The feud between justice minister Lucia Zitnanska and her adversary, Supreme Court chairman Stefan Harabin, continues as the minister sacks 14 locally presiding judges in district and regional courts with immediate effect. Many of the released judges are regarded as being close supporters of Stefan Harabin.
Zitnanska pulled off the move after her ministry pushed through a revision to the Act on Judges on 1 May, as this empowered her to dismiss the judges with them having no right of appeal. Zitnanska says the move is part of the long-term plan for the judiciary, in an effort to open it up to public scrutiny and curtail spending.
Regarding the choice of sacked judges, Zitnanska declared that this was based on the performance of individual courts, the lack of random allocation of court cases to judges, and the trustworthiness of the judges in question. Zitnanska is determined to clean up the courts and make them independent and trustworthy, which she says they cannot be if headed by judges that are perceived as untrustworthy. She already reviewed and cautioned the sacked judges about a month ago, with the results published on the internet. Zitnanska does not rule out further dismissals in future.
In response to Zitnanska’s sackings, her predecessor Supreme Court chairman and head of the Judicial Council, Stefan Harabin, has called the sackings politically motivated in an attempt to purge the judiciary of undesirables, while saying there is no substance to her argument about the bad performance of the courts. Harabin issued a statement saying that the dismissals were nonsense, both in terms of the law and expertise.
Zitnanska’s clean-up operation also met with contention from opposition party Smer-SD, with MP Jana Lassakova saying there were no fundamental grounds for the move, referring to it as having politicised the justice system.