NGOs respond to the creation of a narrow specialization of commercial disputes in Tbilisi City Court

18 September, 2017

On August 1, 2017, the High Council of Justice decided to create a narrow specialization of commercial disputes in Tbilisi City Court. According to the Council Secretary, having a separate specialization of commercial disputes will improve the investment and business environment in the country. We believe that this decision is an attempt at covering the systemic and fundamental problems in the judiciary and will not produce any real results.

Recently, business associations and international organizations have been openly reporting cases of alleged corruption in courts, inappropriate interference and favoritism. In response to these concerns and for the purpose of improving the investment climate, the Ministry of Justice and the Government as a whole have been working in parallel for the past several months to create specialized commercial colleges/chambers. Among the ideas being discussed were creating the ​​commercial and tax chambers in or outside of the common courts system, independent of the High Council of Justice. The issue was discussed at the latest meeting of the Board of Investors. The Ministry of Justice is actively cooperating with the British Government, EBRD and German partners for the purpose of creating commercial chambers. The Ministry has already appealed to EBRD for assistance in selecting new judges for these commercial chambers and in organizing training programs for them.

Even though the High Council of Justice was aware of the ongoing work and discussion on creating a commercial and tax chamber, it nevertheless decided to create a narrow specialization of commercial disputes in Tbilisi City Court without proper consideration of the issue and involvement of the business sector. It is also unclear what criteria were used to select 4 judges (Tamar Burjanadze, Levan Mikaberidze, Lasha Kochiashvili and Soso Ghurtskaia), who will work on commercial, property, bankruptcy and legal obligation disputes above GEL 500,000. We believe that the decision of the High Council of Justice may be a response to the idea of establishing a commercial chamber independent from the Council and serves to create false impressions in the eyes of the business sector.

While taking steps towards ensuring swift and quality justice in business disputes is of great importance for improving the country's investment climate and economy, solving problems in disputes of this kind alone will be insufficient for improving the overall court system and ensuring high quality of justice. Considering the reality of the Georgian court system, where it is characterized by clan governance, and where the High Council of Justice appoints/promotes judges through favoritism, no case is free from the risk of inappropriate interference and questions related to the independence and qualification of judges. Therefore, we call on the Parliament and the Government to launch a complete and fundamental reform of the judiciary that will ensure swift and quality justice in disputes of all categories.

Transparency International Georgia

Article 42 of the Constitution

Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)

Regional Center for Strategic Studies

Atlantic Council of Georgia

Economic Policy Research Center