Publication details

Post-communist Chief Justices in Slovakia: From Transmission Belts to Semi-autonomous Actors?

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KOSAŘ David SPÁČ Samuel

Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Hague Journal on the Rule of Law
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Law

Web Repozitář MU
Keywords post-communist; Slovakia; justices
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Description The aim of this article is to conceptualize the role of Central European (CE) chief justices and explore whether they have managed to become autonomous actors after the fall of communism. We do so by focusing on Slovakia, which was the first country in Central Europe that experienced a semi-authoritarian regime in the mid-1990s, adopted a Euro-model of the judicial council during the EU accession, and features a formally powerful Chief Justice. Based on the analysis of the turnover in Slovak Chief Justices since the 1990s, we argue that Slovak Chief Justices have not become fully autonomous actors, despite the Euro-model of the judicial council and EU membership, as Slovak politicians still consider the position of the Chief Justice strategically important and are willing and able to interfere with them. More specifically, selection of the Chief Justice has become an arena for political battle between external pressures from the politicians and oligarchs and internal sectoral interests from within the judiciary. So far, Slovak political leaders always managed to install their own Chief Justice informally, although they have been challenged by coalitions formed among representatives of the judiciary. This has had severe repercussions for the rule of law in Slovakia, especially during the era of Chief Justice Štefan Harabin. Beyond Slovakia, recent examples of ousting and dismissing chief justices in Hungary and Poland, even if sometimes blocked, show that also in other CE countries some political leaders consider chief justices an important element of their strategy to contain the judiciary and to rule by law. In order to understand this wide-scale problem, we identify seven factors that affect the role of the Chief Justice in the post-communist Europe. This set of factors should encourage others to study Chief Justices from comparative perspective.
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