Courts in total dysfunction: reform effects take a heavy toll

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 20, 2020 14:04

Courts in total dysfunction: reform effects take a heavy toll

After the publication of the list with the names of candidates for the Constitutional Court (CC) from the Parliament and the President of the Republic, the international community applauded the “courage of those who responded to the call to serve.” US Ambassador Yuri Kim took to Twitter to express the need of Albania to have a functional Constitutional Court by the end of this year and urged the Judicial Appointments Council (JAC) to act with a resolve. This is also one of the key conditions set by the EU for the first intergovernmental conference on accession negotiations.

Although it is symbolically the most important, the CC is far from being the only one under duress due to the upheaval that the justice reform has caused with the vetting process that has taken out of the system several judges and prosecutors. In the practical sense, the situation in the High Court is more devastating. Despite holding tens of thousands of unsolved cases it has only one functional chamber, with just 3 out of the necessary 19 needed judges on the bench. Most recently the JAC has just a few days to choose another High Court member, should he be deemed as fulfilling all requirements. 

Courts at the local level are slowly but definitely starting to feel the burden of dysfunctionality too. Most recently the Appeals Court of Korca was left with one sole judge due to the vetting process outcome for the others. Human resources are becoming scarce almost everywhere s prosecutors and even judiciary police officers are disqualified from their profession due to the vetting. 

So far, 106 judges and prosecutors have been removed from the system and around 60 of them have resigned or retired. From the appeals courts to the first instance courts, the problem of dysfunctionality seems to be just a matter of time. 

On one side the cleansing of the system is a necessary result, however it seems that the risks of dysfunctionality at least in the short and medium term have no mitigation plan. In the worst case this might lead to the blockage of the judiciary, a quite apocalyptic scenario that needs to be avoided.  Experts and decision makers will need to go back to the design table in order to identify the intervention spaces in the reform to properly mitigate this destructive risk.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 20, 2020 14:04