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Gov’t plans to change rules of appointing judges

A new procedure for appointing judges to a Fidesz-created "administrative court" has raised concerns among critics and experts that the positions could be filled by party loyalists, 444.hu reports.

In 2016, Fidesz attempted to set up a new "administrative court" to hear cases politically inconvenient for the government. Government plans were slightly modified after a scandal erupted, and the Constitutional Court axed provisions from the law in January, 2017.
Now, according to 444.hu, the government wants to tinker with the system for judicial appointments to this court by allowing government officials and employees of governmental ministries to become judges in the court – in a manner which favors party loyalists.
"The government has no intention of filling new courts in 2018 with judges, instead it would fill the spots with officials loyal to the government," says a source who has long worked in the Hungarian justice system.
Some 200 new judges, to be appointed by the government on the first day of 2018, will reportedly receive their appointments based on a discriminatory point system, the proposal for which was circulated by the justice ministry within the judicial branch and the upper echelons of the government. Applicants from government agencies would receive twice as many points as, say, an applicant who has spent years clerking in courts.
Clerk positions in Hungary are regarded as incubators for would-be judges, and can last anywhere from six to nine years.
The justice ministry's plan has even generated criticism from the National Judicial Agency (OBH), which itself faces plenty of criticism concerning its independence. The OBH was created in 2011 when Hungary's ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition decided to revamp the court system. Tünde Handó, wife of Fidesz MEP József Szájer, was appointed to lead the new agency following a secret vote in parliament. Since taking over the newly-created OBH, Handó herself has been the subject of much criticism for her management of Hungary's leading judicial authority.
Recent government plans under which it would be easier for government officials to become judges"are another step in dismantling democracy in Hungary, the spokesman of the Democratic Coalition said. Zsolt Gréczy stated that Fidesz seeks to extend political control over Hungary's law courts, which are still "more or less independent".
Referring to earlier government plans to set up special law courts to deal with key economic or political cases, Gréczy said that "we do not want to live in a dictatorship, nor do we want construed cases or Fidesz-appointed judges with full power over life and death". Gréczy noted that the national judicial office also had objections to the justice ministry's plans, and warned that demonstrations similar to those in Poland could follow.
MTI, politics.hu; budapestbeacon.com; 444.hu

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