More Senior Bulgarian Judges Resign over Controversial Appointments

Domestic | June 8, 2011, Wednesday // 17:52|  views

VSS member Kapka Kostova has joined the spate of resignations of senior judges triggered by the election of Vladimira Yaneva as Chair of the Sofia City Court. Photo by BGNES

Kapka Kostova and Galina Zaharova have joined two other senior judges in resigning from the Bulgarian Supreme Judicial Council (VSS) in protest against controversial judiciary appointments.

The main point of contention has been the election of Vladimira Yaneva as Chair of the Sofia City Court (SCC) on May 30.

Yaneva won against judge Velichka Tzanova with 18-5 votes in a re-vote after the first voting turned out results at 12-9.

Tzanova, Deputy Chairman of the SCC, has 20 years of experience as a judge and was backed by a petition signed by 109 Sofia judges. She has said she will appeal the election procedure.

Right after being elected, Yaneva stated to journalists that her family is "friends" with the family of Bulgarian Minister of Interior and vice-PM Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

She has 8 years of experience as a judge, 4 of which have been spent on maternal leave.

Kostova and Zaharova have said that they disagree with the personnel policy applied by the VSS, with the lack of clear-cut selection criteria and that they feel they can not contribute to the work of the judicial system.

The magistrates also claim that VSS members tend to form sub-groups and take decisions about key issues for the entire system.

Galina Zaharova said that her resignation is directly related to the two latest appointments of Vladimira Yaneva and Georgi Kolev, adding that she also disagrees with the overall personnel policy of the VSS.

Kolev was elected Chair of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) in November 2010, being the only candidate for the position.

"Everything in the VSS proceeds along the traditional lines. I am a judge and I am used to adjudicating on the basis of facts and arguments, which is not happening now", Zaharova added.

She also said that she could not accept motives for appointment like "she is a good person" (a standard argument used in favor of a candidate at the VSS) and "she is an appropriate candidate given the current situation" (said by Georgi Kolev, former Chair of the SCC).

"We can only feel sorry that two honorable members of the VSS are leaving, but we welcome their decision to refuse to work in an unethical environment which they feel powerless to oppose", said Nelly Kutskova, Spokesperson of the Union of Judges in Bulgaria in a personal comment.

According to Dushana Zdravkova, a judge at the Varna District Court, who filed her resignation last week, Kapka Kostova and Galya Zaharova have voted against Vladimira Yaneva.

Zdravkova herself stepped down in protest against Yaneva's appointment.

According to Bulgaria's Judiciary Act, resignations filed by VSS members are reviewed at the next planned session of the body.

After that, Kostova and Zaharova will be reinstated to their previous posts - judges at the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Sofia Appellate Court, respectively.

According to Ivanka Ivanova, Law Program Director at the Open Society Institute in Sofia, the spate of resignations indicates that the VSS has been in the grip of a prolonged crisis. In her words, when the independence of the VSS and the entire judges guild is subject to restrictions, the process is bound to reach a critical point which the system can not take.

In an interview for Mediapool, Ivanova recommends adopting amendments to the Constitution to remedy the situation because in its current form the VSS produces "an increasingly dependent and weak personnel policy".

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Tags: Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsveatanov, Kapka Kostova, Galina Zaharova, Georgi Kolev, Velichka Tzanova, Supreme Judicial Council, VSS, Supreme Court of Cassation, Sofia Appellate Court, Vladimira Yaneva


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