Two judges temporarily assigned to work in the Cabinet Office of the PM led by Antal Rogán

November 21. 2022. – 11:08 AM



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Two judges have been transferred for a year to the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister lead by Antal Rogán, according to a decision of the National Office for the Judiciary (Országos Bírósági Hivatal – OBH). The appointment of the two judges was initiated by János Tamás Benkő, State Secretary for Public Administration at the Prime Minister's Office.

Edit Hajnalné Káder, a judge of the Metropolitan Court of Budapest and Imre Péter Tanács, a judge of the Central District Court of Pest will work in the Cabinet Office between 15 October 2022 and 14 October 2023.

Responding to Telex's inquiry, the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister said that the judges will be assisting in the preparation of a law, and during this period they will not be exercising judicial activity, adding that their assignment is in accordance with the law and does not violate the principle of separation of powers.

However, Dávid Víg, the head of Amnesty International Hungary, said that there were several concerns about judges working for the government, and their work being recognized by high salaries, as well as their subsequent reassignment to the judiciary, where they could later become presiding judges without a tender.

The transfer of judges to ministries is permitted by the Law on the Status and Remuneration of Judges. So far judges have mainly been assigned to the Ministry of Justice to assist in the preparation of legislation, the handling of clemency cases or other tasks requiring judicial work experience.

What are the tasks of these judges in the Cabinet Office and how does this comply with the separation of powers? – we put the question to the OBH and the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister.

According to the reply sent from the Cabinet of the Prime Minister's Office, the assignment of judges to ministries does not violate the principle of separation of powers. The appointment of the judges is conditional on their consent and the fact that these judges are not allowed to exercise judicial functions during their assignment. The assignment of judges to the ministry under these conditions is also in line with European practice, they wrote.

"The specific purpose of the judges' assignment is for them to contribute to the preparation of the insolvency law, which falls within the tasks and powers of the Minister for Economic Development."

- the press office of the Cabinet of the Prime Minister's Office wrote in response to our question.

Pursuant to Article 62/A (1) of Act CLXII of 2011 on the Legal Status and Remuneration of Judges, a judge may be assigned to exercise functions and powers of public law nature which are part of the core competences of the body concerned. According to the legislation, the purpose of the assignment is to enable the judge to acquire professional experience and knowledge by participating in the activities of the body concerned and to support the activities of the body concerned with his/her judicial experience.

In response to a question from Telex, the OBH said that the possibility of assigning a judge to a ministry was provided for not only by the current law, but also by the previous law adopted in 1997, and this is also possible in other European countries. During the period of assignment to a ministry, the assigned judge may not exercise judicial activity and for two years following their assignment, they may not take part in the administration of a case involving the body concerned as a party.

While the law does allow for this, it does not mean that everything is completely fine with this practice. In 2021, experts from eight domestic NGOs, including Amnesty International, wrote a report for the European Commission on the state of the rule of law in Hungary. In their report they also raised concerns about the assignment of judges to a state body outside the court system.

The report says: “A law passed in 2020 allowed the President of the National Office of the Judiciary (OBH) to transfer any judge to a public body outside the court system, such as government offices or the prosecutor's office. Transferred judges receive significantly higher remuneration and, after the transfer, can be appointed as presiding judges without competition, even in a court which is higher than their previous position. In addition, transferred judges can also handle cases that they themselves or their colleagues have previously judged. This procedure blurs the boundaries between the judiciary and public administration and may violate the right to a fair trial.”

One of the judges newly assigned to the Prime Minister's Office, is known to have worked at the Ministry of Justice between 2013-2017, and was awarded a ministerial certificate of appreciation in 2015.

Dávid Víg, head of Amnesty International Hungary, told Telex that it is troubling that it can't be known on what basis the judges are selected for the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister, where Antal Rogán will be their boss, that they will receive higher pay and that when they do return to the judiciary, judges who have socialized with the government could potentially become presiding judges without having to apply for the job.

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