nature evaluating the past experience and the political/legal reality which was created by Georgia’s justice system that had been deinstitutionalized and subjected to political influences. In addition, the resolution should reflect the challenges facing the judicial system, which will define the Parliament’s future plans with regard to tackling the challenges within the judiciary. The drafting of the resolution should be based on the principle of deliberative democracy and should involve consensus-oriented political parties.
- The procedure of staffing and the scope of powers of the High Council of Justice shall be changed to ensure the institutional independence of the judiciary and to relieve it of its clan rule by strengthening deliberative democracy and implementing consensus-based procedures. In the process of staffing the High Council of Justice, the functional role should be given to the interests of the minority of the Conference of Judges of Georgia. Specifically:
- One judge should be able to vote for only one candidate for membership of the High Council of Justice;
- Eight candidates who have the best results should be elected at the Conference;
- A member of the Council should be elected for a term of four years;
- When the powers of a member of the High Council of Justice are terminated, the candidate who is next on the list takes his/her place for the remaining period.
- The rule and procedure for staffing the Supreme Court shall be improved in compliance with the principle of transparency and impartiality, in order to select the best candidates for the Supreme Court. The decision on the qualifications and competence of the candidates that is taken at the time of selection of candidates should be well-founded and a mechanism for appealing the decision should be in place. The issue of conflict of interest of candidates for membership of the High Council of Justice and the Supreme Court should be made a subject of meticulous regulation, and a mechanism for recusal of a member of the Council should also be introduced. The content component (description and justification) should be added to the interview of the candidate before the High Council of Justice, which should be eventually included in the selection process of the candidates at the Parliament.
- Individual, functional, and institutional independence of judges shall be ensured, specifically:
- Judges should be appointed at an open session and through open vote, within the limits of the obligation to substantiate the decision on appointment;
- A judicial cabinet should be formed, which implies the judges’ powers to make a significant contribution to selecting their assistants and session secretaries;
- A clear and non-discriminatory system of stimulation and promotion of judges should be formed;
- Judges should elect the presidents of the courts.
- The independence of the High School of Justice shall be strengthened. The High Council of Justice should be deprived of the dominant position in the process of staffing the Board of the High School of Justice.
- The system of disciplinary proceedings of judges shall be improved. The selection rules of the independent inspector should be improved and guarantees of its independence must be created.
- The number of judges shall be increased. Using exception norms, an inflow of new judges into the judiciary should be ensured on a single occasion.
- The role and area of operation of jurors shall be increased, which implies the expansion of the institute of jurors in the type of litigation within which a person may be sentenced to imprisonment.
- The state should facilitate the increase in the role of arbitration by enacting legislative changes that will enhance the credibility of arbitration. In particular, the norms of arbitration ethics should be developed, the minimum standard of fairness and transparency of consumer arbitration should be ensured and the issues of conflict of interest in arbitration institutions should be refined.
- The administrative staff of courts is provided with fair working conditions. In addition, the state should ensure that the administrative staff of courts is hired on the basis of a sound and fair competition.