Major Judicial Reform Passed in Parliament

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Judicial Council chairman and former Constitutional Court chairman Jan Mazak. (Stock photo by TASR)

Bratislava, December 9 (TASR) – Parliament on Wednesday approved a major judicial reform concerning the make-up of the Constitutional Court, Judicial Council, the setting-up of a new Supreme Administrative Court and the introduction of property checks for all judges.

The changes require a constitutional amendment, which has also been approved by Parliament – with 91 votes from 141 lawmakers present. All the remaining 50 MPs voted against it. The judicial reform was passed by 89 votes from 139 MPs present, with 18 voting against.

Half of the Judicial Council will be composed of non-judges, with the president, government and parliament allowed to nominate only members of this group. Meanwhile, the election of judges to the council by their fellows will also be changed, with a regional element being introduced by the creation of electoral districts.

The reform also scraps decision-making immunity for judges of general courts, with judges subject to prosecution for bending the law if a crime has been committed. The consent of the Constitutional Court will no longer be necessary for the prosecution of a judge or prosecutor-general. Nevertheless, a judge charged with bending the law will be able to appeal to the Judicial Council, which will have the power to discontinue the process. This latter tool will only be provisional, however, as it’s set to be in effect for only three years.

The constitutional law on the judiciary introduces a mandatory retirement age for judges of general courts of 67 and one for those of the Constitutional Court of 72.

The newly created Supreme Administrative Court, which will also have the power to take disciplinary action against judges and prosecutors, and to a certain extent also against other law professionals, will have its seat in Bratislava and will become functional as of August 2021. A non-judge can become its first chair.

The judicial reform as a whole and the related constitutional changes will take effect as of January 1, 2021, while some its provisions will become valid as of August 2021 and some others as of January 2025.