President Traian Basescu on May 4 told a news conference at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace that he had referred a judicial conflict of constitutional nature between the judiciary, on one hand, and Parliament and the Government, on the other, to the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) for an opinion on whether or not the judiciary overstepped its prerogatives in the instance brought to the court’s attention.
‘Because the document I forwarded to the Constitutional Court will be publicly disclosed immediately, I want to avoid letting those who read or do not read it freely interpret it, and that is why I want to elaborate on my request for a resolution of an alleged conflict between state power. The situation I referred regards the granting of pay bonuses under Law 50 of 1996 to magistrates and similar staff,’ said Basescu.
He added that it is not normal for the judiciary to try to capture a prerogative that has not been accorded to it under the Constitution, namely the management of the Budget.
‘The judiciary has made use of a prerogative that is practically not its, and thus has substituted the Government in the process. I believe that this is a dangerous precedent as far as democracy is concerned. Earmarking Budget appropriations is the prerogative of the legislative and the executive powers. I want everyone to clearly understand that I am a supporter of justice freedom and rightful remuneration of the people working in the judiciary,’ said Base scu.
He added that over the past five years the justice employees have enjoyed constant income increases, and now the society has a right to call on the judiciary to show the fruit of its power.
‘We need credible justice, and that is why I believe the credibility will only be gained when the decisions of the magistrates cannot be doubted as outcomes of some conflicts of interest,’ the President said.
He underscored that under Article 80 (2) of the Constitution, the Romanian President sees to it that the Constitution and the good functioning of the public authorities are observed, while under Article 146, the Constitutional Court is entrusted with solving juridical conflicts of a constitutional nature between public authorities, upon the request of the President, of any of either chairmen of Parliament, the Prime Minister or the chairman of the Supreme Council of Magistrates.
He also reviewed the reasons why he referred the conflict of a constitutional nature between the judiciary, represented by the Supreme Court of Justice and Cassation, on one hand, and the Romanian Government and Romanian Parliament, on the other in a request for resolution to the CCR.
The head of state said that with the reform of the payment system in 2000 for magistrates and other categories, carried out under Government Ordinance 83/2000, all the pay bonuses were included in the base pay to secure salary transparency. Thus, the provisions of Law 50/1996 concerning the pay bonuses for magistrates were expressly repealed, and all the bonuses were included in the pay.
‘Unfortunately, the courts over the past years have constantly issued decisions ruling in favour of magistrates, specialist judicial staff and similar staff, for instance the employees of the Justice Ministry, legal counsels and paralegals who filed petitions under the legislation in force for the remuneration of judiciary staff,’ said Base scu.
He mentioned to the point some bonuses won by the magistrates under such court rulings.
‘Just to give you some examples of the objects of the court trials won by the petitioners: the holiday bonus; the anti-corruption bonus, as if a migrates should be paid a bonus to not be corrupt; seniority bonus; different pay multipliers; specialty bonuses, as if a magistrate should not be a specialist; danger bonus; confidentiality bonuses, as if the law did not ask for confidentiality of the magistrate’s work up to a point; risk and neuro-psychological overstress bonus; luncheon vouchers; loyalty bonus, as if we do not swear loyalty to the institutions we serve; various incentives; post supplements and on duty bonuses. These are just some of the bonuses won by the magistrates, who were both the accusers and the defendants in their cases,’ said Basescu.
The President mentioned that these bonuses were granted under decisions based on the provisions of Law 50/1996, a law that was explicitly abrogated at that time under Government Emergency Ordinance 83/2000.
‘The judiciary went further. The motivation of the Supreme Court of Justice and Cassation, expressed under Decision 28 of 2008, alleges that judges, prosecutors, assistant magistrates and the paralegals are entitled to a risk and neuro-psychological overstress bonus of 50 percent of the base pay even after the coming into force of Ordinance 83/2000, which explicitly abrogated the bonus and introduced it in the base pay,’ said Basescu.
He mentioned that the ordinance was approved by Parliament under Law 334/2000, arguing that the phenomenon of granting pay bonuses has expanded over the past years.
‘Thus, very many salaried public employees working with town halls, ministries, county directorates, general directorates and similar bodies are currently winning court trials that increase their wages and income by the grant of bonuses. The phenomenon has expended and the judiciary, by the issuing of court rulings sometimes grounded in abrogated laws, is acting as a legislative authority, which affects a main principle of the state of law, namely the principle of separated legislative, executive and judicial powers that are balanced within a constitutional democracy,’ said Basescu.
He argued that this way, the Budget is practically drawn up by the courts, instead of by the Government and Parliament, and the judiciary is thus overstepping its prerogatives.
‘This phenomenon must stop and normalcy must resume,’ the President said.