Upheaval in judges’ union as two top officials quit

TAGS: Justice, Media

Two vice presidents of the Council of State on Wednesday quit the Union of Judges and Prosecutors, condemning last week’s controversial decision by the president of the court, Nikos Sakellariou, to suspend a plenary session to consider appeals by television channels against the constitutionality of a recent government auction of TV licenses.

In separate letters to the union, the two officials of Greece’s highest administrative court, Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou and Christos Rammos, said that the president’s decision to suspend the meeting was “unprecedented” and “a grave mistake.”

Last Friday’s session was suspended after just an hour following a disagreement between judges about how to proceed amid concerns about attempts to influence the judgment of the court. Sakellariou ended the session “because of efforts to create a certain climate in recent days, through public statements and declarations, ahead of the outcome of the plenary session meeting,” apparently indicating that efforts were under way to influence the court’s verdict.

In his letter, Rammos said the move by Sakellariou was essentially tantamount to a “denial of justice.” “The opinion that the court, instead of sitting and issuing a verdict on a case, irrespective of its nature, should suspend the session indefinitely, citing a certain climate or other, is in my opinion a denial of justice.”

Sakellaropoulou struck a similar note but saved her most scathing criticism for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors – which backed Sakellariou’s decision last week – describing it as “the press office for the court president.”

Following the departures, the union is to hold an emergency session on October 13. It remains unclear, however, when the court is likely to hold its next session regarding the appeals by TV channels against a license auction conducted recently by the government.

The six channels that have lodged the appeals claim that the government’s decision to restrict to four the number of nationwide licenses and to oversee the auction, instead of the media regulator, violate the Constitution.