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Causes of corruption in judiciary

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Iustina Cibotari / November 2, 2003
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Several days prior to the professional day of the jurisprudence, President Voronin addressed the Parliament and was rather critical on the judiciary system in the Republic of Moldova. According to the President “judiciary is undergoing a severe crisis…, it is not rare that courts disappoint us by delaying hearings, by their illegalities, abuses of power, and corruption”.

Unfortunately we have to agree that the aforesaid is true. Moldovan justice has gone astray from the intangible ideal of justice that would have entitled us to claim that in Republic of Moldova judiciary is the highest expression of justice. Therefore, let us consider the causes of such a state of affairs.

First and foremost, we have to acknowledge that the quality of the judiciary depends on the people doing justice. In fact, neither the selection nor the appointment of judges is able to prevent unworthy or incompetent people from becoming judges. For instance selection procedure does not include a psychological test. To achieve their mission judges have to have a moral conduct. There is no doubt that once entering the judiciary, a magistrate accepts all the obligations coming with his mission, and not only the tasks to be performed but also generally acceptable morale principles to be observed both in public life as well as in social interaction. Therefore, a judge owes not only time, energy, knowledge and experience to his position, but also independence granted by law, which should be not only a source of pride but of strength as well. At the same time, a judge has to be a man of duty because in his activity he is called to decide whether those summoned in front of him have done wrong or good. Moreover, in his private and public life a judge should be guided not only by generally accepted principles, but also have a moral conduct, refraining from anything that might undermine his authority [1].

Secondly, at the moment Moldova lacks a system of startup training of the judges, whereas the existing system of professional development is out-fashioned already. Moreover, by excluding internships, the recently operated amendments to the Law on the Judge Status have produced a gap in the training of judges. Establishing a National Magistrate Institution might solve the problem. The lack of such an institution dealing with professional development of the judges on a permanent basis, is a major obstacle in the judges’ full comprehension of their mission. This refers in particular to passing rulings in compliance with the law and then correctly enforcing them. Unfortunately, lately I came across rulings stemming from lack of knowledge and research, or even superficiality.

Supreme Council of Magistracy, supposedly a guarantor of judiciary independence, is to be partly blamed for this state of affairs. Unfortunately though, in the recent years Supreme Council of Magistracy has paradoxically turned into an institution serving the governing. An illustration to this effect is the current procedure of appointing judges, thereby the Council role has been reduced to a mere advisor the President, not having the right to interfere and defend a judge, thus sheltering him from the arbitrary decisions made by the President.

Another sensitive issue is the membership in the Supreme Council of Magistracy. If Supreme Council of Magistracy is a body supposed to secure independence of the judges, then logically the judges should represent a majority in the Council whereas its members should be elected at the general meeting of the judges from among themselves. Another principle of the Council activity — its ex officio members (Chair of the Supreme Court of Justice, Prosecutor General, and Minister of Justice) should be prohibited from holding the presidency of the Supreme Council of Magistracy. In other respect, lately Supreme Council of Magistracy has been identified with Supreme Court of Justice due to the fact that both institution, although having a different status, are headed by one and the same person. Furthermore, this mixture of competencies has a negative impact on the way justice is done by the Supreme Court of Justice.

It is known for a fact, that the poor efficiency and credibility of the judiciary in Moldova is mainly due to delay in hearing the cases.

Sadly, statistics indicate that year by year the principle of “hearings in due time” is violated. There are piles of cases in the court awaiting trial for years.

The failure to conduct hearings in due time has brought on another deficiency, which seems to be inherent to our judiciary system, namely failure to edit in due time court rulings. In its turn, this leads to delays in submitting the cases to court of appeal. This is due to a “chronic” lack of discipline of certain judges, who have a rather flexible work schedule tailored to their personal interests.

Another vital problem — court’s financial and technical endowment. Indeed, this issue may not be considered separately from the economic state of affairs in the country, however the wages and pensions judges get should correspond to the status, dignity and responsibility this position involves, or at least aspire at it. This issue is not new. There is no doubt judges should get far better wages than the ones they get today and this for various reasons.

Firstly, a number of incompatibilities have been set for the judges. If society imposes so many restrictions to the judges, which is not the case for other public officers, then it should pay for it, thus compensating for what a judge could have rightly earned.

Secondly, it is a tough job because of the requirements imposed by the way society perceives a judge. What society tolerates in other people, it does not when it comes to judges. The latter could easily be accused and get a tarnished reputation. Thirdly, when talking about judges one should consider the quantity and quality of their work. Needless to say, the lower the reward — decent wage, honors, and distinctions — the higher the risk of corruption. This is the more important as lobbying of group interests in the judiciary stems out of strong individual interests [2].

Only via decent wage one may get to an elite and independent judiciary.

  1. Viorel Mihai Ciobanu, Theoretic and practical treaty on civil procedure, National Publishing House, Bucharest, 1996, pag. 26
  2. Idem, pag. 25
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