Government deals another blow to judicial independence

December 6, 2017

Retiring judge: "We all know where it is we live and what is happening around us"
Photo: pixabay.com

In November, the Minister of Justice modified rules for the appointment of judges. According to 444.hu, the purpose of the modification is to fast-track judicial appointments for individuals close to the government — even if they have no experience with the judiciary. Last week, parliament adopted another law which lifts conflict-of-interest restrictions in laws on the courts, specifically in cases involving a judge’s previous workplace.

A source familiar with the judiciary explained concern about the changes to 444 using the following example:

Suppose a department head from the tax authority becomes a judge. A week after this person’s appointment, he or she may issue rulings in cases involving decisions made by their former colleagues in the tax authority department where they once worked.

Furthermore, according to 444.hu, this rule has been specifically modified to allow conflict-of-interest exemption for anyone who had previously worked at any budgetary institution.

In other words, former employees of the tax authority, the competition authority, the public procurement agency, and a range of other budgetary institutions that are very important for the government, will now be able to issue verdicts in cases involving their former colleagues and workplaces.

Before this modification, in such cases, Hungarian law imposed a five-year moratorium preventing judges from ruling in cases where such potential conflicts of interest may arise.