Macedonia facing a shortage of judges – basic courts elected only 8 in 4 years, while 100 were dismissed
The Judicial Council hasn’t held a regular election of judges to fill the vacant positions in the basic courts for four years, instead it only dismisses them due to retirement or inexpertness. With this being the case, courts in Macedonia operate on the verge of the legal minimum number of judges so they can retain the court status and avoid transformation into departments of higher courts
The Judicial Council hasn’t held a regular election of judges to fill the vacant positions in the basic courts for four years, instead it only dismisses them due to retirement or inexpertness. With this being the case, courts in Macedonia operate on the verge of the legal minimum of judges to retain the existing status and avoid transformation into departments of other courts
Author: Sashe Dimovski
Since 2015, the Judicial Council hasn’t held regular election of judges of basic courts in Macedonia, with the exception of 8 judges elected in 2016, and has dismissed nearly 100 (retirement or other reasons) over the course of this period. This is why many of the courts are either on the verge of the required “quorum” of judges in the corresponding court or judges are transferred from one court to another so that court can retain the status of Basic Court i.e. not to be dissolved or renamed “department” of a another court.
Pursuant to the laws on courts and Judicial Council, a judge of a Basic Court can only be a candidate who has finished the Academy for Training of Judges and Public Prosecutors. However, there are no such candidates and the “loophole” occurred because one generation of candidates for judges got “stuck” in the Academy waiting for the administrative courts to decide upon complaints of certain candidates, who managed to rank higher on the list with the help of the existing judges, despite having the lowest scores.
According to the official data of the Judicial Council, this is how the number of judges has been changing from 2015 to 2018:
In 2015, the Judicial Council didn’t elect a single judge to fill the vacant positions in the basic courts, instead it decided to transfer judges from one basic court to another for a period of one year in an attempt to mitigate the shortage of judges.
Most judges have been transferred to Basic Court Skopje 1 to fill the positions left empty following the arrest of almost all judges from the Misdemeanor Department, as a part of the “Justitia” affair.
In 2015, 35 judges were dismissed: 29 retired reaching 64 years of age, 1 judge passed away, 4 judges requested to be dismissed, while one judge was dismissed after a confirmed conviction.
Again in 2015, the Council dismissed one judge of the Basic Court Skopje 1 being convicted of “negligent work in the service” and sentenced to 2-year probation or 9 months in prison if probation is violated.
On the other hand, the Complaint Council of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Macedonia accepted the complaint of a judge of the Basic Court Radovish, previously dismissed, due to inexpert and negligent work and was later reinstated on 27 May 2015.
In 2016, the Judicial Council elected 26 judges in all courts in the Republic of Macedonia, all of them completing the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors, but only 8 of them filled positions in the basic courts, where they are needed the most. However, this election was nowhere near to solve the shortage, so judges were transferred from one basic court to another once again.
The Judicial Council acted upon 3 requests for dismissal of judges in 2016, one from Ohrid and two from Basic Court Skopje 1, but it didn’t dismiss them. 28 judges retired in 2016, while two passed away.
In 2017, only 5 judges were elected in higher courts and not a single one in basic courts: 1 judge in the Supreme Court of the RM, 1 judge in the Appellate Court Bitola and 3 judges in the Appellate Court Skopje.
Over the course of 2017, the Council didn’t elect judges to fill the vacant positions in the courts in accordance with the existing systematization because all candidates completing the initial training at the Academy have been elected judges or public prosecutors – says the Council’s 2017 accomplishment report. This time too, 5 judges were transferred from one court to another in order to occupy the empty offices. This number is accompanied by the decision from 13 March 2017 on temporary transfer of Stojanche Ribarev, a judge in the Supreme Court of the Republic of Macedonia, to the Basic Court Skopje 1 Skopje to serve as an acting president.
The Council acted upon 7 requests for initiating procedure for determining inexpert and negligent holding of an office in 2017. The requests for dismissal of two judges of BC Skopje 1 Skopje submitted in 2016 were rejected. A judge from Ohrid was dismissed, previously being sentenced to prison for receiving bribe.
There was also a request for dismissal of a judge from Radovish, but this procedure was suspended. A judge from Ohrid who hadn’t been publishing the pronounced judgments underwent a dismissal procedure and he got debarred. In 2017, there was a request for dismissal of a judge because he didn’t suspend the proceedings while presiding at a criminal case, instead he continued it and convicted the defendant although the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office Tetovo had previously issued a notification for dropping the charges against the defendants. This proceeding as well as proceedings against 5 judges of the Supreme Court and three of the Appellate Court Skopje are still ongoing.
While acting upon complaints filed by the Special Prosecutors Office, judges of the Appellate Court Skopje and judges of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Macedonia perpetrated a violation that is laid down in article 75, paragraph 1, indent 2, in relation to article 74, paragraph 1, indent 2 of the Law on Courts – the Judicial Council says.
In 2017, 21 judges retired, 2 passed away and one stepped down. This led to another significant fall of the number of judges.
In early 2017 there were 20 active judges fewer compared to early 2016. In late 2017 there were 26 active judges fewer compared to late 2016. On average, there were 576 active judges in 2016 and 553 active judges in 2017 in all courts – the Judicial Council concluded.
From ethnic point of view, there were 410 Macedonian judges or 75.92% and 92 Albanian or 17.03% at the end of 2017. Out of the total number of judges, 280 or 40.37% are men and 322 are women amounting to 59.63%. The ethnic and sex structure of the judges, according to the official data of the Judicial Council, is available below:
Courts in Vinica, Delchevo, Berovo, Sveti Nikole, Krushevo, Kratovo have fewer than three judges, which is the legal minimum for retaining the status of Basic Court without being transformed into “department” of another court.