By: Janja Strah
The day before yesterday, the interim president of the Celje High Court, Branko Aubreht, rejected the request of the lawyer Franc Matoz, who in the case of a presstitute demanded the removal of a judge of the Celje District Court Petra Giacomelli. The latter (also yesterday) rejected the request to exclude lay judge Liljana Kač. The trial of SDS President and Prime Minister Janez Janša will therefore continue tomorrow.
Last week, at the retrial of Janez Janša over allegations of insulting Radiotelevizija Slovenija journalists Mojca Pašek Šetinc and Eugenija Carl at the Celje District Court, his lawyer Franci Matoz demanded the removal of court president Petra Giacomelli and lay judge Liljana Kač.
Matoz demanded Giacomeli’s dismissal because he doubts her impartiality, as she has so far rejected all Janša’s defence motions, and because a court employee has been appointed a lay judge which casts doubt on her impartiality. And Kač’s expulsion because she has been employed in the legal aid service at the Celje District Court since 2017. This violates the principle of impartiality, and that the juror cannot objectively decide on the proceedings against Janša, as she will not act against the will of the employer as an employee. In other words. The three-member senate that will decide the case consists of two court employees and an external lay judge. So, the court in the senate, where the judge has already shown disapproval of Janša’s defence, has a majority.
Apparently, the judiciary is in a hurry to convict the SDS president and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia before the elections, as they know that the verdict will later fall in higher instances for procedural reasons.
The explanation of Giacomelli, who decided to exclude Kač (it is not known whether this is the same Kač, who last year at the Prebold School Council did not support the request to dismiss director Peter Žurej, who opposed the government’s measures to curb the spread of the Chinese virus) is “interesting”. You will not believe it, but the judge asked Kač if she felt like a biased goat employed in court. The latter replied (point 4 of the reasoning) that she “saw no reason for her employment to interfere in any way with her impartiality and independence in deciding the case in question”. And (as Giacomelli wrote): “She pointed out that if her employment was incompatible with the status of a juror, she should not and could not be elected to this position, so she swore to the High Court during her employment in court. She added that she will easily accept and respect any decision.” Great, right.
According to her, for the appointment, as for the dismissal of a lay judge, his employment is not important. Because that is what the law says. This is true, but the doubt about her impartiality is certainly expressed under point 6 of paragraph 1 of Article 39 of ZKP-1, which prescribes that a judge or lay judge may not perform judicial duties if there are circumstances that cast doubt on his impartiality. And her employment in court is certainly that, even though she was confirmed as a lay judge by the Higher Court in Celje. Nonetheless, Giacomelli should know that Kač has a direct doubt that she will make an impartial decision in the senate if the president of the senate is her superior.
Even Aubreht, who was the first to decide on Matoz’s request (otherwise Giacomelli could not have decided), of course asked Giacomelli what she thought of Matoz’s request. She replied that there was no reason. And that Giacomelli should not exclude Kač because it is a matter for the senior judges. In short, the judges are protecting each other, and this is exactly what Matoz’s fear was at Janša’s trial: that a lay judge, as an employee, will not dare to challenge the decisions of her employer’s superior. This is like a commission evaluating a chocolate consisting of two employees of the manufacturer of that chocolate and one random person.