NEWS

Top judge warns of government tricks

Supreme Court president Stefanos Matthias, in a circular issued to the courts of Appeal and First Instance, has condemned the government’s practice of introducing into Parliament legislative changes that would affect the outcome of pending cases, a practice that has cost Greece condemnatory rulings at the European Court of Human Rights. Matthias advised judges that they should not take into account legislation that is retroactive and would resolve pending cases, as he considers it invalid, unconstitutional and incompatible with the separation of executive and judicial powers. «While Parliament is not prevented in principle from enacting new regulations with retroactive effect in civil law cases, the principles of legality and the right to a fair trial exclude legislative intervention – except in extraordinary cases of public interest – in the judicial process,» Matthias wrote. Matthias has occasionally been critical of governments employing the tactic of legislative intervention in an attempt to guide judges and the course of justice. In repeated circulars, Matthias has also stressed that judges need to be aware of EU law as well as national law, so as to avoid the fines imposed upon Greece by the European Court of Justice when such transgressions occur. The latest circular was issued following the ruling of the European Court in favor of the companies «Agoudimos» and «Cephalonian Sky Shipping.» The case was pending before the Supreme Court, and the issue in question was whether the highest bidder who acquires a ship at a compulsory auction is liable for the back payment of funds owed to the Merchant Seamen’s Fund. While it was still pending, Parliament passed a clarifying clause which resolved the issue in the affirmative. «This death is a tragedy and our hearts go with his family,» Cmdr. Hal Pittman, spokesman for the US Atlantic Fleet’s Naval Air Force, said in a statement.