Justice minister Lucia Zitnanska continued on her crusade against Supreme Court chairman Stefan Harabin yesterday, announcing at a press conference that she was filing for disciplinary action against Harabin once again, in the hope of stripping him of his judge’s robes.
Zitnanska claims that Harabin did not act in the public interest when under his guidance the Supreme Court failed to contest the lawsuits filed by over 700 judges in a pay discrimination action against the Supreme Court, which could cost the state around EUR 70 million in compensation.
Zitnanska says Harabin’s lack of action was a violation of the law, while pointing out that this is not the first time Harabin has shown professional misconduct, and hence he should lose his powers as a judge.
The whole dispute broke out because judges sitting at the Specialised Court were given higher salaries to compensate for the difficulty and sensitive nature of the cases that they were dealing with. Other judges felt discriminated against and so are claiming for the difference (around EUR 4,300 per month).
The first 11 judges have already been awarded over EUR 100,000 each in compensation, but the Ministry of Justice looks set to appeal the verdicts, both in terms of the level of compensation and the justification of the claims.
The justice minister believes that the claims of 700 judges were well co-ordinated by someone, and that the party in question would “boost their power influence in the justice system”. She then pointed the finger at Harabin as who she thought orchestrated it all.
It could prove costly for the state with over EUR 70 million at stake, but many judges might be eternally grateful to Harabin for how he dealt with the situation. The Ministry therefore plans to employ all legal means to “defend the interests of the taxpayers”.
The Supreme Court, which ironically is being sued, announced later that the claims against Harabin were legal nonsense and political bullying, stating that Harabin can’t be punished twice for the same action.
The Supreme Court should be paying out the EUR 1.15 million or so to the first successful judges, but does not have enough money in its coffers. Harabin therefore said he was turning to finance minister Ivan Miklos (hardly the best of friends) for the money, probably more as a dig in the ribs than anything else. Miklos refused any money to the Supreme Court, especially as no audit has yet been carried out there.