On June 15, 2020 the Independent Inspector partially granted the administrative complaint of Institute for Development of Freedom of Information regarding abolishing its individual administrative-legal act and obligating the person responsible for releasing public information to provide requested information to IDFI.
On February 4, 2020 IDFI requested public information from the Independent Inspector’s Office, namely substantiated conclusions delivered as a result of preliminary examination of disciplinary cases against judges pursuant to Article 756 of the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts. This information was requested without revealing personal data of a judge in accordance with the law on Personal Data Protection. On February 14, 2020 the person responsible for releasing public information of the Independent Inspector’s Office refused to provide the requested information to IDFI on the ground that the disciplinary proceedings are confidential and the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts does not envisage release of the substantiated conclusions (interim decisions) delivered as a result of preliminary examination, even without revealing personal data.
IDFI appealed this decision and requested the Independent Inspector to abolish the illegal administrative act and obligate the person responsible for releasing public information to provide requested information, on the ground that the decision violated IDFI’s right to access to public information. IDFI fully recognizes the importance of the confidentiality of the disciplinary proceedings, therefore, it requested the above mentioned information without disclosing the personal data of judges.
IDFI considers that the Independent Inspector’s Office incorrectly interpreted the law when they pointed out that the law does not provide the legal ground for the publication of interim decisions, therefore, they should not be released. Determining the obligation to publish certain decisions/information by the law does not in itself imply that other public information existing in a public institution should not be accessible.
The Independent Inspector issued an order on June 15, 2020 and partially granted IDFI’s complaint. According to the order, “taking into account the interests of the court, the particular judge and the confidentiality of disciplinary proceedings, only such conclusions can be released that do not violate the legitimate aim of the law to protect the interest of the judges at the initial stage of the disciplinary proceedings... It is rational to issue the conclusions of the Independent Inspector in a generalized form, without identifiable data so as not to violate the requirement of the law on the confidentiality of disciplinary proceedings, taking into account the peculiarities of disciplinary proceedings and the confidentiality of cases as well as the interests of judges and the public.”
On June 25, 2020 the Independent Inspector sent 5 conclusions related to disciplinary complaints. The disclosure of certain conclusions without personal data of judges has clearly confirmed that the accessibility of these documents does not contradict the principle of confidentiality of disciplinary proceedings and does not violate the current law.
In recent years, IDFI has paid significant attention to the importance of publishing the conclusions of an independent inspector. The system of disciplinary liability serves the interests of protecting the authority of the judiciary and the public trust in the court system, but on the other hand, contains a potential threat, in case of its improper use, to turn into a pressure instrument on individual judges. Therefore, it is essential to ensure the proper transparency of the work of the Independent Inspector's Office, which is one of the most important elements of the disciplinary liability system. The accessibility of conclusions is crucial in order to assess the degree of the inspector's independence, the impartiality of the disciplinary proceedings, and the consistency of the practice.
Taking into consideration the fact that it was impossible to obtain conclusions from the Independent Inspector’s office on the ground of confidentiality, partial satisfaction of the complaint and releasing the documents in a generally formulated manner, without identifiable data, should be positively assessed. However, in order to achieve the proper transparency of the work of the Independent Inspector's Office, it is essential to ensure that all conclusions delivered by the Inspector are accessible.
“Assessment of the Judicial Reform“, March 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2BP8mre
„Implementation of the Judicial Strategy and the Action Plan“, 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2ZRAUYX
This material has been financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. Responsibility for the content rests entirely with the creator. Sida does not necessarily share the expressed views and interpretations.
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