SJC begins disciplinary proceedings against Bulgarian judge barred from USA
The Judges’ College of Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on February 18 voted to initiate disciplinary prceedings against Specialised Criminal Court judge Andon Mitalov, who was banned ...
The Judges’ College of Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on February 18 voted to initiate disciplinary prceedings against Specialised Criminal Court judge Andon Mitalov, who was banned from entering the United States because of what the State Department alleged to be involvement in significant corruption. The ban was announced by US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on February 5.
The vote at the SJC Judges’ College was 7 in favour and 4 against. The inquiry is expected to take about 2 months.
Bulgaria’s Justice Minister Danail Kirilov on February 7 asked the SJC to dismiss Mitalov on the grounds that he had damaged the prestige of the judiciary.
On February 11. the SJC judges’ college asked Minister Danail Kirilov present proof why Mitalov should be removed from office.
The magistrates decided that a repeated request of Justice Minister provided sufficient grounds for disciplinary review. Within two months, the disciplinary panel may request a hearing of Mitalov himself.
The decision was taken, although neither the State Department, nor the Prosecutor's Office, nor the anti-corruption commission have yet provided the SJC with evidence of Mitalov’s involvement in corruption. (At an extraordinary meeting of the SJC Judges’ College on February 6, it was decided to request additional information from the US State Department regarding the barring of judge Andon Mitalov from entering the US.)
The Supreme Court of Cassation President Lozan Panov voted against initiating the proceedings, arguing that there was no clear evidence of corruption and, more importantly, that the SJC Inspectorate had already checked the progress of the Malinov case, which initiated the disciplinary proceedings and ruled that there were no violations. Panov saw political interference in the case.
Lozan Panov, President of the Supreme Court of Cassation: With this decision, the panel of judges crosses a border that is very delicate for all magistrates. And the border is - the panel of judges has begun to become an institution for judicial control especially in non-contestable judicial acts. It is not about evidence of corruption, but of procedural irregularities that some assume exists. The SJC Inspectorate assumes they do not exist. What is more frightening is that this action of the Minister of Justice accommodates politics in the judiciary, and there is no room for politics in the judiciary, even more so for geopolitics.
Judge Mitalov continues to be at work, despite the ongoing review.