The government cut court salaries by thousands. The judges are already writing a complaint to the Constitutional Court

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Since this year, the rate at which the salaries of constitutional officials, i.e. politicians, but also judges or prosecutors, have been growing has slowed down. Some time ago, the government of Petr Fiala decided on this, which wanted to fight the bad state of public finances. Thus, the continuous increase in salaries has basically stopped, which does not please the judges who are preparing lawsuits.

Petr Fiala’s cabinet some time ago approved a change in the calculation of salaries for constitutional officials, which include judges. Newly, the basic part of the judge’s salary is calculated as the product of the average salary in the national economy for the previous year and a coefficient of 2.82. So far it has been a factor of 3.

This means that judges’ salaries remained basically at the same level as last year. Previously, the so-called base would be about 121 thousand. Now it is approximately 114 thousand crowns. The only ones who actually improved were the prime minister and the presidents of the chambers of the parliament, and that by about a mere hundred crowns.

According to the Ministry of Justice, this means an estimated saving of about 700 million crowns. However, the judges are against it. According to the president of the Union of Judges, Libor Vávra, salaries should not be changed at the will of the current government, but should be firmly linked to the average salary.

The judges are about to file lawsuits with the Constitutional Court. Vávra estimates that there could be dozens of them. In addition, lawsuits are already arising. “We, or rather our colleagues, are now finalizing the model lawsuit. We really called for those lawsuits to be filed, for example, two years ago we called for them not to be filed because of covid,” Vávra told Echo24.

“Our expert group is developing such a sample argumentation for filing lawsuits, which we will then provide to our colleagues. (…) I think it will probably be in March,” he added, noting when the lawsuits could start. It is not the first time that judges have fought back against interference in their salaries. In the past, they have repeatedly succeeded in the Constitutional Court.

However, Deputy Minister of Justice Antonín Stanislav (ODS) told Czech Radio that the salary calculation adjustment is in accordance with the Constitution. According to him, the changes were objectively justified and discussed with representatives of the judiciary. “It is not a reduction, it is only a suspension of growth. We had to approach this responsibly in order to slow down growth in a constitutionally comfortable manner,” he said.

“If it was just our opinion, we would of course like to add to the judges,” he added, adding that it was primarily a cost-saving measure.

Generous and reasonable salaries

MPs received 96,300 crowns per month in January 2022, and 90,800 crowns in February after a reduction. From 2023, however, 102,400 crowns. At the same time, the minister first earned 183,700 crowns, then temporarily 173,200 crowns, and last year 195,300 crowns. In comparison, rank-and-file judges of high courts already receive 179,800 crowns in January 2022, after a reduction 169,500 crowns, and then 191,100 crowns in 2023 as members of the government. At higher positions, judges’ salaries climb over 200,000 and 300,000 crowns.

In the past, the Constitutional Court has repeatedly formulated the opinion that material security is one of the guarantees of judicial independence. The government cannot deal with judges’ salaries completely freely and according to current budgetary needs. On the other hand, the court recognized some interventions in salaries as possible and justified, for example after devastating floods.

But Vávra has previously denied that judges have any advantages. “That was a free decision of the politicians, who freely reduced their salaries compared to the rest of the constitutional officials. I understand that they made the gesture some time ago, but the situation did not arise in such a way that we would have any extras,” he added.

In the past months and years, the Minister of Justice Pavel Blažek has repeatedly discussed salaries. “The aim of the proposal to change the calculation coefficient for determining the salary base of judges is to comply with the findings of the Constitutional Court. The mentioned procedure corresponds to the previous jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court in the matter of judges’ salaries, which has already dealt with the topic of reducing or freezing them on the merits many times,” he declared earlier.

The article is in Czech

Tags: government cut court salaries thousands judges writing complaint Constitutional Court

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