NEWS FROM THE COURTS
In this judgment, the Court of Justice confirmed that, while the organization of justice is a matter for the Member States, the exercise of that power must comply with EU law. As such, the disciplinary regime applicable to the judges who may be called upon to apply EU law must provide the necessary guarantees in order to prevent any risk of its being used as an instrument of political control over their activities. Article 2 TEU and the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU, read in conjunction with Commission Decision 2006/928/EC of 13 December 2006 must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which confers on the director of a body competent to conduct investigations and bring disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors the power to adopt acts of a normative and individual nature.
The Court ruled that Article 49(3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union must be interpreted as meaning that it does not apply to national legislation which provides, following an administrative procedure, for a measure prohibiting the holding of any elective public office for a predetermined period of three years against a person who has been found to have a conflict of interest in the holding of such an office, in the event that that measure is not criminal in nature. Furthermore, the principle of proportionality must be understood to mean that it does not preclude national legislation that establishes a measure prohibiting the holding of any elective public office for a predetermined period of three years against a person who has been discovered to have a conflict in holding such an office provided that, in light of all relevant circumstances, the application of that legislation results in the imposition of a penalty.
- Requests for preliminary ruling:
Action for annulment of a decision that has been issued by the Prosecutor General of the Public Prosecution Service at the Supreme Court of Romania, which appointed within this body the public prosecutors who were charged with the criminal prosecution in corruption cases involving judges and prosecutors.
The question is, inter alia, whether Article 2 and Article 19(1), second subparagraph, TEU, read in conjunction with Article 12 and Article 47 EU Charter, preclude the submission of certain legal claims by professional associations of magistrates are subject to limits the introduction of the condition that there is a legitimate private interest, which is excessively limited, requiring in cases similar to the present one a direct connection between the administrative act subject to judicial review of legality subject and the direct purpose and objectives set out in the articles of association of the professional associations of magistrates are established.
A judge has filed a claim for payment of an amount as compensation for work that he performed in the period from 1 July 2022 to 31 January 2023. The question is, among other things, whether the principle of the independence of the judges stands in the way of a national law that gives rise to a derogation from the mechanism for the fixing the remuneration of the judges.
The verdict has been rendered by a judicial formation of the Court of First Instance, which consists of one judge, namely LM. LM was appointed judge by decree of the Polish President, on the recommendation of the National Council for the Judiciary. The question is, inter alia, whether EU law and the general EU law principles of legal certainty, inviolability of res judicata, proportionality, and procedural autonomy preclude national regulations that prevent a court from investigating in proceedings for the enforcement of a final criminal conviction whether the judgment to be enforced was rendered by a court that meets the requirements of a legal institution, independence, and impartiality.
The applicant is a Lithuanian judge at the General Court of the European Union. Due to the expiry of his term of office, a national procedure for the selection of candidates for the position of Judge at the General Court was announced in March 2021. In the context of this procedure, the applicant has been identified as the most suitable candidate by a working group of independent experts. However, on 4 May 2022, another candidate was nominated by the government of Lithuania. By his claim, the applicant seeks, inter alia, an injunction ordering the defendant to reopen, in accordance with the procedure laid down by law, the procedures for the negotiation and nomination of candidates for the post of judge at the General Court of the European Union and the candidate ranked highest by the independent review group for negotiation and nomination. The court asks what requirements EU law (particularly Article 254 TFEU and Article 19(2) TEU) imposes on the national procedure for the selection of candidates for the position of judge at the General Court.
In light of the circumstances of the case and the ability of the Republic of Poland to pay it, the amount of the periodic penalty payment which the Republic of Poland was ordered to pay to the European Commission by the order of the Vice-President of the Court of 27 October 2021, Commission v Poland (C‑204/21 R, EU:C:2021:878), is reduced to EUR 500 000 per day, from the date on which the present order is signed.
- AG Opinions
According to the AG, a procedure for the promotion of judges based on an assessment of their work and conduct by a board composed of the president and judges of the relevant superior court is compatible with EU law. However, even if the members of that board are independent, the criteria applied must be sufficiently objective, relevant, and verifiable and the body must justify its decisions. He concluded that article 47 of the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU, read in conjunction with Article 2 TEU, must be interpreted as meaning that the principle of judicial independence is applicable to procedures for the promotion of judges. Moreover, article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU, read in conjunction with Article 2 TEU and Commission Decision 2006/928/EC of 13 December 2006, must be interpreted as not precluding the introduction of judicial reforms in Romania in circumstances where such reforms comply with the requirements arising from EU law.
The AG doubts whether the mechanism by which the National Court Register (KRS) authorizes Polish judges to continue to exercise judicial office after retirement age offers sufficient guarantees of independence. In his view, the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU must be interpreted as prohibiting national legislation that requires approval from a body that has been shown to lack independence from the legislative or executive branches and that bases its decisions on criteria that are vague and difficult to verify. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the failure to observe the time limit and the significance of that failure for the proceedings concerning authorisation for his or her continued appointment, the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU must be interpreted as not precluding, in principle, the adoption of an interpretation of national legislation under which a judge’s belated declaration of his or her intention to continue holding a judicial office beyond the retirement age is ineffective.
According to the AG, EU law precludes national legislation making the Deputy Chief Inspector responsible for supervising the investigation of complaints against the Chief Inspector. He believes that Article 2 TEU, the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU and Commission Decision 2006/928/EC of 13 December 2006 establishing a mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Romania to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption must be interpreted as precluding national legislation or regulations that provide for the oversight of disciplinary investigations and proceedings against the Chief Inspector of the Inspecţia Judiciară (Judicial Inspectorate, Romania) by its Deputy Chief Inspector and the investigation of such complaints by Judicial Inspectors of that body in circumstances where that Deputy Chief Inspector is appointed at the Chief Inspector’s sole discretion; the term of office of the Deputy Chief Inspector depends upon and coincides with that of the Chief Inspector, and all Judicial Inspectors are subordinate to the Chief Inspector upon whom the progress of their careers depends.
The term “court” within the meaning of Article 6(1) of the ECHR covers not only courts but also bodies with the competence and task to resolve matters and disputes based on law. The Court notes that the National Council of Judges and Prosecutors is established by law, namely the Constitution and specific law. The Board has the power to conduct investigations, to refer disciplinary matters to the Board’s Disciplinary Committee, which has the power to make decisions in disciplinary matters. There are rules regulating disciplinary proceedings and judges and prosecutors against whom disciplinary proceedings have been instituted can seek legal assistance. They are heard and have access to evidence. It is therefore a court established by law within the meaning of Article 6(1) ECHR and the court also has full jurisdiction. The Court concludes that there is no violation of Article 6(1) ECHR.