On July 7, the Supreme Judicial Council issued a decree (SJC-23-N-47) to establish the procedure for changing the seats of the judges of the courts of first instance, and service areas of the seats. This decision establishes the procedure by which the judge should be transferred to another court, suppose, move from Yerevan to work as a judge in Syunik Marz.
According to the order established by the SJC, a procedure consisting of 5 points was set up for the Court of Appeal. The logic of the procedure is as follows: the Court of First Instance applies to the SJC to transfer a judge from one location to another, or to establish a new location, after which the judge expresses his/her position, and in the end the SJC makes a decision.
Clause 2.5 of the new procedure established by the SJC stipulates that “In exceptional cases, in view of the urgent need to ensure access to justice, to optimize judicial spaces, the Council may discuss the proposal of the President of the Court of First Instance to change the seat of the judge even in case of the latter’s disagreement (absence of consent).“ In the second paragraph of the same clause, we read that in the case envisaged by that clause, the President of the Court should justify the need for urgent change of the seat of the judge in the case of the disagreement of the latter.
As a matter of example, let us imagine a situation when they do not want to keep the “X” judge of a specialized court (e.g. administrative court) in Yerevan and they have to move him/her to one of the regions. In this case, the president of the court applies to the SJC and in an exclusive case, the judge is moved to another place without his/her consent. And it is to be noted here that the RA Judicial Code has the Article 56, where it is stipulated that the consent of the judge who is on a business trip should be obtained before moving him.
In practice, such a legal regulation may have the following procedure: after the end of the court session in Yerevan, the judge may be informed that he/she will be working in Syunik Marz starting from tomorrow.
The SJC-23-N-47 decree is a weapon in the hands of the Supreme Judicial Council against the judges of the first instance courts, since any judge acting outside the frames of the SJC logic may be moved to another location under the so-called “exceptional case”. It should be noted that there have been recent relocations under exceptional circumstances, but we have not found any grounds for their “exclusiveness” on the SJC website.
In other words, with that decision, the SJC obtains a new lever to control the judges. The SJC-23-O-47 decision also contains a substantial risk of corruption as it has created a fertile ground for judges who are appointed to remote places to be able to move to a more desirable place through corrupt mechanisms regardless of whether there is vacancy in that location or not.