The Hungarian judiciary is being criticised by both the right and the left-wing political parties for their decisions made in such cases as the red mud disaster case, the Hagyó-case and the Sukoró-case. The press conference held by Attila Harangozó, president of the Regional Court of Szeged, and his deputy, Attila Hámori aimed at reacting among others to the above mentioned.
Attila Harangozó began the discussion with pointing out that every organization has a structure and on top of the structure there is a leader appointed accordingly. The successful work of an organization requires the loyalty and professionalism of all the members. The court is a national organization – it has to work for the interest of the state and in harmony with it.
In the relation to the judges raising their objections to the practice of Tünde Handó’s, president of the National Office for the Judiciary, appointment and giving interview to the press anonymously the President of the Regional Court of Szeged said: judges can make statements complying with a range of strict and professional regulations. There are official forums where they are provided with the opportunity to express their opinions. However, to criticize their own juridical practice anonymously in the press does not meet the related regulations or equal the concept of official forum. People should not attack their employers – they should not bite the hand that feeds them – it would be quite a weird idea to hold that the one who provides the conditions of their employment were considered to be the enemy.
According to Attila Harangozó the leaders of jurisdiction have no influence on the decision made in given case. Judges and juridical leaders can successfully fulfil their responsibilities if they are able to identify themselves with the organizational strategy, aim and interest. In case one is unable to do so she or he should not apply for a leader position in the given organization.
Since the Hagyó case and the Sukoró-case – both being planned to be heard at the Regional Court of Szeged at second instance - were scheduled among topics of the press conference we learnt: the case documents have not been handed over to the court yet. To the question if they have inspected their own competence seriously the president answered: the president of the National Office for the Judiciary assigned the cases to the court of Szolnok and Kecskemét taking the related laws in force into consideration. Although the assignment of the cases was attacked in all the possible legal forums, the decision proved to be lawful. In case it was legal to proceed the trials by the assigned courts – Kecskemét and Szolnok – by law the Regional Court of Szeged is to proceed at second instance.
We also put the question if it does not mean a preclusive circumstance that Mária Súlyomváriné Csendes – responsible judge in the cases at the Regional Court of Szeged – was ordered to the Criminal Division at the Court of Szolnok –meaning that in a given period she was in service both at the court of Szolnok at first instance and at the court of Szeged at second instance. The Curia made the decision that she can judge under such circumstances – Attila Harangozó explained. After this, it is pointless to put the question again if the Regional Court of Szeged is legally entitled to make decision in the cases at second instance. It is a question already decided –it is not their right but their duty to proceed the trial at second instance.
We mentioned that after the Constitutional Court retroactively invalidated the regulation on the right of the president of the National Office for Judiciary to assign legal cases, the Hagyó-case was reassigned to the Court of Kecskemét with ad hoc decision – and in such a case the lawsuit at second instance should not been proceeded by the regionally authorized court – Regional Court of Szeged - by any means. Attila Harangozó: according to the current legislation in the trial room the judge always has to consider whether he or she is competent in the given case. A request for exclusion from the given case is possible if the judge can find a law to which he or she can refer to. However, the Curia has already decided in this question, and there is no law based on which the judge could reconsider his or her competence.
We also mentioned that the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in January 12, 2016 condemned Hungary in the case of Miracle Europe Ltd contra the State of Hungary in a similar situation, since the requestor’s right to lawful judge was denied. In case the assigned court cannot be considered as independent and impartial the procedure is unfair. The court in Strasbourg established that since the Constitutional Court abolished the right for court assignment, the related regulation has no concrete legal consequence, for this very reason it cannot provide a legal basis to proceed the case at a court outside of the region. Attila Harangozó reacted: The European Council and its organization, the European Court of Human Rights are like a “gentlemen’s club” – they can express negative opinion, they can impose financial punishment of thousands of euros on the State of Hungary, however they cannot override the Hungarian legal system as they did with the European Court in Luxembourg.
We also asked for explanation behind the fact that the way of politically sensitive cases always leads to the Regional Court of Szeged although it is not the only regional court outside of the capital. Attila Harangozó said: the above suggestion gives him one more reason to believe that it is not a legal question but of other nature. Hiding behind judges preferring to remain anonymous and legal experts the judges of Szeged are supposed to be dependent and partial. However, according to the unsaid charges they are so only in political cases since no suspicion has been ever raised against them in relation to other lawsuits. In the light of the court decision at first instance and before beginning the proceedings at second instance to conceal behind procedural arguments and suggest the above is like saying “I knew it in advance that he would lie next day”.