Report: Romania may lose a quarter of magistrates due to justice laws changes

The Romanian Judges Forum (FJR) has warned in a report that the combined effects of some regulations voted in the justice laws may be disastrous for magistracy in Romania.

For example, in the “very short term,” the magistrates’ body may be reduced by at least a quarter and lose its professional character due to the giving up of the exams for promotion on merit. Magistrates will also be overworked as their activity volume will increase, reads the document.

“In the absence of minimal impact studies, applying the new legislation will result in blocking the judiciary through the de-professionalization (removal of meritocracy on promotions) and reduction of the magistrates’ body, vulnerabilities duplicated by an artificial increase in activity.”

The Judges Forum says that, taken together, some of the provisions that were not challenged at the Constitutional Court are “extremely damaging” to the independence of the judiciary, will influence the career and professional activity of magistrates, and will cause imbalances in the judiciary.

“Even though the project contains proposals from the Superior Council of Magistracy, magistrates or professional associations, they are simple corrections to the current system, the inconvenient preparation of a genuine “judicial experiment” in the absence of any impact and forecast studies, and can have very serious consequences that will be difficult or even impossible to repair.”

FJR also says in the report that an impact study similar to those carried out in France would have shown the risks of combined measures in terms of human resources, such as: doubling the initial training program at the National Institute of Magistracy (4 years instead of 2 years), doubling the magistrates’ internship (2 years instead of 1 year), increasing the seniority in office required for promotion to courts and the prosecutors’ offices and units attached to them, lowering the threshold for service pension to 20 years, without an age limit, and increasing the number of judges in the panel.

Thus, under these conditions, 2,000 magistrates will immediately leave the justice system and another 2,000 will leave the system in the next 5 years due to the lowering of the seniority threshold for the service pension. Among the magistrates who would immediately leave the system, there are 90% of the judges of the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the report said.

“Corroborating these data with the existence of 3 years in which no graduate of the National Institute of Magistrates will be able to become a trainee judge or prosecutor, it is clear that we are witnessing a disastrous human resources policy promoted by the new legislative changes.”

The report also draws attention to the fact that the Judicial Inspection’s head and a special department within the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (PICCJ) will be able to control the magistrates’ body, and this means that the prosecutors will de facto lose their independence.

“The creation of the special department for investigating offenses in the judiciary within PICCJ will allow the redirection of dozens of high-level corruption cases investigated by the National Anticorruption Department by simply formulating fictitious complaints against a magistrate.”

Thus, the Judges Forum asks the Parliament to rethink the proposed and adopted amendments to the laws of justice, and to publicly debate any changes it intends to bring, as recommended by the European Commission.

The Romanian Parliament passed three important justice laws at the end of last year, which were challenged at the Constitutional Court. The court ruled that all three of them had provisions that are not constitutional.

The three laws raised many critics from magistrates who fear that their independence would be affected by these changes. The European Commission has also insisted that the Romanian Parliament asks the Venice Commission’s opinion and opens up the debate on these new laws.

Romania’s Constitutional Court: Third justice law, partly unconstitutional

Law that redefines Romanian magistrates’ status is partly unconstitutional

European Commissioner asks for open debate on justice laws in Romania

Irina Marica, [email protected]