Fidesz–Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) National Assembly representatives adopted a law in December 2011 establishing the National Judicial Office (Országos Bírósági Hivatal) in order to “conduct the primary tasks related to the administration of courts” in Hungary beginning on January 1, 2012 (see text of law and National Assembly voting results in Hungarian).
The law provides the president of the National Judicial Office with the authority to manage the budgets of courts in Hungary as well as to nominate judges to serve on courts in the country subject to approval from the president of the republic. The law also furnishes the president of the National Judicial Office with the right to transfer judges from one court to another (source A and B in Hungarian).
The National Assembly elects the president of the National Judicial Office by a two-thirds majority of representatives to a nine-year term.
In December 2011, the National Assembly elected Tünde Handó to serve as president of the National Judicial Office (source in Hungarian). Handó has been married to Fidesz Member of the European Parliament József Szájer since 1983. Szájer is one of the 37 founding members of Fidesz and was chairman of the committee that drafted the Fundamental Law that came into effect as Hungary’s new constitution on January 1, 2012.
Council of Europe Criticism
In the spring of 2012, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe (see note below) issued a report in which it charged the president of the National Judicial Office had been invested with excessive authority. According to the report (source in English):
The excessive concentration of powers in the hands of the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO), who acts as a single person, is not subject to sufficient checks and balances. The President’s supervisory organ, the National Judicial Council has only weak controlling powers and there is no judicial control of the decisions of the President of the NJO. In no other member state of the Council of Europe such important powers, including the power to select judges and senior office holders, are vested in a single person.
Note: The Council of Europe is a Strasbourg-based international organization composed of all the states in Europe with the exception of Belarus and including Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe operates independently of the European Union, though the two organizations share the same flag. Unlike the European Union, the Council of Europe does not have the right to pass binding laws.
Last updated: May 31, 2016.