Three years of court monitoring on administrative cases revealed significant improvements, but problems still remain
Tbilisi, 4 December, 2014 - Transparency International Georgia presents the results of three years of monitoring on administrative trials in first instance courts of Georgia. TI Georgia published four monitoring reports. Overall, we monitored 1749 hearings on 771 cases at Tbilisi City Court (TCC), Batumi City Court (BCC), Kutaisi City Court (KCC), Gori District Court (GDC), Telavi District Court (TDC), Khelvachauri District Court (KDC), Zugdidi District Court (ZDC) and Rustavi District Court (RDC).
Over its four monitoring periods TI Georgia observed following positive trends:
- The success rate of the state party has reduced significantly. Whereas success rate of state party was 85% (92 of 108) in the first monitoring period, by the fourth period the rate was 53% (141 of 268 of cases).
- There have been significant improvements for the openness and transparency of court hearings. The regulation which banned audio and video recordings of hearings without the consent of the judge, was revoked. According to new regulations court hearings are now open to the media. Audio and video recordings, as well as broadcasting, as a rule are now allowed; Moreover, during the monitoring project anyone interested was allowed to attend administrative hearings. The monitors had no problems when taking notes in courtrooms.
- Once TI Georgia started to monitor and advocate on the punctuality of the courts, the results became significantly better. For example, at TCC during the first monitoring period only 35% of hearings started on time, while during the fourth monitoring period 80% of hearings started on time.
Over three years of monitoring period the following problems were revealed:
- During the second court monitoring period a troubling change affecting the right to a public hearing occurred. On 19 June 2012, the Chairman of TCC issued a decree under which persons interested in attending a court hearing were banned from taking electronic devices into the courtroom. TI Georgia concluded that this extra measure of prohibiting electronic devices in the courts’ corridors was undertaken because of the number of politically charged high-profile cases being heard during the second monitoring period.
- It was found that judges tended to differentiate between routine and high-profile cases. In cases of significant public interest, judges appeared to not only render decisions favorable to the state party, but also to violate procedural regulations in favor of the state party.
- The most alarming problems were observed in high-profile cases:
- The court frequently failed to publish information about the upcoming hearings in these cases;
- The hearings in high-profile political cases were normally held in small courtrooms;
- In one high-profile case the judge accepted additional evidence submitted by the state party at the closing stage. This was a clear violation of the procedural law, since submission of evidence from the parties at this stage is strictly prohibited.
- In one high-profile case the private party filed a motion to postpone the main hearing in order to better familiarize itself with the case materials. The private party argued that a large volume of case materials were delivered only the day before the hearing, and that this gave the party very little time to prepare. The judge denied this motion, arguing that the party had enough time to study the case materials and prepare for the hearing.
- Court monitoring showed the result, that the judges could not provide an explanation of rights to private parties during the proceedings. This has significantly increased the awareness of persons not represented by a lawyer.
- During all four monitoring periods judges were very reluctant to exercise their inquisitorial powers and they were passive in their conduct of hearings.
- Another important problem that was revealed at the final monitoring period is related to the heavy caseload at the TCC. These findings show that number of judges appointed at TCC is not enough to handle the rapidly increasing caseload.
TI Georgia hopes that ongoing problems revealed by its court monitoring project will be addressed, and that the improvements that TI Georgia has identified will continue in the future and will result in the improved administration of justice in Georgia.
Transparency International Georgia held monitoring about following issues:
- Punctuality and reasonable time of case discuss;
- Principle of publicity of case discussing;
- The principle of operation of a hearing by a judge;
- Inquisitorial principle (Judge initiative);
- Competition principle (equality of sides, unbiased settlement of dispute).
Nana Lobzhanidze, Communications officer
595 210 309, firstname.lastname@example.org
The monitoring project is made possible by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Folke Bernadotte Academy. The contents are the responsibility of TI Georgia and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government, EWMI or Folke Bernadotte Academy.