Court against judge appointment bill

A bid by the government to change the way the country’s top judges and prosecutors are elected – so that Parliament plays a decisive role in choosing judicial officials -ran into trouble yesterday when Greece’s top administrative court deemed the proposal unconstitutional. In a majority decision, the Council of State ruled that the bill went against Article 90 of the Constitution, which decrees that the appointments be made solely by the country’s supreme executive body, which is the Cabinet. Ten of the 41 judges, however, said that the Constitution allows room for other institutions to play a role in the decision-making process, as long as the Cabinet makes the final choice. The Council of State’s verdict met with a frosty response from Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis, who has placed considerable stock in this reform to the justice system. «The judgment expressed by the Council of State does not reflect the long tradition of the country’s highest administrative court and is some way from reflecting public opinion,» said Kastanidis. The minister suggested that the court rejected the bill because top judges fear having to appear before a parliamentary committee that would scrutinize their credentials. «But what does a high-ranking judge have to fear or hide by appearing before the most representative body of our state?» asked Kastanidis, who went on to play down the importance of the court’s decision. «The Council of State’s verdict is one of many that is put forward during the consultation process and is not binding for the government or Parliament.» According to the bill, the process will apply to the heads of the Council of State, the Supreme Court and the Court of Audit as well as the Supreme Court prosecutor, the Court of Audit’s general prosecutor and the general prosecutor of the administrative courts. The new system would see the Cabinet approve six candidates for any position that becomes available. These six judicial officials would then face a special parliamentary committee that would approve three of the six. The three names would then be put to the Cabinet again, so that ministers can decide which of the trio will be picked to fill the position. A similar process would be followed when it comes to choosing the vice presidents of these courts.

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