Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) elected Galina Zaharova as the next head of the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC), one of the country’s two high courts, in an unanimous vote held late on January 14 after a day-long sitting of the council.
Zaharova’s appointment to the position is subject to presidential decree. If the SCJ election is confirmed by President Roumen Radev, she would be the first woman to take charge of the SCC, replacing Lozan Panov, whose term expires next month.
Zaharova, who has 33 years of experience as a magistrate, has been a judge at the SCC since 2013, including as head of one of the SCC criminal sections for the past three years. She was the only candidate for the position, nominated by the SCC general assembly.
After the vote, in which all 20 members of the SJC in attendance voted in favour of her appointment, Zaharova said that the decision was “a big step forward towards the self-government of judges.”
Over the years, different line-ups of the SJC have been criticised for controversial appointments to top positions in the judiciary, including that of prosecutor-general Ivan Geshev in 2019.
Zaharova herself resigned as member of the SJC in 2011 in protest against the appointment of Vladimira Yaneva, a close family friend of then-Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, as head of Sofia City Court. Four years later, Yaneva resigned after allegedly authorising the use of covert surveillance in excess of legal limits.
As head of the SCC, Zaharova will be one of the three ex officio members of the SJC, alongside Supreme Administrative Court chief Georgi Cholakov and prosecutor-general Ivan Geshev.
Like her predecessor Panov, she is expected to be one of the reformist voices in the SJC – a minority in the current line-up of the council, whose term expires later this year.
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)
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