Monday, 25 October 2021

Supreme Court Head: Parl. Parties Shouldn't Have Problem With Ustasha Insignia Ban

ZAGREB, 25 Oct 2021 - Supreme Court president Radovan Dobronić told the Homeland Movement on Monday that no parliamentary party should have a problem with condemning symbols associated with the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

"All parties, on the left and on the right, which participate in parliamentary life, must not have any problem with condemning symbols associated with the system that was in place during the NDH. That had nothing to do with Croatia," Dobronić told the press.

Ustasha salute

He was asked to comment on the opposition Homeland Movement's response to his stand that the "For the homeland ready" salute is unacceptable, which the party condemned and asked him who was he to judge "the insignia of fallen HOS knights."

Dobronić said he was the president of the Supreme Court and reiterated that the question of banning the Ustasha salute and insignia was a civilizational and value question, while whether someone could accept that or not was another.

He said the ban on the salute and insignia should not be additionally regulated by law because "everything is clear" and that there was no dilemma as to what the constitution and the decisions of the Constitutional Court stipulate.

Enforcement

As for an upcoming Supreme Court General Convention meeting on enforcement, Dobronić said he would propose that Enforcement Act provisions on the issuance of enforcement decisions based on verified documents should not apply to consumer agreements.

"The Supreme Court can deliver at the General Convention two, three positions proposing another procedure instead of that one and the matter will be solved," he said, reiterating that the current practice is in contravention of EU rights.

Dobronić said his proposal would be that when big systems such as telecoms or utility companies decide to sue citizens for failure to pay their debts, a judge would have to see the original bill and agreement so that they can check the terms of the agreement in the context of consumer law.

Public verdicts

Dobronić went on to say that he would see that all court verdicts be made public.

"So far about 60 to% of verdicts have been available and the explanation why 100% have not been available is that they've had problems with anonymization, which takes time," he said, adding that this is only a technical problem.

As for restoring people's trust in the judiciary, Dobronić said there was no quick fix and that it would occur gradually and be achieved when the public had the justified impression that the same criteria applied to all.

The availability of verdicts and a uniform court practice will certainly contribute to that, he added.

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Saturday, 23 October 2021

New Supreme Court President Says Wants Stronger Rule of Law, Fair System

ZAGREB, 23 Oct 2021 - The newly appointed Supreme Court President Radovan Dobronić has said in an interview with Hina that he wants to advance the justice system "in such a way to create a feeling among citizens and business people that the rule of law is stronger and the system is functioning fairly."

"At the same time, I also want to improve working conditions for judges and other staff in the judiciary," Dobronić said in the interview a few days after he was sworn in as president of the highest court.

His appointment put an end to a months-long disagreement over candidates for that post between the president as the constitutional proposer and the prime minister, who holds the majority in the parliament.

Known to the public as the Commercial Court judge who ruled in favor of holders of loans denominated in the Swiss franc, Dobronić was appointed after receiving support from a broad spectrum of political parties at a time when the judiciary is often mentioned as the weakest link in the Croatian society.

Rulings should be justified, reasonable and fair 

"The image of the judiciary will improve when courts create a well-founded feeling with their rulings that they try evenly and treat all parties equally and when rulings are not only formally legal but also justified, reasonable and fair," Dobronić said, adding that so far that had not been the case to a sufficient degree.

The Supreme Court president, who also chairs the State Election Commission, believes that he will cooperate well with all judges, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor, and other stakeholders in the judiciary.

"The system could be described as a coalition of allies and I will act accordingly," said Dobronić, whose program was not supported by the Supreme Court General Convention,  made up of all Supreme Court judges, while the parliament supported it with 120 votes in favor and 3 against.

Judges with job norm - judicial clerks

"Judges are primarily motivated by their responsibility and not by meeting the job norm because a judge with a job norm is not a judge but some sort of judicial clerk. It seems that this is not entirely understood, that is, there is a fear that without a job norm, judges would not be doing anything," said Dobronić, for whom it transpired during the nomination period that the State Judicial Council had launched disciplinary proceedings against him for not meeting the job norm in 2019.

Depicting judges as poor workers is unacceptable and the truth in most cases is quite the opposite, he said, adding that in the short time that he had held the office he had noticed "a very small number of cases in which judges have concluded main hearings but have not made and forwarded rulings within the legally prescribed deadline."

"Such situations should definitely be avoided. Not only is there no reason for the parties not to be sent the judgment, but such conduct is contrary to the principle of immediacy," he said.

"I will insist that such situations do not recur... they create an impression of irresponsibility, which is not good," he said.

In the current atmosphere of dissatisfaction with the judiciary, he noted, it is being forgotten that a part of judges and court clerks, too, are dissatisfied with the situation in the system.

Computerization or new bureaucracy

Dobronić believes that the quantity and quality of judges' work are affected adversely by three facts - poor spatial conditions, the degree and form of IT support, and the job norm.

He noted that in terms of the physical condition of courts, Croatia has started lagging behind not only old EU members but new, Eastern European ones as well.

It is justified to insist on the computerization of the system to increase its efficiency and transparency, but if the system, instead of working better and faster, becomes slower as more users connect to it, computerization will not facilitate work but rather cause more red tape, he said.

In that context, he called for significantly and promptly improving and simplifying the system, also to make certain types of decisions immediately publicly available.

As for the job norm, Dobronić said that it was not right to deal with the problem of backlogs by continually increasing the norm, "which is unacceptable and contrary to the standard European practice."

He said that he expected support from the executive authority in removing those systemic problems, noting that the state, as the owner of numerous companies, local government units, institutes, and agencies, as well as public municipal companies do not need to engage in numerous litigation cases.

"I expect the executive authorities in that regard to make action plans for next year to withdraw at least 10% of lawsuits... and I expect court presidents to focus more on work organization in a way that will be in line with the type of cases their judges work on," he said.

In that context, he said that he would see to it that the assignment of cases was reduced to the minimum.

Dobronić supported a better model of hiring legal secretaries and pointed to the problem of court reporters and other judicial employees leaving courts because of demanding work and low salaries.

Asked about judicial appointments in line with political criteria, Dobronić said that he could not answer that question because it refers to something he has no experience with.

"It is possible that it has happened, but I do not think the model of appointment itself is so much the problem... the main problem in the way judges are appointed is that... the main criterion is evaluating their work is the number of resolved cases, that is, expediency and other statistical data. That type of evaluation does not exist in most EU countries and it has resulted in the system being fully bureaucratized, with judges thinking more about meeting the job norm than about the quality of their rulings," he said.

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Friday, 15 October 2021

Radovan Dobronić Becomes New Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 15 Oct 2021 - Radovan Dobronić, a Commercial Court judge, was appointed by the Croatian Parliament on Friday as new Supreme Court President.

The legislature voted 120 to 3 to approve his appointment, ending the months-long imbroglio about the selection, nomination and confirmation of the new chief justice.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that Dobronić would be sworn in on Monday.

The Supreme Court President also serves as the head of the State Election Commission (DIP).

Dobronić, who was nominated by President Zoran Milanović, was given a positive assessment by the parliamentary Judiciary Committee. Judge Marin Mrčela, too, was assessed positively, however, Dobronić received the Committee's unanimous support while seven committee members voted in favour of Mrčela, one voted against, and three abstained.

Dobronić graduated from the Law School of the University of Zagreb. After his graduation, he got a job with Zagrebačka Banka and later worked at the state stockpiles agency. Since 1996 he has been a judge of Zagreb Commercial Court. He is known for ruling against banks in the Swiss franc case.

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Wednesday, 6 October 2021

President Zoran Milanović Supports Ruling Majority's Decision on Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 6 Oct, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday he supported the announcement that the parliamentary majority will select Radovan Dobronić, his candidate, for Supreme Court president, adding that they could have done this last spring.

Speaking to the press, he said they could have done that "last spring at least" instead of "haggling" over it for seven months as it was clear that he would not recommend any current Supreme Court member for that position.

Appointment of new ambassadors "dramatically late"

He denied that it had anything to do with agreeing on new ambassadors, saying their appointment, "which is important, is dramatically late. I don't know why. We started talking and then it stopped at the will of the (foreign) minister. I hope he will get in touch now."

The president said he had not noticed that it was a question of bargaining and wondered "what's the point of this splitting of hairs" since they must reach an agreement eventually.

Initial conflict of interest law imposed from Brussels

Asked to comment on Reformists leader Radimir Čačić's statement that a new conflict of interest law would give the Conflict of Interest Commission deep access to Tax Administration data, Milanović said the initial law from 2011, adopted as part of the negotiations on EU accession, was completely imposed from Brussels.

He said Brussels "experimented" on Croatia, which had to adopt a model that was "not good."

"It's used for political manipulation," he said, adding that some of the Commission's past members "were brought to that Commission as so-called experts and became politicians from the bushes. Undercover politicians one minute, and later politicians. That's unfair."

He said the system in which MPs were overseeing conflict of interest through peer control was not perfect but was more correct.

Nobody has the right to check people's accounts, only courts

The president said nobody had the right to check people's accounts unless it was done under the Criminal Procedure Act. "No commission, nobody. No commissaries, police officers, solely the courts.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Judiciary Committee: Unanimous Support to Dobronić, Mrčela Get Seven Votes

ZAGREB, 6 Oct, 2021 - The parliamentary Judiciary Committee on Wednesday gave a positive opinion on judges Radovan Dobronić and Marin Mrčela as candidates for Supreme Court president while Dobronić, whom the President already announced as his recommendation to the Sabor, received unanimous support from the committee.

The committee that interviewed candidates at the start of September unanimously supported Judge Dobronić with 11 votes while Mrčela received seven votes in favour, one against (Nikola Grmoja) and three abstentions.

The Judiciary Committee will forward its opinion to President Zoran Milanović, who then recommends his candidate to the Sabor. The President has previously said that his candidate will be Zagreb Commercial Court Judge Dobronić, known in public as the judge who presided in the case against banks over Swiss francs.

This means the end of the crisis in appointing the highest position in the judiciary.

The selection of a new president for the Supreme Court has gone through three public calls, with five candidates applying in the last one - Judge Dobronić, Supreme Court acting president Marin Mrčela, Judge Lana Peto Kujundžić, and attorneys Šime Savić and Barbara Gundić. 

The president of the Supreme Court is appointed and relieved by the Sabor following a previous opinions by the court's general assembly and the parliamentary Judiciary Committee, at the recommendation of the President. The court president is appointed for a term of four years and can be reappointed for only one more four-year term.

Judge Mrčela was given 29 votes from judges on the Supreme Court general assembly in early September, while Judge Dobronić was given four votes.

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Tuesday, 5 October 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Ruling Coalition Supports Dobronić, Mrčela For Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 5 Oct, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday the ruling coalition would back the candidacies of Radovan Dobronić and Marin Mrčela at tomorrow's meeting of the parliamentary judiciary committee on the selection of the president of the Supreme Court.

Speaking to the press after a meeting of the parliamentary majority, the prime minister said Dobronić presented a good programme and that Supreme Court judge Mrčela's programme was good too, so both deserved a positive assessment.

Dobronić meets the terms of the public call for applications, he delivered an important decision in the case of loans pegged to the Swiss franc, and submitted his candidacy as stipulated by law.

He is a man of integrity who is not inclined to corruption, so it is unlikely that someone better might apply in the future, Plenković said.

In this way, the parliamentary majority wants to bring to an end the saga of the selection of the Supreme Court president, and it is good for the Croatian judiciary for this process to be finished.

The parliamentary committee will vote on the five candidates, the president of the republic will be informed of the outcome and recommend one candidate to parliament. If President Zoran Milanović recommends Dobronić, the parliamentary majority will vote for him, Plenković said.

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Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Franak Association Supports Judge Dobronić's Election as Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 7 Sept, 2021 - The Franak association on Tuesday called on its members to send emails to members of parliament ahead of a parliamentary vote on President Zoran Milanović's candidate for Supreme Court president, Radovan Dobronić, expressing support for his election.

Franak brings together former holders of loans pegged to the Swiss franc whose loans were converted to euro-denominated loans.

On 4 July 2013, the Zagreb Commercial Court delivered a ruling in favour of the Consumer Protection Association which had sued eight banks with regard to the Swiss franc foreign currency clause and their unilateral decision to increase interest rates.

The judgement was handed down by Judge Dobronić, who said at the time that the banks had violated consumers' rights by failing to fully inform them about all the parameters necessary to decide on taking loans.

The ruling on the legal nullity of the currency clause in contracts on loans pegged to the Swiss franc was later upheld by the High Commercial Court.

Eight years ago, Judge Dobronić gave hope to all holders of CHF-indexed loans, the Franak association said today.

"We believe that we do not have to explain in great detail the reasons why we are confident that Judge Dobronić is the only candidate who can launch the necessary changes in the judiciary. We believe that by expressing our support for him we can send a message to members of parliament and let them know who is the citizens' choice," Franak said.

In a draft message of support for Judge Dobronić, which can be sent by citizens to members of the parliamentary Judiciary Committee, which is to interview candidates for Supreme Court president, and their party groups, Franak says: "By supporting Judge Dobronić for Supreme Court President you will restore citizens' hope and faith in judicial autonomy and a just Croatia."

The Judiciary Committee is to interview the candidates on 9 September.

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