“There are still many issues to discuss, step by step, with the involvement of professional organisations; progress must be made while always respecting judicial independence”, Minister of Justice László Trócsányi said at a conference in Budapest on the further development of the public administration justice system on 18 June 2018 in Budapest.

Mr. Trócsányi said the Prime Minister has tasked him with drawing up a legislative proposal for the creation of the organisational independence of a public administration justice system via the establishment of a Public Administration High Court.

DownloadPhoto: Endre Véssey

It is evident from the currently ongoing seventh amendment to the Constitution that the Public Administration High Court would have a similar legal status to the Curia (Supreme Court), and would serve as the country’s highest judicial forum for public administration cases, with public administration courts acting independently from the existing court system.

Mr. Trócsányi said he had set up a working committee to clarify professional issues, the members of which are in the most part judges – the President of the Curia and delegates from the National Office for the Judiciary – in addition to acknowledged Hungarian legal experts, including professors of public administration and constitutional law, heads of university law faculties. The Committee held its inaugural meeting on June 15.

The Minister said he supports the establishment of a two-level organisational system for public administration courts, with public administration courts working under the Public Administration High Court, and that with relation to labour-related disputes it would be expedient for the lower ranked courts to operate locally and remain at general court level. The working committee will be examining these cases, in addition to the distribution of various case types between the two levels of the judiciary, and uniform legal practice. Establishing the organisational system for an independent public administration judiciary goes hand in hand with the separation of the labour court system, for which a worthy place must be found.

It is yet to be decided who will publish and evaluate applications for the posts of judge and head of court, who will appoint public administration judges and heads of court, and what the professional requirements, conflict of interest regulations, interoperability conditions and salary system for the legal status of public administration judge will be, Mr. Trócsányi said.

Goals also include making a career as judge more attractive, he added.

DownloadPhoto: Endre Véssey

The establishment of an independent public administration judicial system also requires the establishment of its separate administration, creating a kind of competitive model within the field of court administration. Cooperation between the National Office for the Judiciary, which is responsible for administering traditional courts, and the National Judicial Council is vital to this. It must also be decided whether the Minister of Justice should be given a role in the external administration of public administration courts. This can only occur while respecting judicial independence. The Minister of Justice would primarily play the role of caretaker, dealing with budgetary, building management on other issues, the Minister said.

Judicial independence is the fixed star of democracy and an extremely important constitutional value on which he has always insisted and will always insist on in future, Mr. Trócsányi underlined.

“No organisational or administrative issue can have a negative effect on the judicial activities of judges, and in fact our goal is to ensure that these reforms will facilitate an improvement in the professional quality of rulings and increase the prestige of public administration judges”, he stressed.

“We can be glad that Hungarian thinking with relation to public law and the public demand for legal guarantees is once again ready, and the political situation is currently also suitable, to enable us to jointly think in terms of an independent public administration court system that supervises public administration activities and operates within an organisational system that assures the guarantees for judicial independence, and for this joint thinking to be followed by action in view of the fact that the Prime Minister has tasked me with drawing up the legislative proposal by next spring’s session of Parliament”, the Minister said.

In his speech, President of the Curia Péter Darák pointed out that during the establishment of the framework for the public administration court system a hundred and fifty years ago during the period of dualism, the state power of the age placed great emphasis on independent judicial activities that are independent of party political influence to assure that citizens receive unbiased defence against possible infringements on the part of the state.

With relation to the current reorganisation of the public administration judicial system, the Chief Justice highlighted the fact that the process is not beginning from scratch in view of the fact that values that must be protected have come about during the quarter of a century since the regime change, the disregarding of which would be a great loss for the rule of law.

The President of the Curia Péter warned, amongst others of the importance of balance. As he explained the acceptance of new members by an existing organisation that is capable of teaching them its own organisational conventions is very different from the establishment of a totally new organisation that will for the most part be filled with professionals who were socialised outside a faculty of law.

In her speech, President of the National Office for the Judiciary Tünde Handó highlighted the fact that the foundation of the rule of law is that courts are able to review the decisions of state authorities. The establishment of an independent public administration judicial system is the repayment of a historical debt and a huge opportunity. There are still many issues to discuss, but there will still be public administration claims and public administration judges in future.

Ms. Handó also warned that the fate of public administration courts could affect the whole court system.

In his speech, President of the Constitutional Court Tamás Sulyok analysed the professional issues relating to the wide-ranging relationship between the public administration judicial system and the constitutional judiciary.

The Past and Present of the Public Administration Judiciary conference was jointly organised by the Curia and the Association of Hungarian Public Administration Judges, and held in the Curia building.

(MTI; Ministry of Justice)