In late November, we reported that the six-year term for Budapest Metropolitan Court president Sándor Fazekas was set to expire in early January 2018. Fazekas announced that he would apply to serve for another term, but rumors had circulated that Tünde Handó, president of the all-powerful National Office of the Judiciary (OBH), would not allow that to happen.
Fazekas supposedly rubbed Handó the wrong way by openly criticizing, in his own way, anomalies within the Handó-led OBH. According to these rumors, Handó would deny Fazekas another shot at the helm of the Budapest Metropolitan Court.
On January 4th, Handó invalidated the hiring process for a new president of the metropolitan court. Fazekas was reportedly the only applicant for the position. By invalidating the hiring process, Handó has the power to unilaterally appoint an acting president for the court — a tactic she has employed on numerous occasions. Critics of this tactic have argued that it is yet another way Handó can appoint loyalists to key positions within the judiciary.
As the president of the Budapest Metropolitan Court, Fazekas found himself in a precarious position, walking a tightrope between the demands of Handó’s OBH and managing the professional needs (and increasingly difficult working conditions) of the judges working under him.
Sources have told the Beacon that, given the scope of the changes to the judiciary introduced under Handó, Fazekas managed to remain a relatively independent and autonomous leader.
“Fazekas never really abused his position,” according to one source in the judiciary. “In his own way, he stood up against the [unreasonable changes] Handó tried to impose. He can be described as a moderate reformer. He was unwilling to carry out everything Handó ordered. By 2014, he was very much against the pestering of judges — for instance, the overbearing workload, constant report-writing, and the shortened deadlines. In his own delicate and tactical way, he stood up to the OBH by lessening the severity of the whipping that judges received from the OBH. But he never did it openly. Even this is a positive trait in a system like this.”
In a statement released to the press on January 4th, the OBH claimed that Handó invalidated the hiring procedure to ensure that the Budapest Metropolitan Court could enter “a new era” in 2018.