Credit: Freepik

Judges Slam Justice Minister Over Political Interference In Decision-Making

Deputy heads of regional courts are appointed by the Minister of Justice for seven-year terms, having been nominated from among the given court judges. Photo Credit: Freepik

Prague, Aug 22 (CTK) – The Czech Union of Judges has protested sharply against the arguments used by Justice Minister Pavel Blazek to explain his refusal to name Ales Novotny as deputy head of the Brno Regional Court. In a statement sent to CTK today, the judges called Blazek’s arguments “unacceptable and very dangerous for the future”.

Blazek (ODS) says Novotny’s judicial decisions have repeatedly incurred damage to the country.

The Judges’ Union emphasised that the minister is neither empowered nor professionally competent to assess the decisions of individual judges.

“A possible emergence of the state responsibility for damage caused by a judge within their decision-making process can be assessed by no one else but a disciplinary panel [of judges],” wrote Union President Libor Vavra.

In recent years, Novotny’s work has been assessed “positively above average” by the High Court in Olomouc, central Moravia, which dealt with all appeals against Novotny’s verdicts as a Brno Regional Court judge. Blazek knew about these positive assessments, wrote Vavra.

“The minister will gladly meet the Judges’ Union representatives to discuss his decision with them,” ministerial spokesman Vladimir Repka told CTK today.

Deputy heads of regional courts are appointed by the Minister of Justice for seven-year terms, on the nomination of the relevant court chair. The candidates are chosen from among the given court judges.

Blazek recently refused to approve the nomination of Novotny as Brno Regional Court’s deputy chairman in charge of the penal section.

Protesting against Blazek’s decision, the Union of Judges also argued that the decisions criticised by Blazek had not been made by Novotny alone but by his whole panel of judges, whose vote is secret. “The minister cannot know how the given judge voted,” Vavra wrote.

He said Blazek’s assessment of one judge’s decisions amounts to a direct and inadmissible interference by the executive in judicial decision-making.

The ministry has written on its website that the prerequisites for the post of a court deputy head are that of a good manager who observes their duties based on the laws on the budget rules and the Czech Republic’s property.

In his capacity as a judge, Novotny dealt with some very high-profile cases, such as the one involving Iranian entrepreneur Shahram Zadeh and former Energy Regulatory Office chairwoman Alena Vitaskova, whom he sentenced to 8.5 years in prison for abuse of power in connection with solar power plant licences. 

The appeal court later acquitted Vitaskova, citing a shortage of evidence, and Vitaskova was awarded CZK 600,000 in compensation for non-material damage and claimed further compensation worth many millions of crowns. The dispute is still underway.

Earlier this year, Vitaskova announced her candidacy in the Czech presidential election due in January 2023.

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