Georgian Dream (GD) and United National Movement (UNM) are holding talks in an attempt to reach an agreement on the draft amendments to the law on common court, in particular on a formula, which should define how High Council of Justice, a body overseeing judicial system, is composed.
Composition of HCoJ consists of two components; judicial component – eight judges, which are elected in HCoJ by the judiciary’s self-governing body, Conference of Judges; and so called “parliamentary component” – six non-judge members of HCoJ, which should be nominated by legal advocacy non-governmental organizations; law schools and Georgian Bar Association and then confirmed by the Parliament. One seat in HCoJ is occupied by Chairman of the Supreme Court – the rule, which is constitutionally guaranteed and for that reason the proposed bill envisages no change in this regard.
Details of the ongoing negotiations are not reported by the parties, but it seems that formula on how the parliamentary component of HCoJ membership should be selected is the focus of the ongoing talks.
One of the reasons why UNM refused to support the bill when it was passed with its second reading was that in the parliamentary component of HCoJ composition the bill did not envisage the Venice Commission’s recommendations, which has called to introduce such a mechanism which would give the parliamentary opposition its say in the process of composition of the parliamentary component of HCoJ.
In particular, the Venice Commission offered either to make confirmation of these six candidates by the Parliament with two-thirds of majority or by some proportional method.
While passing the bill with its second reading, GD lawmakers said that exact rules on how these six members should be selected and confirmed by the Parliament should be defined by separate regulations not by the law on common courts; in particular relevant amendments should be introduced in the Parliament’s regulations. GD lawmakers said that they would try to introduce draft of amendments to this regulation by the time when the Parliament plans to discuss the bill on common courts with its third and final reading next week.
Proposal about confirmation of six candidates with two-third majority seems to be less likely option as GD and the Justice Ministry, which has drafted the bill, are strongly against of it on the ground that there is no other post in the country that requires such a high bar for confirmation by the Parliament; introducing some type of proportional method, giving the parliamentary minority its say in the process of selecting and confirming candidates, seems to be an issue which the parties might be focusing on during the talks.
“I think that we are yet far from agreement,” said one of the UNM negotiators, MP Pavle Kublashvili, on March 27, adding that UNM was insisting that the Venice Commission’s recommendations to be fully reflected in the legislative amendments.
Davit Usupashvili, the parliamentary chairman, told journalists after talks with UNM representatives on March 27 that consultations were still ongoing on the parliamentary component of HCoJ composition and added: “We are going to resolve this issue fully in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.”
On the judicial component of HCoJ composition, the revised bill, passed by the Parliament with its second reading, includes couple of new provisions which make the bill more in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations than it was before. In particular, the bill includes provisions according to which authority of seven out of eight sitting judge members of HCoJ will be terminated, but those seven judges will be able to again run for the seat in HCoJ and be re-elected as its members by the Conference of Judges. The revised bill also allows chairpersons of courts and their deputies to run for HCoJ membership, but in case of election they will have to leave their post of court chairs or deputies. The bill also allows election in HCoJ those judges, which hold chairmanship of court chambers, but number of such judges in the HCoJ should not be more than three.
Usupashvili stressed on March 27, that these provisions were agreed with the leadership of judiciary system and indicated that it was not part of ongoing talks with the UNM. He said that PM Ivanishvili spoke via phone with Supreme Court Chairman Kote Kublashvili and reiterated that this agreement would remain in force.
“This agreement is reflected in the existing bill and it will remain so; that’s fully in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations,” Usupashvili said.