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20 January, 2011  ▪  Спілкувалася: Natia Orvelashvili

Winning People’s Trust

A radical judicial reform in Georgia has resulted in an objective, corruption-free justice system

One of the consequences of the Rose Revolution in Georgia was the reform that rooted out corruption in courts. The justice system was given every possibility to hear cases in a thorough and objective manner. The Ukrainian Week has talked with Konstantin Kublashvili, Chief Justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court, who believes that several more steps are needed to enhance the system.

Criteria of success

U.W.: How is the judicial reform moving along in Georgia?

“We have carried out colossal work since the Rose Revolution. The judicial reform was launched in 2004, and I can assess it based on five criteria. First, courts have become accessible to people. To this end, we have totally revamped the justice system and introduced magistrate courts of the first instance in every population center. At the same time, we set up large city and district courts that hear the main cases. With the help of large district first-instance courts we have achieved specialization: each judge now hears cases in their area of specialization — criminal, civil or administrative law. In this way, they become experts in their respective areas, take less time to adjudicate cases, and do a better job of it.

“Waiting time and the duration of proceedings are the second criterion. We have the best time in Europe for hearing cases. Any case in Georgia takes 15 to 18 months to go from the first to the last instance.

“The next criterion is the consistency of court rulings. We have divided the justice system into three instances: first, appellate and supreme. A case is first considered in the first instance. If the ruling is challenged, an appellate court will look into the issues that were contradictory in the first instance. The Supreme Court discusses things that the sides did not agree upon in the appellate court.”

U.W.: Do most citizens trust courts?

“Of course. There is no more corruption (cases when rulings were appealed on the hope of buying an acquittal). Court decisions correspond with practice, and cases are heard by qualified specialized judges. We opened a higher school of justice which trains judges and holds trainings on a monthly basis. When legislation changes or a new practice becomes established, judges learn about the changes as they appear. This is the fourth criterion.

“The fifth one is objectivity. Statistical data shows that Georgian courts are just and enjoy the trust of the population — 80–90 percent of cases are not appealed to higher instances. In the period from December 2009 to November 2010, three opinion polls were carried out which showed that society has come to trust courts much more: from 20-25 percent in 2005 to 60 percent now.”

Fighting corruption

U.W.: Georgia’s judicial system was corrupt. How did you manage to solve this problem?

“Reforms were launched to eliminate corruption in all government agencies. This was hard, continuous work, but eventually the state’s anti-corruption policy produced its results. Fifteen judges have been arrested on bribery charges.”

U.W.: Was it enough to arrest 15 judges to root out corruption?

“We have generally rid the system of corrupt people and staffed it with professional judges who are motivated to work honestly. The state has no mercy toward corrupt judges, policemen and prosecutors. Many people submitted their resignations on their own initiative and left. A small fraction stayed — those who worked conscientiously. In five years, 160 new judges were appointed. Today the judicial system consists of 250–260 people and is operating well. Furthermore, we amended legislation to enable rapid court hearings. The budget of the judicial system has nearly tripled — from 15 million lari (USD8.6 million) in 2005 to 40 million lari (USD22.9 million). We have raised judges’ salaries. A judge in a first-instance court now receives 2,500 lari (USD1,500) per month.

Judicial innovations

U.W.: You recently introduced the jury system. How will it work, and will it prove efficient in such a small country as Georgia?

“Research has shown that people want to participate in justice administration. In the first two years, the jury system will operate only in Tbilisi and only in one type of cases, first-degree murder. In two years, the system will be extended to cover all of Georgia, and we’ll add two more articles: rape and intentional homicide committed in a state of strong mental agitation. We have taken into account the fact that these crimes occur very infrequently in Georgia. Georgian courts consider 25–30 cases of first-degree murder. Given this number, we can easily call jurors, select them, and organize the process.”

U.W.: How are jurors selected?

“We choose them from the election lists using a randomized procedure. Every person can become a juror — this is a civic duty, just like conscription, and Georgian society has accepted it with understanding. The twelve jurors on a jury deliver the verdict about the accused. If 5 out of 12 say that the accused is not guilty, he or she is released from the court room. It is important to note that acquittals may not be appealed.”

U.W.: One of the results of the reform is that judges are appointed to their positions until retirement. Why was this norm introduced?

“Every democratic state has this practice that judges are appointed virtually for life, until they reach retirement age, and they feel secure and free of influences. This guarantees their objectivity. These judges will work conscientiously. Of course, it doesn’t mean that if they violate law, they will get off scot-free. In 2008, we passed a law prohibiting communication with judges. If a person calls a judge in a specific case (no matter who this person represents), the judge has the right to fine him or her and inform the head of the Supreme Court or the Council of Justice.”

U.W.: Do judges often receive calls?

“In that same year, 2008, there were five cases. Clearly, things like this also took place earlier. Attorneys, prosecutors, MPs, and bureaucrats influenced judges, but after this law was passed, this practice nearly died.

“However, it would be rash to say that we have an ideal judicial system. We want to completely get rid of the violations that still occur. After the new Criminal Procedure Code which introduces the jury system goes into effect and when we complete the electronic court proceedings system to enhance court transparency, we will be able to judge how good Georgian justice system really is.”




Konstantin Kublashvili, b. 1973 in Tkibuli, graduated from the Faculty of International Law and International Relations of Tbilisi State University in 1995 and later worked in the Central Election Commission and in the legal department of Georgia’s parliament.

In 1998–2000, he studied at Hannover University and successfully defended a Ph.D. thesis there.

In 2000–2002, he was deputy Minister of Justice of Georgia. In early 2004, he was appointed director of the Development and Reform Foundation whose goal has been to fight corruption in the highest echelons of the government. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Georgian Supreme Court in 2005.


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