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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2645 2007-10-25 09:22 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #2645/01 2980922
P 250922Z OCT 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 002645 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2017 
     B. TBILISI 1299 
     C. TBILISI 2131 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1.  (U) Summary:  The Chairman of the Supreme Court of 
Georgia, Konstantin Kublashvili, recently updated Ambassador 
on two milestones of judicial reform expected by the end of 
October: enrolling students in the High School of Justice 
(HSOJ) and approval by the Conference of Judges of an Ethics 
Code for Judges.  Kublashvili said that the staff has 
incorporated provisions for rules on ex parte communications 
to be included in the HSOJ curriculum.  He readily admitted 
that more needs to be done to inform the public of actual 
progress on judicial reforms.  He cited statistics to support 
increasing judicial independence: out of 2700 cases heard so 
far this year in first instance courts, private individuals 
or firms prevailed over the government in 2000 of them.  He 
announced that he will be publishing statistics of the number 
of disciplinary cases filed against judges to show how the 
number of malfeasance cases is dropping.  He expressed 
appreciation for ABA/CEELI judicial training, and noted that 
this has led to more efficient and expedient trials. End 
2.  (U)  On October 16, the Ambassador met with the Chairman 
of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Konstantin Kublashvili, to 
discuss opening the High School of Justice (HSOJ), 
implementing the Ex Parte Communication Law, heightening 
public awareness of judicial reforms and progress, training 
for sitting and new judges, and clarifying a GoG grant of 
land for an apartment building to the Judges' Association 
(ref C). 
HSOJ -- It's Time for Class 
3.  (U) Kublashvili told the Ambassador about the ongoing 
competitive selection of judges, some of whom would 
immediately be placed on the bench, and others who would 
attend the HSOJ beginning at the end of October.  He told 
Ambassador that the school would start enrolling up to 20 
students on October 29-31, and that the curriculum was ready 
(refs A and B).  New rules prohibiting ex parte 
communications will be taught under the instructional block 
entitled "Behavior of Judges."  Two tests will be 
administered during the 14-month course, with a final exam 
upon completion.  It is still undecided whether judges who 
graduate will serve on magistrate courts or on city courts. 
Currently, the plan is that judges will attend the HSOJ, sit 
as judges for 2-3 years, and then receive lifetime 
appointments.  Kublashvili said that the Association of 
Judges drafted an Ethics Code for Judges which he shared with 
Ambassador.  Besides the code, another element reinforcing 
ethical behavior is changes to the Law on Discipline, as 
recommended by the Venice Commission.  Kublashvili told the 
Ambassador that the association, the Judges of Georgia (JoG), 
has approved an Ethics Code for Judges which will be 
presented to the larger, 200 member Conference of Judges on 
October 20.  He anticipates that the code will be adopted 
during this session.  When the Ambassador asked how the JoG, 
whose membership is voluntary, could enforce such a code, 
Kublashvili replied that this is not an issue, because all 
but 15 judges belong to it.  Separate discussions after the 
meeting clarified that inappropriate conduct by judges is to 
be reported to the High Council of Judges, whose Disciplinary 
Collegeum would decide on fines or more strict censure. 
Ex Parte Communications--Making an Impact 
4.  (U)  With regards to the impact of the new law 
prohibiting ex parte communications with judges, Kublashvili 
said it has been difficult to get the word out about its 
requirements, despite their importance.  Only half of the 
most recent group of candidates for judge, had heard of the 
law and knew its implications.  However, as evidence of its 
implementation among sitting judges, he stated that according 
to what he has been told by a Tbilisi City Court judge, that 
where that official had had 100 calls from prosecutors and 
family members of the accused, he now receives only 10 calls, 
all of which are from relatives and friends and none from 
prosecutors.  Kublashvili said that prosecutors know all too 
well now what the consequences will be should they attempt to 
communicate with judges outside the courtroom. 
TBILISI 00002645  002 OF 003 
A Taste of Judicial Reform for the Masses 
5.  (U)  Kublashvili recognized that more needs to be done to 
inform the public about judicial reform.  He said he is 
considering organizing a conference in November to which the 
diplomatic community and the press would be invited.  There 
he will share the High Council of Justice's criteria for 
appointment of judges and for choosing which will receive &#x0
00A;training at the HSOJ (ref B). He explained that under the 
law, there are no specific criteria for these choices, so the 
HSOJ established criteria after studying those used in other 
countries.  The Ambassador recommended that Kublashvili also 
consider including information about the law on ex parte 
communications and what it means for the average citizen, as 
well as the meaning of the new Code of Ethics for Judges. 
Both new steps will go a long way to improving public 
perception and building confidence in the judiciary, he said. 
 Kublashvili highlighted plans to allow cameras into 
courtrooms, responding to vociferous complaints by the media 
in July, when a new law banned journalists from bringing 
video equipment into the courtroom.  He said the court is not 
opposed to proceedings being filmed, but rather the 
disruptive element that journalists inject whenever they are 
permitted to do so.  Kublashvili emphasized that while the 
recordings would not be shared with everyone, if a question 
is raised about the actual events during the proceedings, 
documented footage could be provided to quash rumors of 
improprieties.  He said transparency is particularly needed 
in high profile cases, such as that of Irakli Okruashvili, 
and he thinks recordings will prevent conspiracy theories 
from blossoming. 
Why Training Matters 
6.  (U) Kublashvili thanked the Ambassador for training 
provided by ABA/CEELI and said he would welcome opportunities 
to incorporate intellectual property rights (IPR) into its 
curriculum when the time is right.  He recognized that poor 
protection of IPR is not only an impediment for a Free Trade 
Agreement between Georgia and the US, but it would impede 
such agreements with other countries as well.  He believes 
the mock trials conducted by ABA/CEELI trainers to 
familiarize judges and lawyers with the soon-to-be-introduced 
jury trials was particularly helpful.  Kublashvili added that 
"Benchbooks" were particularly helpful to judges in making 
sounder and speedier decisions.  He said that out of 3,000 
administrative cases this year, at all levels, the average 
time for a trial to be completed is 17 months, which is 
better than in most courts in Europe.  Kublashvili stated 
that the court hopes to use plea bargaining more often than 
in the 51 percent of criminal cases in which it currently is 
used.  The Ambassador stressed that plea bargaining can be an 
effective tool, but a defendant's plea must be ratified in 
the presence of a judge, and there should be no perception of 
coercion.  The Ambassador asked for clarification of figures 
that the Chairman had quoted to him during an earlier visit 
with regards to percentage of cases won by private persons or 
firms against the government. Kublashvili said in the first 
six months of this year, there were 2700 cases filed in 
courts of first instance by private citizens or firms against 
government entities.  Two thousand of these cases resulted in 
judgments in favor of the citizen or firm.   The implication 
for Kublashvili is that private entities are getting a fairer 
hearing, as measured by the number of cases they are winning. 
 He added that in tax cases, half were resolved in favor of 
the taxpayer.  With regards to corruption, he said that the 
number of judges receiving disciplinary sanctions is 
substantially less now than previously.  This information 
will soon be published in a brochure for public 
dissemination.  He agreed to provide the figures he quoted to 
the Ambassador, along with a copy of the brochure, by October 
26.  The Ambassador underlined the importance of continuing 
education for judges, and the necessity for judges to 
enthusiastically embrace training in order to maintain their 
professional qualifications. 
Apartments for Judges -- Overcome by Events 
7.  (U) Kublashvili addressed concerns raised by some members 
of the opposition about the transfer of land to the judges' 
association, on which an apartment building is to be built, 
in which judges will be allowed to purchase apartments at a 
reduced cost for their own personal use (ref C). He said that 
it was never planned that the government would give judges 
land directly, but that the judges through their association, 
TBILISI 00002645  003 OF 003 
Temida, were to purchase apartments by taking out loans 
through local banks.  In the end, the judges ran out of time 
to make such banking arrangements, and so the end result was 
that neither land nor apartments were purchased.  Kublashvili 
told Ambassador that such arrangements exist for judges in 
other European countries, and although there was controversy 
over the anticipated purchases, it would not have been 
without precedent.  Ambassador stressed while such a plan 
could technically have been within the legal framework, 
judges are held to a higher standard and that the perception 
was that they were receiving preferential treatment. 
8.  (C)  Although the HSOJ has a curriculum and a plan to 
implement the ex parte communications law, details concerning 
the syllabi, assignment of tasks, and how those affected by 
the ex parte communications law are informed about it are 
still very fuzzy.  While Kublashvili noted that students 
would be registered at the HSOJ by the end of October, he did 
not say that classes would start then.  U.S. regional legal 
experts assess the proposed Code of Ethics for Judges as 
quite good, but the question remains whether the JoG has the 
power to enforce it, especially against non-members.  A new 
wrinkle is the 2-3 year "probationary" period Kublashvili 
discussed before which judges receive lifetime tenure in 
their positions.  While Kublashvili and his staff have indeed 
met a number of milestones on the road to a fair, efficient 
judiciary, more effort needs to be focused on informing the 
public about what has been done.  This could be done through 
television and press conferences, but the message needs to be 
reiterated often, loudly, and for more than one news cycle. 
Post will continue to work with the HSOJ and the Supreme 
Court to encourage them to open the HSOJ in October as 
promised, and will push both organizations to formulate a 
public campaign to share the accomplishment of these 
significant milestones. 


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