Strasbourg, 14 February 2002

CCJE (2002) 16
English only

Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)

Questionnaire on the conduct, ethics and responsibility of judges: reply submitted by the delegation of Slovak Republic

Questionnaire on the conduct, ethics and responsibility of judges

To: 1 What are the staturory obligations by which judges are bound?

1. The statutory obligations by which are judges bound and preconditions for appointment of judges are set up in the §5 of the Act No. 385/2000 Coll. On Judges and Lay Judges and on Amending some Acts relating to the artticle 145 of the Constitutiona of the Slovak Republic. As a judge may be appointed a citizen who:

a) on the day of election has reached a minimum of 30 years,
b) has obtained legal education by graduating from master’s programme at the law faculty of a university in the Slovak Republic, or has a recognised or accredited document on obtaining legal education by graduating from a programme on an equal level at a foreign university,
c) has full legal capacity and is capable for the performance of the post of judge as regards health,
d) has full integrity and his/her moral characteristics give a guarantee that he/she shall perform the post of judge correctly,
e) has permanent residence in the Slovak Republic,
f) has passed a specialised judicial examination,
g) has successfully passed a selection procedure.

Among the basic obligations of judges in accordance with the § 30 of the Act on Judges and Lay Judges belong:

(1) In civil life, during the performance of the post until the completion of performance of the post, a judge must avoid everything that could disturb the seriousness and dignity of the function of a judge or threaten trust in the independent, objective and fairness of judges’ decision-making. Limitations of a state functionary in performing a state function according to special regulations applies equally to a judge.
(2) In the interest of guaranteeing the independence and objectivity of the performance of the judicial function, a judge shall be obliged chiefly to
a) foster and defend judicial independence and its good reputation,
b) refuse any kind of attempt, pressure, influence or request whose goal could be a threat to the independence of the judiciary,
c) not allow himself to be, during the performance of his function, influenced by the interests of political parties, political movements, public opinion or public media,
d) appear impartially and to the parties or participants in proceedings deal without economic, social, racial, ethnic, sexual or religious prejudices,
e) take care in his conduct so that his objectivity is not reasonably doubted,
f) hold to the rules of judicial ethics.
(3) A judge may not, from the parties or from the participants in proceedings or from their legal representatives besides cases constituted in laws on proceedings before the courts1), partially accept or provide information or discuss with them on a factually essential debated affair or on processional questions which could have a bearing on it.
(4) A judge shall be obliged to perform his duties conscientiously, in assigned matters to act continuously without unnecessary delays; to always draw the attention of the President of the Court to an above-average amount of assigned matters if there appears the danger that he will not be able to deal with them without unnecessary delays.
(5) A judge shall be obliged to fulfill his duties correctly and timely, also in the case of allowed work in his domestic environment. He is equally obliged to perform decreed emergency service and the performance of his overtime function, in harmony with the work timetable.
(6) A judge shall be obliged to make use of determined proceedings days, and thus secure regular and timely dealing with assigned matters.
(7) A judge shall be responsible for deepening his specialist knowledge and, according to circumstances, for using offered possibilities for training. A judge is obliged to contribute through his own expertise and skills to the professional preparation of apprentice judges and working younger judges. These uses of his expertise and skills in professional preparation towards raising and deepening the professional level of the judiciary, of apprentice judges and other court employees is only with his consent and if it does not interfere with his duties in performing his judgeship.
(8) A judge does not have the right to strike, and may not act in ways that would prevent judicial activities.
(9) A judge may not be a member of any political party or political movement, nor perform an active political activity in political parties or movements.
(10) A judge shall be obliged to maintain silence, even after the end of his function, about matters which he discovered during the performance of his function if such a duty has not been removed by this law or an individual in whose interest such a duty is performed. For serious reasons, and with the consent of the judge, the President of the Court is authorized to remove this duty, and if it refers to the President of the Court, the president of a directly higher court, and if it refers to the president of the Supreme Court, the president of the National Council. However, a judge cannot be forced to give testimony as a witness to matters he discovered during the performance of his function. Even after the removal of the duty to maintain silence, a judge is obliged to take heed of the justified interests of participants in proceedings.

A judge shall be obliged to refrain from public expressions of his opinion on matters discussed in court.

To: 2 Is there a judge´s code of conduct?
Yes, there is.
2/1 Agreement about Principles of ethics of judges was adopted on 4th October 2001 by the president of the Council of Judges of the Slovak Republic and minister of justice of the Slovak Republic.
2/2 This agreement place duties on judges as follows:

I. Duties in the civil life: - private life of judges

- activities of judges out of work
- public life of judges

II. Judge service duties
III. Professional duties

2/3 This agreement establishes no sanctions for breach down of duties. Duties for which judges are responsible and also can be sanctioned are set down in the article 115 and 116 of the Act No 385/2000 Col. On judges and Lay Judges.

To: 3 What incompatibilities are there between the duties of judge and other functions
or professions ?

Conditions of the incompatibility of performance of function of judge are set up in the §23 of the Act No. 385/2000 Coll. as follows:
(1) The performance of the post of judge is incompatible with the performance of the post of President of the Slovak Republic, a member of the National Council, a member of the Government, a head or a president of another central administrative authority of the Slovak Republic, a judge of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic, the President or Vice president of the Supreme Control Board, with the post of prosecutor, a member of the Slovak Information Service, a member of the armed forces or other armed corps or with a post in the state administrative authorities, regional authority or with a post in bodies of a legal entity to whom the performance of state administration was entrusted. If a judge is appointed to a post and if the performance of the function shall not be interrupted according to § 24 paragraph 1 and 2, a judge is obliged to eliminate the reasons for incompatibility within 15 days from the appointment to the post. Otherwise the post of the judge shall be terminated.
(2) The judge must not perform any other paid function, run a business or perform other gainful employment along with the performance of the function of judge, besides managing his/her own property or the property of his/her under-aged children, to be active scientifically, pedagogically, literary, artistically or in public affairs provided that such an activity does not disturb the correct performance of the function, the dignity of a judge, and does not threaten trust in the independence and objectivity of the judiciary. In case of any doubts the Council of Judges decides on the termination of this function or activity. A judge may also perform a function in a professional association of judges.

To: 4 In what circumstances can the impartiality or apparent impartiality of judges be called into question in accordance with the law or case-law?

In the cases when in the civil life, during the judge service, and after the finish of it, a judge does not forbear of everything which could vitiate the respect and dignity of the function of a judge or menace the trust of the independent, impartial and justifiable judicial discretion.

In the reason of the menace of credibility of the judge function a judge must not:
a) use his/her function, power (authority) and information obtained in the relation of the judge service for earn of advantages for himself/herself or somebody else;
b) accept donations or entice somebody else to provide donations in relation with a judge service;
c) use his/her personality, name and surname, his/her voice, picture or signature for the aim of advertisement or business;
d) use symbols related with a judge service for the personal interest;
e) enter into the legal relations, particularly financial and commercial activities, which could conflict his/her independence, due performance of professional duties and which could vitiate the respect and dignity of a judge service.

To: 5 Can judges incur criminal or civil liability for acts committed in the performance of their duties?

Yes, judges can incur criminal or civil liability for acts committed in the performance of their duties.

5.1 Conditions of the criminal liability are solved in the § 55 of the Act 335/1991 Coll. on courts and judges in the version of later amendments as follows, a judge may be taken into the custody or prosecuted due to the crimes committed during his/her judge service or in relation with the judge service.
The extent of the disciplinary liability is solved in the § 115 of the Act 385/2000 Coll. on judges and lay judges (see the answer 6.1).
5.2 A judge may be prosecuted due to the crimes committed during his/her judge service of in relation with the judge service only with the consent of the organ (body) who appointed or elected him/her. The organ who has initiated the criminal prosecution against a judge informs the president of the court involved (concerned) and the central body (organ) who realises (conducts) the administration of the court concerned, it means Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic.
Disciplinary proceedings commence on a proposal. Disciplinary proceedings may commence without a proposal only if a case was assigned to a Disciplinary Court by a body acting in criminal proceedings.
To make a motion for a commencement of disciplinary proceedings is competent

a) a Minister,
b) a President of a Regional Court, even against the judge of a District Court in his/her circuit,
c) the President of a Court against the judge of an appropriate court.

5.3 A court decides about a criminal case only on the basis of a criminal charge brought by a prosecutor. Disciplinary Court examines a disciplinary responsibility of a judge.
5.4 Penalty is a measure of the state compulsion imposed on the basis of the law and in the frame of the law in the established procedure to an offender by competent courts. The penalty must be proportional to the committed crime. The court may impose following penalties for the committed crimes:
a) imprisonment
b) loss of all honourable titles and honours
c) loss of military rank
d) prohibition of activity
e) forfeiture of property
f) pecuniary penalty
g) forfeiture of subject matter (proposition)
h) expulsion
i) prohibition of stay
It is possible to impose following disciplinary sanctions due to an offence of other infringement if certain conditions established by special legal enactments:
a) admonition
b) fine of rate established by special enactments
c) prohibition of an activity unless judge service pending the time established by special enactments
d) forfeiture of subject matter (proposition)
Disciplinary measures are applicable severally or together with other disciplinary measure. An admonition is not applicable together with other measure.

To: 6 Can judges be subject to disciplinary proceedings?
Yes, judges can be subject to disciplinary proceedings. Disciplinary responsibility of judges is established in the §§115 – 138 of the Act No. 385/2000 Coll.

6.1 In what circumstances?
A judge shall be responsible for disciplinary offences and for actions which have the mark of transgression according to special regulation1 or for actions which could be liable to sanctions according to special regulations2.
6.2 What is the procedure involved?
Disciplinary proceedings is established in the §§120 – 133 of the Act No. 385/2000 Coll. as follows:

㤠120

Commencement of Disciplinary Proceedings

(1)Disciplinary proceedings commence on a proposal. Disciplinary proceedings may commence without a proposal only if a case was assigned to a Disciplinary Court by a body acting in criminal proceedings.

2(2)To make a motion for a commencement of disciplinary proceedings is competent
a) Minister,

b) a President of a Regional Court, even against the judge of a District Court in his/her circuit,
c) the President of a Court against the judge of an appropriate court.

(3)A President of a Court shall be obliged to make a motion for a commencement of disciplinary proceedings on the Minister’s proposal.

(4)A body stated in paragraph 2 shall make a motion for disciplinary proceeding commencement only on the proposal of an aggrieved party, its legal representative or its guardian for the offence of bodily harm caused by negligence, wilful breach of civil coexistence by harsh conduct, and against property committed among intimate persons. A suggestion may be withdrawn before a Disciplinary Senate, and a Senate of Appeal, if a notice of appeal has been served, retires for consultation.
(5)A motion to commence disciplinary proceedings may be made at a Disciplinary Court up to two months from the date when a body competent to make a motion learned about a disciplinary infringement, however up to two years from the date of the committing of the disciplinary infringement. If it concerns an offence, a competent body can give a notice about its commitment at the latest within one year of the date of its commitment.
(6)A motion must include the name and surname of a judge against whom a motion is directed, the description of the act for which a commencement of disciplinary proceedings is made, identification of evidence a motion is based on; if it concerns an offence, a motion must further include identification of the relevant provision of the law the elements of which the act complies with, and the evidence testifying about the commitment of the offence.
(7)A motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings may be withdrawn before a Disciplinary Senate or a Disciplinary Senate of Appeal retires for a final consultation. In this case, it is not possible do make a new motion.

§121
Decision on Prejudice Objection

(1) If circumstances occur that may constitute a reason for prejudice of the President of a Disciplinary Senate or of its members, the person whom it concerns may protest against their prejudice.
(2) Another Disciplinary Senate of the same degree shall decide on prejudice. If it is not possible to strike a Disciplinary Senate because of a protest against all members of the first degree Disciplinary Senates, then the second degree Disciplinary Court shall decide on it.
(3) If the number of prejudicial judges is such that it is impossible to strike a Disciplinary Senate then the Council of Judges of the Slovak Republic shall decide on its possible election and composition.

§ 122
Notification about Commencement of Disciplinary Proceedings

A President of a Disciplinary Senate shall notify, on the commencement of disciplinary proceedings, the judge against whom disciplinary proceedings are held by personal delivery of a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings, and he/she shall instruct him/her about his/her right to choose his/her defender from among advocates or judges, to present his/her case concerning the facts he/she is accused of, and to present the evidence for his/her defence.

§ 123
Preliminary Investigation

A President of a Disciplinary Senate or a member of a Disciplinary Senate commissioned by him/her, shall perform the necessary investigation if the content of a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings requires preliminary clarification of the listed facts. He/she may learn the opinion of a judge against whom the disciplinary proceedings are held, learn further needed facts and evidence not listed in the motion, and if it concerns documents or other items, to obtain them for developing evidence.

§ 124
Suspension of disciplinary proceedings

A Disciplinary Senate shall suspend disciplinary proceedings without hearing if,

a) a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings was made late or it was withdrawn,
b) a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings was made without a proposal from the aggrieved party, if this proposal is essential or if a proposal was withdrawn,
c) a judge was removed from his/her function, he/she resigned his/her function or his/her function expired according to § 19; if a judge is disciplinarily prosecuted for an offence or for an act which can be sanctioned according to special regulations, a Disciplinary Senate passes the matter in this case to the body competent to hear this matter,
d) a judge is disciplinarily prosecuted for an offence, the hearing of which is obstructed by an amnesty,
e) responsibility for the disciplinary infringement or offence lapsed,
f) judgement in an act, because of which disciplinary proceedings are held, was lawfully made in criminal proceedings.

§ 125
Interruption of Disciplinary Proceedings

(1) If a Disciplinary Senate believes that the facts a judge is accused of have the features of a criminal offence, it shall interrupt the disciplinary proceedings and pass the case to the competent body acting in criminal proceedings.
(2) A Disciplinary Senate shall interrupt disciplinary proceedings also in the case it learns that criminal proceedings are being held against a judge for the same act for which they commenced disciplinary proceedings.
(3) Disciplinary proceeding interruption lasts till a lawful decision is made in the criminal proceedings. If terms for continuing in disciplinary proceedings or for proceedings in special cases are not met, a Disciplinary Senate shall terminate disciplinary proceedings.

§ 126
Ordering the Hearing

(1) After the performance of a preliminary investigation, or if that investigation is not essential, a President of a Disciplinary Senate shall set up a date of hearing, shall notify about it the body which made the motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings, the judge against whom the motion is directed, and also the defender, if the judge has an defender. If it concerns disciplinary proceedings because of an offence, the aggrieved party, its representative or its curator is also notified of the date of hearing. A motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings together with the instruction about their rights is delivered to the judge against whom the disciplinary proceedings are held, to his/her defender and to the aggrieved party or to its representative or to its curator.
(2) If questioning of witnesses is essential, a President of a Disciplinary Senate shall call them to the hearing.
(3) He shall set up a date of hearing so that a judge and his/her defender have from notification at least five working days for defence preparation. The same time shall be given to the body that made a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings and to the aggrieved party, its representative or its curator.
(4) The date of hearing is also communicated to the President of a Court where a judge against whom disciplinary proceedings are held has been acting, if it was not communicated to him/her as the proposer.

§ 127
Hearing

(1) A hearing take place only in the presence of the judge against whom a motion is directed. A case can be discussed in his/her absence only if he/she has been properly notified about the date of the hearing and if he/she refuses to appear in a Disciplinary Senate, or if he/she does not appear without a reasonable excuse, or if he/she expressly gives up his/her right to take part in the hearing. If a judge has chosen an defender, the defender has right to take part in the hearing.
(2) A proponent shall present a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings and shall give the reason for it at the beginning of the hearing. If a proponent is absent, the President of the Disciplinary Senate or a member of the Disciplinary Senate appointed by him/her shall present a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings; a similar procedure applies if the Disciplinary Senate was informed about the case by an appropriate body.
(3) If disciplinary proceedings are held because of an offence, the aggrieved party who sustained a property loss may file a claim for compensation before starting developing evidence. The President of the Disciplinary Senate shall instruct an aggrieved party about the right, if this has not been done in the notification on the hearing.
(4) If a preliminary investigation has been done, the President of the Disciplinary Senate or a member of the Disciplinary Senate appointed by him/her, informs the Disciplinary Senate and the participants of proceedings about their results.
(5) The President of the Disciplinary Senate shall question the judge against whom disciplinary proceedings are held and he/she shall develop further necessary evidence. The judge has the right to refuse a deposition. Persons invited as witnesses or experts are obliged to appear in the hearing and to testify in the Disciplinary Senate.
(6) A judge against whom disciplinary proceedings are held, his/her defender and the one who has made a motion have the right to pronounce on developed evidence, to ask witnesses and experts questions and to make motions for completion of evidence. The aggrieved party or its representative or its curator has the same rights.
(7) A person who made a motion, an aggrieved party or its representative or its curator, a defender and a judge against whom disciplinary proceedings are held may pronounce on the matter after completing evidence. A judge against whom disciplinary proceedings are held is always entitled to the last word.
(8) A hearing before a Disciplinary Senate is public.

§ 128
Hearing and Conference Record

A record of hearing before a Disciplinary Senate and of a Disciplinary Senate conference shall be kept. A record of hearing shall be signed by the President of a Disciplinary Senate and a reporter, a record of a conference shall be signed by the President of a Disciplinary Senate, by members of the Disciplinary Senate and by a reporter.

§ 129
Decision of Disciplinary Court

(1) A Disciplinary Senate is obliged to decide on a disciplinary infringement or offence of a judge normally within three months from making a motion for disciplinary proceedings or from the submission of a notice on an offence to the Disciplinary Court by an appropriate body.
(2) If a Disciplinary Senate comes to the conclusion that a judge has committed a disciplinary infringement or an offence, it adjudges that he/she is guilty and imposes a disciplinary sanction according to this law.
(3) If a judge has been found guilty of an offence, a Disciplinary Senate charges the judge with the duty to settle the damage, if an aggrieved party filed a claim for damage compensation on time, and if a damage and its claim amount were reliably found out. Otherwise it shall send the aggrieved party with its claim to civil law proceedings, or to proceedings before another appropriate body, even when it acknowledges only a part of a claim.
(4) If a Disciplinary Senate comes to the conclusion that a judge did not commit an infringement or offence, or that a disciplinary infringement or offence cannot be proved, it shall find the judge innocent. It shall send the aggrieved party with its claim to civil law proceedings or to proceedings before another appropriate body.
(5) If a Disciplinary Senate finds a judge innocent, the judge against whom disciplinary proceedings have been held is entitled to compensation from the state for expenses spent in direct connection with disciplinary proceedings. A Disciplinary Senate shall decide about this claim in its decision. If further investigation is essential, it shall decide about a judge’s claim for expense compensation in a separate decision.
(6) A Disciplinary Senate shall terminate disciplinary proceedings if one of the reasons listed in §124 emerges at a hearing.
(7) A President of a Disciplinary Senate shall always publicly declare a decision on a hearing. The decision shall be issued in writing. The decision must besides the verdict also contain its brief reasoning and an instruction on an appeal.

§ 130
Delivery of Decision

A decision of a Disciplinary Senate shall be delivered personally to the judge against whom disciplinary proceedings are held. A decision shall be delivered also to the defender, if a judge has one, to the body who made a motion to commence disciplinary proceedings, and, if he/she did not make a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings, also to the President of a Court where the judge acts.

§ 131
Appeal

(1) A notice of appeal may be served against a first degree Disciplinary Senate decision within 15 days of the date of serving a decision to the appellor. A notice of appeal has to be served to the Disciplinary Court. An appeal served on time has deferred effect.
(2) An appeal can be served by

a) a judge against whom are disciplinary proceedings held
b) a President of an appropriate Court that made a motion for commencement of disciplinary proceedings, or to which was a case assigned by a body acting in criminal proceedings,
c) a body that made a motion.

(3) An Appeal Disciplinary Senate shall decide on an appeal.
(4) If an Appeal Disciplinary Senate does not dismiss an appeal, it cancels the charged decision wholly or partly, and normally decides on the case on its own, or returns the case for a new hearing and decision.

§ 132
Renewal of Disciplinary Proceedings

(1) A judge may make a motion for reopening disciplinary proceedings within three years from validity of a Disciplinary Senate’s decision.
(2) Any other special remedy against the validity of a Disciplinary Senate’s decision is inadmissible.

§ 133
Performance of Decision

(1) The personnel office of the judge shall execute measures that are essential for the performance of imposed disciplinary measures.
(2) Fine earnings imposed in disciplinary proceedings become state budget income. The state becomes the owner of forfeited items.
(3) Disciplinary measures according to § 117 pgph. 2 letter b) to d) shall be performed even if the function of a judge on whom they were imposed has expired. The disciplinary Court that decided on the case on the first degree is competent to decide on release from the performance of the remainder of the ban on activity. Disciplinary measures imposed for an offence, or their remainder, cannot be exercised if an amnesty applies to it.
(4) A decision about a judge’s duty to compensate for losses may be performed according to special regulation.3)

Expungement of Disciplinary Sanction
§ 134

A disciplinary sanction for a disciplinary infringement for which were not imposed disciplinary measures of removal from a judge’s function (§117 paragraph) or for an offence shall be suspended within a period of one year from the validity of the decision on imposing disciplinary measures. If the performance of disciplinary measures did not end by this period, a disciplinary sanction shall be expunged by an execution of disciplinary measures or by a valid decision on release from the performance of the remainder of the performance of the ban on activity.

§ 135

A judge on whom were imposed disciplinary measures according to § 117 paragraph 5, is, after four years from the valid decision on imposing this disciplinary measure, considered as not having been sanctioned for disciplinary infringement. “

6.3 What is the competent institution or authority?

A Disciplinary Court determines disciplinary responsibility and imposes disciplinary measures. A Disciplinary Court also determines if there are given reasons for removal from a judge’s function according to § 18 paragraphs 1 or 2.
The Supreme Court convenes a Disciplinary Court for the purposes of disciplinary actions.

6.4 What disciplinary sanctions can be imposed?

For disciplinary contravention, a Disciplinary Court shall impose some of the following disciplinary measures:

a) admonition
b) decrease of the function salary by up to 15% for a period of at most three months and, for a repeat disciplinary offence which a judge has committed in the period before the expungement of the disciplinary sanction, for a maximum period of six months

For an offence or other infringement of the law there may be imposed, according to conditions stated in special regulations, the following disciplinary measures:

a) admonition
b) fine in the amount stipulated by special regulations
c) suspension from activity, with the exception of the performance of a judge’s function, for a period set by special regulations,
d) forfeiture.

These disciplinary measures may be imposed individually or in combination; an admonition may not be imposed together with other measures stated in paragraphs 1 and 2.

For a serious disciplinary offence or for an infringement which at the same time has the nature of a serious disciplinary offence which is not incompatible with the performance of a judge’s function, a Disciplinary Court may impose as disciplinary measures
a) removal from the post of President of the Senate, or
b) transfer of a judge to another court of the same or lower degree.
For a serious disciplinary offence or for an infringement which at the same time has the nature of a serious disciplinary offence which is not incompatible with the performance of a judge’s function, a Disciplinary Court may impose as disciplinary measures also removal from the performance of a judge’s function.
In accordance with the article 145 of the Constitution the President of the Slovak Republic shall recall judges on the basis of a proposal of the Judiciary Council of the Slovak Republic.

Bratislava, January 29, 2002

1 For example § 2, paragraph 1 and § 10 paragraph 1, letter b) of Act of the Slovak National council No. 372/1990 Coll. on Transgressions
2 For example Act of the National Council of the Slovak Republic No. 287/1994 Coll. on preservation of nature and landscape as amended by Act of the National Council of the Slovak Republic N. 222/1996 Coll.
3 ) §251 to 351 of the Civil Procedure Code

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