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How Lawyer and Constitutional Court Judge Rok Čeferin Blocked a Lawyer Candidate Twice – and Added Another Black Spot to the Court’s Reputation

According to Požareport, the Constitutional Court Judge Rok Čeferin, in his role of a rapporteur, proposed to the members of the Senate Špelca Mežnar and Matej Accetto, to dismiss the appeal of Peter Kodrič, who appealed to the Constitutional Court because the Supervisory Board of the Bar Association of Slovenia rejected his application to become a lawyer in 2014 – back then, Rok Čeferin was still a member of the Supervisory Board. Namely, Čeferin supposedly believed that Kodrič is not suitable to be a lawyer due to the non-payment of customs duties – as we found out, this was actually a case of personal bankruptcy. In this case, the judge of the Administrative Court ruled that personal bankruptcy should not be an obstacle in the candidacy of a lawyer, after which she returned the case to the Board of the Bar Association of Slovenia. The candidate then filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court. As we found out, the decision to reject the appeal because the case was supposedly unfounded was signed by all three aforementioned Constitutional Court judges last November. The case was then sent to the European Court of Human Rights because in 2014, Čeferin, who was a member of the Supervisory Board of the Bar Association at the time, was involved in making the decision that Kodrič is not suitable to be a lawyer. Kodrič appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that a Constitutional Court judge should not have judged on his own past conduct and that the trial had been unfair and biased.

New information has been revealed, which casts a bad light on the reputation of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia. According to Požareport, the Constitutional Court Judge Rok Čeferin ruled in a case concerning his own decision from a few years ago. And he even did it in the role of a rapporteur, but now all three judges involved in the case – Čeferin, Matej Accetto and Špelca Mežnar – supposedly tried to use laziness as their excuse, saying that they did not even read the file. The rumour has been circulating for quite some time that the Constitutional Court judge Čeferin decided in the case of an appeal against his own decision at a lower level, which is an unacceptable violation of the rules of a fair trial. The rumour has now turned out to be true, according to Požar. “This is a new, unprecedented scandal of the Constitutional Court, the worst after the infamous Accetto case, who is still a Constitutional Court Judge for the time being.”

In the article, Požar also published evidence that the appeal against the constitutional judge Čeferin in the case in question has already been presented to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). “Čeferin was even the rapporteur in this case, so the one who read the file carefully and then suggested to the other members of the senate, namely, the Constitutional Court Judge Špelca Mežnar and Constitutional Court Judge Matej Accetto, that the appeal be rejected,” Požar explained. After reviewing the decision of the Constitutional Court, we found that the decision to reject the appeal because it was deemed to be unsubstantiated, was signed by all three judges.

He rejected an attorney trainee who had declared personal bankruptcy
In 2014, Peter Kodrič, a lawyer, unknown to the general Slovenian public, wanted to become an attorney trainee, and Čeferin was one of the nine members of the Board of the Bar Association of Slovenia, which voted to reject him (on the 11th of November 2014), as Kodrič was deemed “morally unworthy” of practising law, as he had violated the customs regulations 17 years earlier and had never paid the customs debt. As we found out, this case was supposedly also related to Kodrič’s personal bankruptcy, and according to the decision of the Administrative Court, this should not have prevented Kodrič from becoming a lawyer.

Kodrič then allegedly turned to the Administrative, Supreme, and later also to the Constitutional Court, where the appeal once again fell into the hands of Čeferin. Based on the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights, Kodrič stated that Čeferin and his fellow lawyers should not have rejected his application for the position of lawyer candidate due to a 17-year-old misdemeanour, which is, as we have already mentioned, personal bankruptcy. “On the 15th of November 2019, Čeferin, Accetto and Mežnar rejected Kodrič’s appeal, and Kodrič decided to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where the ECHR is supposedly conducting a case of “Kodrič v. Slovenia” under the case number 16472/20,” Požar explained.

In the past, rumours were going around, claiming that Čeferin supposedly judged in his own case. The response of the Secretary-General of the Constitutional Court, Sebastian Nerad, when we tried to verify the rumour online, was that the information about Judge Čeferin judging in his own case was not true. “The information, which is making rounds in public, that Rok Čeferin supposedly judged in his own case, meaning in a case in which he acted as a party or as a proxy in the proceedings, or in a case in which one of the parties would have been represented by his former employer, so the law firm in which he was employed before becoming the Constitutional Court Judge, is not true. There was also no special meeting held at the Constitutional Court yesterday. There was only the regular session of the Economic Commission,” the Constitutional Court wrote.

When asked whether they made a mistake in this case, the Constitutional Court did not respond. According to the editor-in-chief of Siol, they seem to have admitted the mistake and supposedly even corrected the decision which was issued to Kodrič last year. “The correction will be published when it is served to Kodrič,” Jančič wrote.

Požar believes that Čeferin should be punished, which the law also confirms
Article 288 of the Criminal Code stipulates a three-year prison sentence for a judge who “knowingly violates the law or distorts the law in order to harm a party in the proceedings or give it an unfair advantage.” As Požar pointed out, it seems that Čeferin, Accetto and Mežnar did not read the file at all, and apparently, the staff of the Constitutional Court also did not read it. Meanwhile, Čeferin is even said to be running for the post of President of the Constitutional Court.

It has been confirmed that Čeferin “mistakenly” participated in the correspondence decision on the case where he should have been excluded
The Constitutional Court explained to us that Čeferin recently informed the judges that some time ago, he had mistakenly participated in a correspondence decision in a case in which he should have been excluded for other reasons. “With such a huge number of affairs, which has been increasing in recent years, mistakes are bound to happen and will probably continue to happen,” they tried to defend Čeferin. The judge proposed that the error be corrected by deciding on the case again, this time, without his participation, but the Constitutional Court has not ruled on his proposal yet. A correction of an error like this is supposedly nothing new, as the Constitutional Court has corrected similar errors in the past, but it may raise doubts as to whether the functioning of the Constitutional Court is correct, and the judges can simply continue making errors like this.

Sara Rančigaj

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