Viorica Puică May No Longer Be Appointed to the Supreme Court of Justice

Viorica Puică May No Longer Be Appointed to the Supreme Court of Justice
23 July 2020 | 15:17

Judge Viorica Puică may no longer be appointed to the Supreme Court of Justice, as Parliament cannot be obliged to approve the draft decision in this regard. Puică appointment at the Supreme Court of Justice was delayed and excluded from the agenda of the Parliament, and later on, it was postponed for the autumn-winter parliamentary session. The Council of Magistracy chose Puică’s candidacy and proposed it to the Parliament on June 9. Asked by ZdG, a Socialist Party Deputy claimed that he couldn’t vote for Puică because the deputy doesn’t know the judge from a professional point of view. 

On June 9, 2020, the Superior Council of Magistracy chose Viorica Puică from the six candidates aspiring to become judges in the Supreme Court of Justice. The Superior Council of Magistracy proposed Puică’s candidacy to the plenary of the Parliament also on June 9. 

On July 15, the Socialist Party deputies, who are members of the Parliamentary Commission for Legal Appointments and Immunities voted against the appointment of Magistrate Viorica Puică as a judge at the Supreme Court of Justice.

Back then ZdG spoke with the Socialist Party deputy Grigore Novac. He claimed that he voted against because “he cannot support a person he does not know well from a professional point of view.”

The deputy from the Action and Solidarity Party, Sergiu Litvinenco, spoke out against this decision, appreciating the judge’s qualities.

According to Sergiu Sîrbu, member of Pro Moldova parliamentary group, the Parliament is obliged to appoint Puică because it is the decision of the Superior Council of Magistracy. Sîrbu claims that the postponement could be a sign that the Socialist Party deputies want to reject her candidacy. Sîrbu also added that the Superior Council of Magistracy should take action.   

On July 16, the Parliament had to decide on the appointment of Judge Puică to the Supreme Court of Justice, but the issue was excluded from the agenda of the sitting of Parliament. However, the spring-summer session of the Parliament was closed and Puică’s appointment was postponed for the autumn-winter session. 

What Does the Civil Society Think?

On July 22, several civil society organizations filed a public appeal asking the Moldovan Parliament to adopt as soon as possible a decision on the appointment of magistrate Viorica Puică as a judge at the Supreme Court of Justice.

The organizations mentioned that Puică won the competition. The Superior Council of Magistracy voted for Puică after evaluating the candidates’ professional performance, previous experience as a judge and performance in the interview before the Superior Council of Magistracy members. Moreover, Puică’s candidacy was supported by a majority of the Superior Council of Magistracy members and no member expressed a separate opinion against this proposal.

The organizations also stated that the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs did not mention any reason (aside from the lack of required number of votes) regarding its decision to reject Puică’s candidacy. The organizations also mentioned that the Legal Commission did not hear the judge, which was a practice of the Commission until now, nor did they discuss Puică’s professional qualities. 

Regarding Novac’s comment, the organizations stated that accepting such an approach, would mean that the members of the Legal Commission can only support the judges they know. Moreover, the approach of the Legal Commission is not in accordance with the law, which allows the rejection of the candidate proposed by the Superior Council of Magistracy only if the judge is incompatible with the position of judge of the Supreme Court of Justice or if the procedure for the promotion has been violated. The refusal of the Legal Commission is not based on any of these reasons.

In the last 10 years , The Parliament ignored only  one proposal of the Superior Council of Magistracy  regarding the appointment of the Supreme Court of Justice judges.

The Opinion of the Superior Council of Magistracy Judges

The member of the Superior Council of Magistracy claimed that Puică might not become a judge at the Supreme Court of Justice.

“You cannot force the Parliament a second time. This is not the procedure. As far as I know, Parliament does not even adopt a decision refused before. I have not seen any. The decision might be excluded from the agenda and returned. I can’t tell you what the procedure would be,” said the member of the Superior Council of Magistracy, Dorel Musteață, for ZdG. 

Musteață added that if the deputies do not approve the appointment of the judge, Puică no longer will reach the Superior Court Justice, and there have been such cases.

At the same time, he specified that the Parliament has 30 days from the receipt of the file to make requests for information, to present the necessary information, and to be exposed.

The interim president of the Superior Council of Magistracy, Anatol Pahopol, states that there are no obstacles for Puică to be appointed a judge at the Supreme Court of Justice. 

“The candidacy was studied in detail, I don’t know why the Parliament does not promote it. As interim president of the Superior Council of Magistracy, my position cannot be different from the decision I issued. I consider that it deserves to be promoted because it has a huge experience. She is complete, independent, I have not heard any reproaches or objections against her. The candidacy is very good,” Pahopol specified for ZdG.

At the same time, in a statement, the Association of Judges from Moldova mentions that it joins the public appeal launched by civil society organizations in support of Viorica Puica.

“We reiterate that the separation and collaboration of powers is the cornerstone of any democratic society. This implies a clear delimitation of competences and obligations under conditions of mutual respect and the absence of any interference with the independence of the judiciary. Maintaining the principle of judicial autonomy enshrined in the Constitution and the laws on the organization of the judiciary is an essential objective to guarantee the independence of the judiciary.

For these reasons, the Association of Judges of Moldova calls on all state institutions to make consolidated efforts to capitalize on the independence of the judiciary, thus determining society’s trust in the justice,” said the Association of Judges of Moldova.

Who is Viorica Puică?

Puică has been a judge since 2002 and works at the Chișinău Court, Botanica district headquarters. Previously, Puică applied for the position of judge at the Supreme Court of Justice. Although she often had the highest score, she was not designated by the Superior Council of Magistracy as the winner of the competitions. 

In 2017, she also aspired to be a member of the Superior Council of Magistracy.

Previously, the judge criticized in her speeches the judicial system in Moldova, stating that it lacks independence.  According to Radio Free Europe, in 2017, Puică examined the case involving Dodon’s decree to revoke the citizenship of the former Romanian President Traian Băsescu. Puică opposed Dodon.

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