“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, Luke, 23:34
Each judgment is rendered In the Name of the People. Few suspect that the explanation of this verbal heraldry has its historic grounds in the depths of the social architectonics, in the sources of the contemporary civil justice, and they are in Rome. The place of the people in the judicial acts Cicero deducts from the irreplaceable so far definition of people and it is: an aggregate of human beings, united by an agreement with regard to law, and law is the thing that derives from the source of justice. Hence for the legitimacy of each judicial decision it is necessary for it to be In the Name of the People. Centuries later Thomas Jefferson will state: “A government cannot be democratic if the administration of justice is independent of the nation”.
The unity and agreement are the chrism and Annunciation of each successful undertaking, the true force of the law. Without agreement, justice is not possible, that is why it may live and is legitimate only if it is on behalf of the people and not on behalf of the court or the judge themselves, because justice is an act of trust: the parties confide to the court what is most valuable to them – their freedom and their rights. These grounds are no longer remembered and recognized by the court and the citizens. A fault of alienation and mistrust exists for years between them.
Intuitively, and as if in order to bring together the inseparable, but separating parts in the act of jurisdiction – the people and the court, when the building of the Regional Court (Civil Department) in Sofia was being finished in 2015, its then President Metodi Lalov, as an expression of solidarity, invited the public to participate with funds in the shaping of the interior of the court. Lawyers, Notaries public, bailiffs, deputies, social figures, non-governmental organizations selflessly responded to the appeal. The donated over 100 thousand leva were used for new Coats of Arms of the Republic of Bulgaria, a bust of professor Stalev, quotes by Roman jurists – the fathers of law, encrusted in the new courtrooms. The initiative of the President Metodi Lalov was natural, necessary, in the common interest and agreement. The names of part of the donors were inscribed in the courtrooms, and those of all of them, invisibly and modestly, as a footnote on the court’s website.
On the 13.12.2017, at 12,50 hours, the Sofia Regional Court (SRC) erased, deleted and swept away from its website the names of those, who three years ago donated funds for the new building of the court in 2015. As important the photograph is left, in the events section, of the new President, who took up his post as a judge in SRC on 17.03.2016, less than a year before standing at the head of SRC! After the erasure of the names of the donors from the website, a part of the Roman maxims were also removed from the building. Someone’s invisible hand erased and trampled underfoot the written reason from the courtrooms. Thus SRC remained only a number and an address, an urban planning unit with a permission to use. The date 13.12.2017 is a black Wednesday in the annals of Bulgarian justice. It is as if from the Courts of Justice (Civil Department of SRC) the symbols of agreement and trust were removed, the building can now shelter anyone and anything. There is no explanation, reasons are missing. The hesitant justification was transmitted in the media – the donations and donors were creating the feeling of dependence, that is to say what was mainly infringed is the requirement of the court to be independent. This statement limited by itself in the narrow-mindedness of one’s own inability to understand the vocation of the judge and the requirements for him/her. Dependence cannot be an eventual one. There is no independence in general (the latter is impossible), but one connected with the requirement for the functioning of the court to be through its being subject only to the law. Independence is a mainstay, which the public, through its trust, provides to the court in order for the latter to stand upright, and not a pose and a mirror of the court itself. People have donated 100 thousand leva, because they were expecting something not due by a court, which can examine cases with an interest up to 25 000 leva – whose reason cannot see the hallucination?
During the last three years, the two buildings of the Sofia Regional Court (Civil and Criminal departments) were inaugurated only by the Prime Minister (in the second case, in 2017, the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation was absent, uninvited, and replaced by the Çhairperson of the National Assembly, and the Minister of Justice!?) During the second inauguration in 2017 there were no judges. The buildings of the Regional Court were defined as “dove-cots” and “a symbol of corruption schemes”, before His intervention made them a court of law. The Minister of Justice even stated: the court has a building by the will of the government, thanks personally to Borisov. And the will of the executive, as we know, may be a whimsical one, today it gives, tomorrow it takes away. Is the feeling of independence in the new leadership indignant at the fact that it is there in the building and is erasing the names of the donors, thanks only to the government? Why is their measure of independence so disrupted in front of the government and so keen towards the donors – those who acted open-heartedly, with hope and concern? Why, after donations are no longer being accepted and recognised, the leadership does not leave indignant the building, donated to it by the government, and on collective “Subbotniks” (Saturdays of volunteer unpaid work) does not order all judges – 159 in number, and over 300 employees, to begin in person the construction of a new, their own, building, something like a first judicial wigwam of the independent judges? The disgrace has a technical (legal) aspect as well. The donation, once accepted, cannot be revoked due to a waiver on behalf of the donee of what the latter has received. That is to say, regardless of the erasure of the names of the donors, the donated Coats of Arms of the Republic of Bulgaria are there, in the courtrooms, behind the backs of the erasers, every session, every day. Only the donor has the right to take away what is donated, because in principle donating is a voluntry act, and every voluntary act, according to Seneca, is worthy and virtuous. The erasure of the names of the donors from the court’s website due to the accusation that they wanted to make the court dependent, is charging with the commission of an attempt to bribe, an attempt to commit a crime, without the bribe-taker being known (the building and the courtrooms apparently cannot be bribed). What was donated is mostly Coats of Arms. In fact, is a bribe and making someone dependent possible through the Coat of Arms of The Republic of Bulgaria? What would happen if our legislation had provided for a possibility for the donation to be revoked in case the donee commits a defamation of the donor (a broad hypothesis Art. 227(b) of the Obligations and Contracts Act). The conceivable development of such a case, claim, rejoinder, decision, ordering a revocation of the donation, its implementation through removal of the Coats of Arms of the Republic of Bulgaria from the courtrooms – a moral Armageddon for the donee court.
One of the reasons for removing maxims by the Roman jurists from the courtrooms is judge M. The said person has recused himself due to him not feeling independent and not being capable to be in session in a courtroom, which is a representative of a law firm that donated funds for quotes by Roman jurists, placed in “his” courtroom. These confessions attest to a physiological inability to administer justice. An obligation of the court is to hear the parties and to deal with the case, i.e. the written materials in the file, and not to watch and get other impressions in “its” courtroom. As Marcus Aurelius admonishes posterity and us as well: “Cattle can see as well, they have impressions and notions, but the mind is a guide towards the obvious obligations”. Or, whatever the mind is, such are his acts, his motives. Actually, who is judge M., the minister of the judges’ independence? A short check-up in the media presents to us the following image: in 2009 in the building of the Regional Court a “restroom” – a Folk club – “Male, male”; in the room for relaxation red women’s lingerie (or a thong) was hung on the TV antenna; in the same year monitors and office supplies, boxes. The person temporarily presiding the court then was the guru of judicial independence, the same judge M. In 2017 judge M. gave up his court dress in favor of the convicted for pedophilia former member of parliament – Vladimir Kuzov, an event recorded, circulated and seen by the citizens. There are no adequate punishments imposed by the Supreme Judicial Council. An unprejudiced person would ask himself/herself – is there an unknown dependence for this, otherwise independent, magistrate?
That is how things are in Bulgaria, and how they are around the world, in order for us to feel the contrast, only through what is possible to discern right from wrong. The most beautiful public building in Israel (an undoubtedly modern country, populated as much as Bulgaria is) is the building of the Supreme Court (according to “the New York Times”, 13th of August, 1995). The funds for the design and the construction came from a donation: “A remarkable act of philanthropy, one of those unusual tales, in which bureaucracy cannot manage to destroy the good intentions; a symbol of the belief that public buildings may be delightful as well: not just containers for bureaucrats.” ( “the New York Times”, 13th of August, 1995). A certificate of donation was solemnly placed in front of the president’s office. The questions regarding an eventual dependence have no influence, because the Supreme Court of Israel follows the path to the truth and the law convincingly, we might say in a way that the Bulgarians dream of. No one raises questions with regard to dependences. Often each unanimous resolution is motivated separately, by each of the three judges in the panel. The justification of the decisions is substantiated not only with a concrete, long and comprehensive polemic with each of the parties’ argument, but also with precedents in the law of Great Britain, USA, Canada, France and Italy. In fact the library of the Supreme Court of Israel is one of the most impressive architectural spatial compositions of the building. The library of our Supreme Court, being simultaneously its attorney room is only a shelf with fewer books than those a mediocre medical student has. The Regional Court in Sofia (the largest in the country) does not even have a library, there is already no way of giving one as a present to it…
The connection between donation and dependence is not always indispensable and necessary. Independence is not a bureaucratic accessory, but a personal quality. The erasure of the names of the donors is nothing more than a situation, in which the erroneous view of court and independence wins a victory over their true meaning. It is long since for many the Regional Court is already just an anonymous institution. Hearings are often not being scheduled, but closed instead, after which they are returned by the higher instance with an instruction to be heard, and are closed once again. For hundreds of parties there is already no Regional Court in Sofia, the waiting for the court decisions spans years, even after there is no longer a dispute. That was the situation as of the year 2015, it is the same now, i.e. the erasure of the names of the donors is a symptom of a wrong direction, which institutionalizes a vicious meaning and function of the judicial activities as a whole, and of the independence in particular. The neat notion of independence cannot sacrifice the legitimacy, agreement and trust. You cannot expel the participants in the proceedings from the court, erase the donors, even if they are lawyers. The latter, on behalf of the parties, seek justice, publicly and openly, and cannot be obliterated from the court’s façade, because along with their clients (the citizens) they are the only reason for the court to deliver its judgments. Therefore the independence is also an obligation to them – the lawyers and the citizens, but never an excuse to deny them the noble and nonanonymous empathy.
P.S. We are taking this opportunity to congratulate the new President of the SRC with his election by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and his entry into office. As it was written on the website of the SJC, he has graduated at the Police Academy in Simeonovo and has been working as a Police inspector up to 2010. The Academy in Simeonovo is a perennial spring of high-level judicial personnel (a President of a Supreme Court, a Constitutional Court judge, hundreds of judges), a University of the Palace Hall of Magnaura for justice, an Oxford, Harvard or ENA for judicial commanders. This is because Roman legal quotes are constantly being cited and adhered to there. That is why the people in SRC do not need such quotes on the walls – they simply know them by heart. There Gaudeamus is being sung, instead of stamping with a boot. How will you know the graduating students from Simeonovo – well by the hairstyle, most of them are pleasant-looking and have forelocks. There is no other European country with judicial commanders from a Police academy. Maybe they deserve it because they are subjected to the beneficial irradiation of the neighbouring American College? Imagine a plot from the Bulgarian reality television program “Police Academy in Court”, a scenario worth at least one Oscar in Hollywood. That is where the Bulgarian progress in the administration of justice in the presence of the European Union comes from – we have something to be proud of in these happy and proud days of Presidency.
Order and PROTOCOL, PRESIDING JUDGE: Nikolay Madjarov