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Monday, August 8, 2022

Confrontation at the Supreme Court – Judges Miodrag Đorđević and Damijan Florjančič over Jan Zobec

By: Sara Kovač /Nova24tv

Supreme Judge Jan Zobec found himself in trouble with Vice President of the Supreme Court Miodrag Đorđević and President of the Supreme Court Damijan Florjančič. The subject of the scandal was the interview that Zobec had for the Siol portal. The duo submitted an initiative to the Ethics and Integrity Commission of the Judicial Council to adopt an opinion in principle on the conduct of Chief Justice Jan Zobec. “The independence of judges is not threatened by the executive or the legislature but is threatened and even degraded by the management structure of the judiciary itself,” Zobec commented on the case after the commission accepted their initiative.

In an interview in early February, Chief Justice Jan Zobec said that doubts remained because Branko Masleša had still not shown a certificate of passing the bar exam under the Bar Exam Act of the Republic of Slovenia. “He should have submitted this paper, but he did not,” he was clear, adding that Masleša did not have the postulate ability to appear before the Supreme Court. “As a client, even in his own case, the door to the Supreme Court is closed. He who, even in his own name, could not appeal to the Supreme Court is at the same time the supreme judge who decides on these remedies.”

According to Miodrag Đorđević and Damijan Florjančič, Zobec’s statements were a question of the ethics of judges’ public expression of their colleagues and, consequently, of protecting the reputation of the judiciary. According to them, it is also a question of whether such a way of communication with direct media addressing corresponds to the guidelines for mutual communication and public expression of judges on the functioning of the judiciary. They wrote that “a judge is expected to show appropriate loyalty, restraint and discretion towards fellow judges and their work in a critical dialogue on issues related to the functioning of the judiciary”.

The history of the civilised world does not remember such a thing

In response to the complaint, Zobec explained to the Siol Ethics Commission that the president and vice president of the Supreme Court are demanding his conviction, even though he has publicly expressed a legal position, “which is nothing more than a repetition of the position taken by this same court, the highest court in the country, in two decisions from which it has not departed so far.” However, since, according to him, this position is not in line with current interests, the one he expressed, they decided to file a complaint with the ethics commission and demand a conviction. “Instead of the power of argument, therefore, the argument of power. And this in the most brutal and at the very heart of the idea of the rule of law destructive way. The history of the civilised world does not remember such a thing. At least I do not remember anything like that,” Zobec pointed out critically.

According to Zobec, their actions in the context of the aggression of the totalitarian autocracy against the democratic neighbouring country are gaining frightening proportions. He is convinced that all alarms should ring not only to judges, but also to every democratically oriented and thoughtful citizen. “All politics, left and right, should resolutely oppose this. On the other hand, this conduct only confirms what some lawyers have been pointing out for a long time, namely the autocracy of the leadership structure of the Slovenian judiciary and the escalation of this authoritarianism.” He says that despite everything, he remains optimistic that even sceptics will come to the realisation that the independence of judges is not only threatened by the executive or the legislature, but also by the governing structure of the judiciary itself. “I hope that everyone who elected or confirmed her in the Judicial Council, in the National Assembly or elsewhere blushes.”

Will Zobec be able to lecture at all?

Considering what is happening, Zobec asked the ethics commission whether he could even give a lecture at the judge’s school, where he intends to give a lecture next month on the topic for which Florjančič and Đorđević are persecuting him. “The question is whether the judge has the right to a different legal position than that advocated in the unsubstantiated claim of the proponents. Do I have to cancel the announced lecture and inform the school organiser, registered participants, and especially the respondent, who will, following the example of lectures from abroad, take and present the opposite position from mine. The question is also whether I can build further arguments on this argument, which is allegedly controversial, even though it was taken by the Supreme Court, and whether I can test this position with a test developed by the European Position on Human Rights on the protection of the right to a trial  with a court established by law,” he wrote, adding that he hopes to receive an answer as soon as possible, as the judicial school will start next month.

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