Moldova Judges Flee Court to Avoid Vetting

The Chief Prosecutor of the Anti-Corruption Office, Veronica Dragalin, has warned that losing half its judges could lead to significant delays in processing and finalising cases at the Chisinau Court of Appeal.

Dragalin made the comments during a TV8 program in the context of twenty magistrates from the Court submitting resignation requests on Thursday, May 2nd.

"A functioning Court of Appeal is essential if we are to secure final judgments, including those involving imprisonment and confiscation of assets," Dragalin said. "The Court of Appeal issues enforceable decisions. If the Court lacks a sufficient number of judges, it could lead to even greater delays in reaching final decisions. We will not be successful without enough judges to handle the complex and voluminous cases before the court."

Dragalin revealed that she had previously faced similar resignation requests from staff within the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office prior to the implementation of the vetting process for prosecutors. She explained that she had refused to accept these requests and successfully convinced her subordinates to remain within the system.

"I did receive resignation requests, which I refused to accept," Dragalin said. "I convinced the individuals to stay on. There were about five or six who wanted to leave at the end of 2023. It was a difficult situation, and I would have felt a sense of responsibility. Ultimately, I had a discussion with the prosecutors, reminding them that this is a personal decision, but as their superior, I felt obligated to explain their value to the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office team."

Court of Appeal Resignations Attributed to Vetting Process

The Chisinau Court of Appeal faces the possibility of losing half of its judges. The mass resignation is attributed to the upcoming external evaluation process, also known as vetting. Ilie Chirtoacă, president of the Center for Legal Resources, told Moldova 1 that a wave of departures was anticipated.

The external evaluation, or vetting, is an extraordinary measure being used for the first time. The process aims to identify and remove judges who have a history of making questionable decisions and those who cannot justify their wealth and income.

Vetting Offers Compromise Solution

The legislation adopted by Parliament in November of last year offers a compromise solution. Those who fail the vetting process forfeit their special pension and severance pay. Additionally, they are barred from working within the judicial system or holding positions of public office for a period of five to seven years. In contrast, judges who choose to resign are not subject to evaluation and receive a retirement benefit that can reach hundreds of thousands of lei depending on their experience. They also have the option to pursue a career in law after their departure.

The twenty judges from the Chisinau Court of Appeal submitted their resignations on the last day permitted for sending declarations of assets, personal interests, and a list of close associates within the judicial system and other public institutions to the Vetting Commission. Failure to submit this information is considered resignation and avoids the evaluation process.

Superior Council of Magistracy to Review Resignation Requests

"The deadline for these judges has arrived, and they had the option to submit resignation requests," said Sergiu Caraman, interim president of the Superior Council of Magistracy. "I can confirm that twenty resignation requests have been registered with the Council's secretariat. Consequently, twenty judges from the Chisinau Court of Appeal have chosen to depart the system. The potential loss of additional judges from the Court would undoubtedly lead to severe consequences. In essence, half of the Court's judges have opted to resign."

"This development was anticipated," said Ilie Chirtoacă, president of the Center for Legal Resources. "The unknown factor, I believe for everyone, was the number of resignations. This serves as a signal of their disagreement and unwillingness to participate in the vetting process for various reasons, potentially including a lack of integrity, although I wouldn't want to generalise. Will this have an impact? It will undoubtedly affect the functionality of the Chisinau Court of Appeal."

The Superior Council of Magistracy will review the resignation requests next week. The judges have the opportunity to change their minds before then. In the event that the Court's operations are significantly impacted, the Council will transfer magistrates from other courts to address the staffing shortage.

Translation by Iurie Tataru

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