Czech justice system loses 32 judges for "lack of experience"

10-03-2005

The Czech President Vaclav Klaus refused to appoint 32 new judges on Wednesday because they were under the age of thirty. Mr Klaus says these "children" as he has called them several times in the past do not have the experience necessary for important decision-making. Czech judges, who were counting on having 55 new colleagues added to their ranks, now have their work cut out for them, as the number of cases in courts is on the rise.

Jan VyklickyJan Vyklicky The Czech Republic currently has around 2,500 judges, of whom some ten percent are under the age of thirty. But in order for the Czech justice system to be able to handle cases quickly and fairly, it needs a few hundred more. Jan Vyklicky is the head of the Czech Union of Judges:

"Being a good lawyer and being a good judge is not the same thing. To have a lot of theoretical legal knowledge is not the same as to have the ability to use it to perform well in the judiciary. In that aspect, I believe that the argument of the president makes sense. But we already expected some new judges to come and preside over cases that have been growing in number in all courts. However, the regulations were changed within the game and now we have no way to prepare ourselves [for the work load] and perform well. We are now in a very complicated situation because we don't know how to continue our work."

President Klaus says that the Justice Ministry should have seen it coming, as he has been very vocal about his opposition to young and inexperienced judges. However, the ministry argues that it has no choice as older potential judges are not interested in the post. Most of them are currently working as attorneys, and as judges would earn a great deal less than they earn today.

Czech law currently states that a person must be at least thirty years old to become a judge. The candidates that Mr Klaus rejected started preparing for the post at a time when the minimum age was 25, and therefore still have the legal right to be appointed. But, as President, Mr Klaus has the constitutional right not to appoint a new judge, even when he or she meets all necessary requirements. Mr Klaus' decision cannot be appealed. Mr Vyklicky fears, there will be further disappointment in a year or two when the rejected candidates have turned thirty and reapply for the post:

"Theoretically, they stand a chance because once they have passed the professional exam, they are competent for judicial office for ever. But there is a practical problem. We need less than three thousand judges for the whole country. So, by the time they are old enough the judiciary will be full."

10-03-2005