Romania: ECJ Rules on the Independence and Impartiality of Bodies in Disciplinary Proceedings against Judges
19 July 2023
2018-Max_Planck_Herr_Wahl_1355_black white_Zuschnitt.jpg Thomas Wahl

On 11 May 2023, the ECJ ruled on the compatibility of the Romanian reform of the organisation of the judiciary that rearranged the Judicial Inspectorate and led to a concentration of powers in the hands of the Chief Inspector. The case (C-817/21, Inspecţia Judiciară) was prompted by the Bucharest Court of Appeal which has to decide on challenges against decisions by the Chief Inspector who confirmed not to take action against judges and prosecutors in disciplinary proceedings against them.

Under Romanian law, the Chief Inspector heads the Judicial Inspectorate. His decisions can be reviewed by the Deputy Chief Inspector; however, the Deputy has been appointed by the Chief Inspector, his term of office will end at the same time as that of the latter and his activities are subject to the Chief Inspector's assessment. Disciplinary action intended to punish abuses committed by the Chief Inspector can be initiated only by a member of staff whose career depends, to a large extent, on the decisions of the Chief Inspector. The referring Bucharest Court of Appeal raised the question as to whether this system is sound in terms of sufficient safeguards.

The ECJ stated that a disciplinary regime must avoid any appearance of political control of judicial activity. This was not fulfilled in the present case. The structure of the Judicial Inspectorate, in particular the fundamental dependencies of the employees, including the Deputy Chief Inspector, were such that those affected could refrain from bringing a disciplinary action against the Chief Inspector. In the end, the body in charge of disciplinary proceedings against judges must be independent and impartial, which is not given in the current Romanian system.

News Guide

EU Rule of Law


2018-Max_Planck_Herr_Wahl_1355_black white_Zuschnitt.jpg
Thomas Wahl

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (MPI CSL)

Public Law Department

Senior Researcher