The recent application procedures for the highest positions in the new judiciary system look increasingly like a déjà vu. Applicants rejected for one post happily apply for the next one, spreading their chances across different institutions and positions. At some point, they seem to think, it will be my turn.
This déjà vu syndrome is the direct result of the way the justice reform has been implemented. By at the same time decapitating the highest courts and prosecution offices in the country, and establishing several new high-level governance institutions, the justice reform has created an enormous shortage of qualified applicants. As a result, those who think they are formally qualified and have passed or escaped the vetting feel called upon to apply at every available position.
This problem was already noticed in a recent report by the Institute of Political Studies, which stated:
Nearly the same names compete for more than one post, even in the case of a place at the Constitutional Court they compete at the same time for 3–4 vacancies […]. Candidates for the Constitutional Court also compete for the High Justice Inspectorate, there are even cases [in which they also] compete for the High Court or the European Court of Human Rights.
A recent example was Vladimir Mara, who applied for the new vacancy at High Prosecutorial Council (KLP). The same council had previously rejected him as candidate for the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office (SPAK). Should Mara be elected to the KLP, he will be, paradoxically, responsible for setting up the very institution he was unqualified to join.
A perhaps even stranger case is happening with a new vacancy at the Constitutional Court announced by Parliament on August 21, 2019 to fill the seat of former judge Fatos Lulo. Not only do we find in the list Regleta Panajoti, who is already competing for two other vacancies at the same court, we also encounter the name of Klodian Rado, the EURALIUS legal expert who was previously rejected twice by the Justice Nominations Council (KED) as a Constitutional Court candidate.
Rado was rejected as candidate based on the fact that he did not have sufficient evidence for having worked continuously for 15 years as a professional in the legal field, especially since he only started his education at the School of Magistrates in October 2004. Unlike other candidates, Rado did not appeal this decision at the Administrative Appeals Court.
So how can it be that Rado once again tries to apply to a position he is unqualified for? Not only is he wasting the time of the KED by forcing it to again consider his argument that going to the School of Magistrates somehow counts as part of “15 years working experience as judge, prosecutor, lawyer, law professor or lecturer, or high-level lawyer in public administration,” he also creates the impression that he knows that at some point he will get a job. This, in turn, undermines the credibility of the Constitutional Court.
This constant reappearance of the same candidates does not only create a sense of weariness. It also shows that there are simply not enough (barely) qualifying judges and prosecutors to fill the gaps left by the justice reform. And when it comes to the stability and continuity of the judiciary and the enforcement of the rule of law, this is yet another aspect we should be very concerned about.