When the Judiciary Undermines Judicial Independence

India’s Supreme Court has long sought to protect itself, mostly through an insulated appointment system, from political pressures. Judicial independence seems to be the catchphrase for the Indian Judiciary when it is under pressure or attack. But how far has the Court been successful in navigating and managing the problems caused by judicial hierarchies and politics within its very own walls?

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Luxemburg as the Last Resort

A criminal proceeding has been suspended by a Hungarian justice of the Pest Central District Court to ask the European Court of Justice preliminary questions, inter alia, about his own judicial independence. Now, Hungary’s Supreme Court has stepped in and ruled that the reference was illegal, essentially arguing that preliminary references are not the fora to discuss such claims. In fact, however, this preliminary reference reveals that all other means to effectively challenge the rule of law backsliding in Hungary have failed.

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Protecting the Independence of National Councils of the Judiciary on the EU Level

Councils for the judiciary are one of the main targets in political efforts to diminish the independence of the judiciary in several countries. Since more and more countries in the EU fail to provide a minimum of security as to their independence, it is of the utmost importance that this is dealt with on Union level.

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Richterwahlen in der Schweiz: Wo liegt das Problem?

Sind Schweizer Richter zu wenig unabhängig von den Parteien, die sie nominieren? Eine Volksinitiative will die Politik aus dem Verfahren der Richterwahl verbannen. Die Initianten hängen offenbar der Vorstellung an, dass eine Richterwahl durch politische Verfassungsorgane per se die richterliche Unabhängigkeit berührt. Das stimmt aber nicht.

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A Hungarian Judge Seeks Protection from the CJEU – Part II

In 2012, Hungary introduced a unique system of judicial administration that was criticized by domestic and international actors. This criticism has been validated by events since then which have shown that the National Judicial Council, the highest collective body of judges, is practically unable to counter-balance the broad powers of the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO). This has caused tensions between judges and the judicial administration, something that was predictable in 2012 when the system was introduced and has led to what can only be described as a ‘constitutional crisis’.

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A Hungarian Judge Seeks Protection from the CJEU – Part I

For the first time, a Hungarian judge stayed proceedings to ask the CJEU preliminary questions about the independence of Hungarian courts. The questions concern the appointment of court presidents and the low salary of judges. The response of Hungarian authorities was quick: Within a week, the Prosecutor General requested the Kúria (Hungary’s Supreme Court) to review the reference with the possible effect of deterring other judges from asking similar questions.

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Judges Depending on Judges

Since the beginning of 2018 the CJEU has finally been putting flesh on the bones of the EU principle of judicial independence. Most recently, the Court has been widely praised for its ruling against the Polish attempt of removing the, presumably, disloyal judges by a general measure of lowering their retirement age from 70 to 65. While the decision is indeed praiseworthy, it is nevertheless necessary to emphasize its notable doctrinal lacuna with potential negative practical implications – particularly in those EU member states with a weak democratic and rule of law tradition, a low degree of legal and political culture as well as with a small and tightly-knit legal elite.

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Turning the Lights Off

On 14 June the Bulgarian minister of justice finally took the step to present to the public its long-awaited draft of the new accountability mechanism intended to ensure independent investigation for to the top three Bulgarian magistrates. The draft legislation proves that the concerns regarding the consequences for Bugaria’s judicial independence were entirely justified.

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