The Constitutional Court of Romania has ruled in Parliament’s favour in what it identifies as a conflict between the latter and the High Court.
The Constitutional Court of Romania has ruled that there exists a
legal conflict of a constitutional nature between Parliament and the High Court
of Cassation and Justice with regard to the creation of 5-judge panels,
following a referral by prime minister Viorica Dancila. The ruling obliges the
High Court to select all the five members of a panel by drawing of lots, not
just four of them as has been the case so far, which, according to the
Constitutional Court, runs counter to a law from 2014.
These 5-judge panels at the Supreme Court are currently looking at
cases involving some high-ranking politicians, including the leaders of the
parties in the ruling coalition, the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance
of Liberals and Democrats, namely Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu,
respectively. The court's panels have so far issued final sentences in famous
cases, such as that involving the former government minister Elena Udrea and
the former organised crime chief prosecutor Alina Bica. The Constitutional
Court's ruling has been met with satisfaction by the Social Democrats.
The president of a special parliamentary committee in charge of
amending the justice laws, Florin Iordache, says that people who are unhappy
with previous rulings can now invoke that the judicial panels that ruled in
their case were non-legal. Florin Iordache:
"The Court says the ruling is effective immediately. This means that
all five judges sitting on the panels that look at ongoing cases must be
selected by drawing of lots, while for the cases that have already been
finalised, the Court undoubtedly gives those who are unhappy with their
sentences the possibility to request that the panels who ruled in their cases
were created non-legally."
Opposition MP Stelian Ion from the Save Romania Union says the Constitutional
Court's ruling may have been influenced politically, which undermines its
credibility. Stelian Ion:
"Today's ruling by a political-judicial institution looks rather
like a political decision. We have seen how the defence and arguments of experts
in law, namely the judges of the country's highest court, have not been taken
into account by the Constitutional Court and how this ruling unfortunately
forms part of an increasingly long list of criticisable rulings, which, apart
from the legal aspects involved, are raising more and more questions marks over
the credibility of the Constitutional Court."
Another controversial ruling from the Constitutional Court forced
president Klaus Iohannis to dismiss the head of the Anticorruption Directorate
Laura Codruta Kovesi, thus in effect limiting his powers. Observers say
Wednesday's ruling can have even more serious consequences. On one hand, the
discussion around the formation of judicial panels undermines the prestige and
credibility of the Supreme Court judges. On the other, it paves the way for a wave
of challenges and calls to revise previous cases, which risks casting the
success achieved so far in the fight against corruption in a derisory light.