The legal affairs committee of Bulgarian Parliament voted on June 26 to accept the veto imposed by President Rossen Plevneliev on amendments to the Judiciary Act, which envisioned automatic promotions for outgoing members of the Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC).
Plevneliev vetoed the amendments on June 15, two days after he was asked to do so by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov. Plevneliev said that he vetoed the provision – which mandated that outgoing members of the SJC would return to the judiciary in one rank higher than at the start of their term – because of the “sharp public reaction” and because of a potential conflict with the country’s constitution.
“The independence of the judiciary is enshrined in the constitution. One of the guarantees of that independence is its right to appoint, move or fire judges, prosecutors and investigators. The amendments adopted by Parliament can be interpreted as interference in the judiciary by the legislative branch,” Plevneliev said at the time.
Despite arguments from current members of the SJC and the council’s inspectorate, the legal affairs commission voted to maintain the status quo, in which members of the SJC return to the judiciary at the same rank as when they began their terms on the council.
MPs decided in early June to vote the “career advancement bonus” provision as compensation for SJC members for serving on the council, a period during which they are not officially a magistrate and thus cannot take the career advancement tests.
But both NGOs and even the judges union have opposed the provision because the current SJC has repeatedly raised eyebrows with its questionable appointment decisions, while several members of the council were involved in an influence-peddling row in 2009, but were later acquitted and their mild punishments revoked – the career advancement bonus appeared a way to reward poor performance with improved job prospects.
(Photo: Jaime Pérez)