June 4, 2019 - The public hearing on Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Courts, announced on 13 May by the Ministry of Justice, was completed yesterday. However, after the reaction of the Chamber of Advocates, which claims that the proposed changes are not in line with the citizens' interest and EU recommendations, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Zoran Pažin, to its President, Zdravko Begovic, promised that the disputed text would be withdrawn from the assembly procedure.
Attorneys from the South Region, gathered at the Chamber of Advocates of Montenegro, warned the public last week and urged citizens of Boka Bay to engage in the public debate on the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Courts. One of the amendments made by this Draft is the territorial overlap of the courts, which is not in the interest of the citizens of Boka Bay, or following EU recommendations for rationalization of the judicial network, claim lawyers.
The transfer of jurisdiction for the territory of the Budva Municipality from the Basic Court in Kotor to the Basic Court in Cetinje is in the perspective of the removal of a court in Kotor, a town where the courts have been active for more than 600 years. Member of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Advocates, Danijela Radulović from Kotor, explains:
"According to data from 2016, 54% of the cases of the Basic Court in Kotor were related to the territory of Budva municipality. It means that, with the proposed overlap of the jurisdiction of the courts, the Basic Court in Kotor lost more than half of the cases. It would, in turn, lead to the irrefutability, which would result in the extinction of this court. The consequences of such a situation would be borne primarily by the citizens because the court is formed for the needs of citizens, according to criteria of population, geographic distance, and so on. Of course, this would be at the expense of the employees of the Basic Court in Kotor, and the attorneys, therefore having far-reaching consequences."
Advocate Radulovic explains that the proposal of territorial over-representation of the courts was given without prior analysis, and was not in line with the recommendations of the European Union, to which the proposer of the law invoked.
"For such a proposal, there is no severe analysis that would justify the Cetinje court, which is now a small court with a small number of cases, an irrefutable court, transferring it the part of the jurisdiction of the Basic Court in Kotor. According to the instructions of the European Union, it would be profitable for this court to be accorded to the territorially closer Basic Court in Podgorica, rather than to ensure its survival so that the Basic Court in Kotor becomes economically unjustified. We have no analysis of such a proposal - what are the reasons, qualitative and quantitative, which justify it? It is true that the EU has proposed the rationalization of the judicial network. According to a report prepared by a non-governmental organization dealing with this topic, Human Rights Action, there are 21 judges per 100,000 inhabitants in the EU member states. We have 41 judges in Montenegro. The EU proposes to reduce the number of courts by abolishing those that are irrefutable. They even indicated that these were the courts in Danilovgrad, Žabljak, Plav. Therefore, the proposed rationalization does not apply to the territorial division of the courts," explains Radulovic, thanking the citizens who recognized the importance of this issue and included in the public hearing by submitting a large number of objections to the proposed text of the amendment to the Courts Act.
The Chamber of Advocates officially supported South Region lawyers, and its President, Zdravko Begović, met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, Zoran Pažin.
"At the meeting with Minister Zoran Pažin, the President of the Chamber of Advocates, Zdravko Begović, requested that this Draft be withdrawn from the Assembly procedure, to receive a delegation of the Chamber of Advocates with representatives from the South Region, and to jointly give some criteria that would be justified for the rationalization of the judiciary network. Deputy Prime Minister gave the information to Mr. Begović that this proposal will be withdrawn and that further steps in the creation of amendments to the Courts Act will not be undertaken without agreement with the Chamber of Advocates."