Sofia City Court chairperson Vladimira Yaneva has resigned as head of the court, reports in Bulgarian media said on February 24. The resignation comes less than a week after Yaneva was suspended by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for the duration of the investigation into her alleged actions as part of a wire-tapping operation that exceeded the limits set by law.
Yaneva was suspended as both the court’s administrative head and as a judge. Her resignation, however, was only as Sofia City Court chief, so she could return to work as a magistrate if the investigation against her results in no charges or she is acquitted.
Specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg quoted Yaneva as saying that her resignation would allow the SJC to swiftly elect a replacement, but gave no reasons for her decision to resign. In a written defence to the SJC last week, Yaneva reportedly said that she did not breach the law, a claim that was later contradicted by a report issued by the bureau overseeing the use of wire-taps.
Yaneva is under investigation for allegedly authorising the use of covert surveillance in “Operation Worms” for 300 days, a period well in excess of that allowed by law, although no charges have been filed against her yet. (The row about “Operation Worms” began with claims – denied by top officials including Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Interior Minister Vesselin Vuchkov – that under the now-departed Plamen Oresharski administration, the State Agency for National Security and the Interior Ministry had been involved in illegal covert surveillance of anti-government protesters.)
Yaneva could also be facing disciplinary proceedings, launched by newly-elected Supreme Court of Cassation chief Lozan Panov and Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov, on the unrelated issue of alleged breaches in the random distribution of cases to judges at the Sofia City Court.
The allegations against Yaneva and her deputy Bogdana Zhelyavska – who will act as interim Sofia City Court chief until one another is appointed by the SJC, possibly at its weekly meeting later this week – are not new, but calls from Sofia City Court judges and the judges association for disciplinary proceedings against the two previously went unheeded by the SJC. The council has not voted yet on the proposals put forth by Panov and Ivanov
This is not the first time that Yaneva has become embroiled in controversy, with the very first public row coming at the time she was appointed as Sofia City Court chief in May 2011. A former junior prosecutor whose career as a judge spanned only four years at that point, Yaneva was preferred to her more experienced rival in the race, with the suspicion being that she was appointed because she was a close family friend of then-interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.
In 2012, she was once again at the forefront of another row, which saw the head of the judges union Miroslava Todorova – a harsh critic of the SJC and Tsvetanov – sacked by the SJC for delaying the filing of verdict reasoning after issuing a ruling. At the same time, Yaneva, who had similar delays in dozens of cases and also appeared to be in conflict of interest in one court case closely monitored by the European Commission, was only handed a caution.
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)