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Friday, June 9, 2023

Catastrophic communication of the Supreme Court on the Masleša case

By: Sara Kovač / Nova24tv

The fact that the public still has not seen either the original diploma or the bar examination of Branko Masleša, that is correctly completed and supported by evidence of a completed internship, is, to put it mildly, unbelievable. Especially if we take into account the fact that Masleša was just recently the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia. It is also unbelievable that no competent institution is taking care of this, and the mass media remain silent – unlike the case with MP Branko Simonovič, when an RTV journalist – from an existing diploma – even made an affair in her research zeal. Last week, the Judicial Council should have discussed Masleša’s non-existent diploma and the explanation of the Supreme Court President Damijan Florjančič regarding Masleša’s education and threats to journalists with lawsuits – however, the session was postponed which was taken care of by no one else than Milan Kučan. So, in order to get to the truth, only some media outlets are trying, however, we repeatedly fall on deaf ears and more questions than answers.

At the end of December, Nova24TV referred the case of the President of the Supreme Court for consideration to a kind of “moral tribunal” – the Commission for Ethics and Integrity at the Judicial Council. We thought – and still believe – that the communication between Branko Masleša and the Supreme Court is sublime, arrogant and extremely inappropriate, but above all it deliberately leaves the interested public in ignorance and strengthens distrust in the judiciary. “We ask the Ethics and Integrity Commission to evaluate the conduct of Chief Justice Branko Masleša when he does not answer journalists’ questions in connection with his education, appropriate qualifications for the judicial profession (diploma thesis, bar exam),” we wrote among other things, and asked for them to take a stand on the conduct of a judge for whom there are reasonable doubts about his education, that he does not submit evidence documents regarding his education and relevant qualifications, which he must also have in the personal archive.

At the beginning of the year, the journalist of the Prava.si portal Luka Perš also addressed an initiative for the issuance of an opinion in principle and an initiative to the Judicial Council of the Republic of Slovenia to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Damijan Florjančič and Branko Masleša. He submitted an initiative and a call to the Commission for Ethics and Integrity at the Judicial Council for inadmissible actions against the Supreme Judge as well as against the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia, which, in the opinion of the initiator and the professional public, constitute gross violations of the Code of Judicial Ethics. Perš also dedicated the initiative to users of social networks: “Twitter family, by fair means or foul. Send them the same email content I sent them. Cover them with emails. Each judge has everything in their personal folder. It is two days of work to have everything scanned and sent. Where is the problem, Supreme Court?” In his request to the Supreme Court, Perš wrote that on the basis of the Access to Public Information Act (ZDIJZ) he requested certain basic personal data on judges, especially regarding their education and appropriate qualifications. In doing so, he particularly highlighted the Supreme Court justices.

In the explanation of the initiative, Perš wrote that after more and more well-founded doubts about the appropriate education and passing the bar exam of the Judge of the Supreme Court Branko Masleša have started appearing in the last month, the latter did not submit credible certificates to the interested public. A commentary on judicial ethics issued by the Judicial Council of the Republic of Slovenia in January 2017 shows that a judge is “expected to respect laws, rules and ethical norms. Violation of the rules or laws of a judge can damage the reputation of the judiciary, promote disrespect for the law and undermine public confidence in the judiciary” and that public confidence in the judiciary is based not only on judges’ competence and commitment but also on their personal integrity and uprightness in private life. A judge is expected to set an example to others with his behaviour (at work and outside of it). The judge’s conduct must therefore always be honourable and impeccable and in accordance with generally accepted standards and values. Namely, if a certain judge’s behaviour can be described as socially unacceptable (from the point of view of an average reasonable and educated observer), this public can understand it as hypocrisy. This, in turn, inevitably leads to a loss of public confidence in the judge and the judiciary as a whole. The judge must therefore always consider how his conduct or behaviour could be understood by a reasonable, prudent, and informed individual.

Instead of the expected publication of an appropriate copy of the diploma of Chief Justice Branko Masleša or other credible evidence, the Supreme Court posted the following text on Twitter: “The issue of the existence of judges’ diplomas is superfluous, taking into account the legally prescribed election procedure, in which the fulfilment of the conditions for holding a judicial position is assessed. The Supreme Judge will file a lawsuit regarding the recorded untruths. The amount of compensation will be donated to charity.” With the mentioned publication, Florjančič expressed his opinion on a legal topic and thus gave the impression that he had already formed an opinion on a certain disputed issue (existence of liability for damages) and that he was more in favour of the plaintiff – his judge colleague Masleša. By expressing himself publicly on issues in the field in which he performs judicial functions, Florjančič, being aware of the mentioned risk, aroused at least the appearance of pre-determination regarding the problem that may be the subject of consideration before the court. The stated conduct of the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia constitutes a blatant violation of point 13 of the second paragraph of Article 81 of the Judicial Service Act. It is therefore an act that constitutes such a violation of the judicial duty, as it already refers to the imposition of a disciplinary sanction in disciplinary proceedings, which may, among others, be proposed by the Judicial Council of the Republic of Slovenia.

Neither Florjančič nor Masleša distanced themselves from the mentioned tweet. However, the Supreme Court then sent a copy of the diploma of the Supreme Judge Branko Masleša to the public, which does not have a seal and is not certified. In a statement for Siol, Florjančič stated that data on the level of education, functional and special knowledge, participation in various forms of advanced training and other data on professional qualifications are confidential, therefore, in the case of Masleša, diplomas and certificates of completion of the state legal examination (PDI) were not provided to the public or the interested media until the judge gave his consent. It follows from the above that both Masleša and Florjančič knew the content and form of the document and nevertheless approved the publication of a copy of the diploma, which is without a seal and without elements of the originality of the paper document as such.

The stated conduct of both judges of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia indicates at least the use of an illegally produced public document; this is an inadmissible act related to a well-founded suspicion of a criminal offense, such as that referred to in the third paragraph of Article 251 (forgery of documents) of the Criminal Code KZ-1, published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia (No. 55 from June 4th, 2008). Even if a diploma (or a copy of it) appears in the future, which would contain all the elements of the originality of the paper document (stamp, signatures, certification…), this does not reduce the responsibility of Florjančič and Masleša. On the contrary, this would only further confirm the fulfilment of the legal signs of the criminal offense of Forgery of Documents under Article 251 of KZ-1. Perš added a clear example to this statement: if an owner of a vehicle presented an uncertified copy of a registration certificate to a police officer without a stamp, any reasonable, prudent and informed individual would recognise it as fulfilment of legal signs of crime forgery of documents under Article 251 KZ-1, even if a stamped traffic license would later be found somewhere.

The only document we can trust in regard to the chief justice

At the beginning of the year, Bojan Požar published an archival copy of the decision from Koper, which proves that Masleša was elected a judge in Koper. The decision was signed by Mario Abram, a Slovenian journalist and socio-political worker, as can be found on Wikipedia. Požar described this document as the only one we can trust with regard to the chief justice – but the public has still not received answers to all other questions. To date, no one has explained why they published a diploma from the Sarajevo Faculty of Law without a proper stamp, what obligations (and when) Masleša fulfilled, that he was recognised for the bar exam and whether he did his internship as part of military service – in the year after graduation he served his military service in Zadar, and passed the bar exam less than a year after graduation. At the same time, of course, there are concerns, supported by the judgments of the Supreme Court, whether the bar exam passed by Masleša in Bosnia and Herzegovina is valid in our country and on the basis of which article.


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