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Only 4 Judges Discuss Business Disputes at Civil Court

On August 1 a special direction was established  at the Board of Civil Affairs of Tbilisi City Court for discussing commercial disputes.

The board will probe into investment and commercial disputes of more than 500 000 GEL. According to the Tbilisi City Court chairman, four magistrates will discuss disputes in this category: Tamar Burjanadze, Levan Mikaberidze, Lasha Kochiashvili and Soso Ghurtskaia.

Giorgi Mikautadze, secretary of the High Council of Justice, noted that the special direction for discussing commercial disputes will foster an improvement of business environment, investment inflows and economic situation in the country.

According to information of High Council of Justice, the Council has taken into account the discontent expressed by businessmen about shortcomings related to similar disputes. Magistrates with specific specialization in commercial disputes will will accelerate and improve quality of proceedings on investment and commercial disputes  and this will foster an improvement of investment climate in Georgia, enlarge an inflow of foreign investments and accelerate economic growth pace.

The Caucasus Business Week (CBW) has inquired how efficiently  the mentioned directions in Civil Board will function and whether this board is able to  resolve multiyear trials, especially those named by business circles.

A part of lawyers and businessmen show skepticism towards this special direction for discussing commercial disputes at Civil Board of Tbilisi City Court.

Lawyer Imeda Dvalidze says that this decision is useless if one magistrate has to discuss thousands of cases and it takes 2 years to appoint a trial. Over the past years, the civil court used to apply both formal and informal practices for distributing dispute cases to this or that magistrate. As a result, this practice has neither reduced the number of cases nor accelerated the discussion process. Sometimes even the substantiation quality is unsatisfactory, he pointed out.

«If the board gets free of other cases, makes focus on these specific cases and if the burden of cases  shrinks, we welcome this process, but,  in general, I am very pessimistic towards these processes in the court and I do not hope any cardinal changes may take place in the court system», Imeda Dvalidze said.

The judiciary system lacks for a due quantity of professionals and one magistrate has to supervise thousands of cases, he said: «It is inadmissible that a magistrate discuss family disputes and commercial disputes simultaneously. It would be better that one category of affairs be discussed by one magistrate. What is the objective of innovations if one magistrate has to discuss thousands of cases and if we have to wait two years for appointing a trial? Or why do the name and surname of magistrates matter? The country lacks for a due number of magistrates. Over the past years, the Authorities cannot select magistrates. There were a plenty of vacancies in the court system and how this moment can be improved? We cannot wait for future lawyers when they will finish schools».

As to the fact that four magistrates have been selected for discussing the mentioned disputes, Imeda Dvalidze noted that it is difficult to say in advance whether four magistrates can cope with the accumulated quantity of cases.

«It would be wonderful if these magistrates had certain  practices in the field of specific disputes, had assistants. Moreover, schedules are of crucial importance for similar disputes. I do not know whether four magistrates is an optimal number, but I welcome this first effort anyway. However, it is difficult to say whether four magistrates will cope with such a number of cases», Dvalidze said.

Lawyer Koba Bochorishvili says that narrower specialization cannot reduce the number of disputes.

«I share the position that the specific specialization will alleviate proceedings, but we have a different situation. If we examine information on website of High  council of Justice, you will face an unusual situation. First of all, there is no research conclusion why this type of a board became necessary, while there are a number of other categories, where cases are retarded. This factor poses a major part of our society in unequal condition. The statement only shows tendency that the mentioned narrow specialization has been arranged by request of business sector. Creating this board has proved that we have huge problems in the judiciary system. We do not trust magistrates. There are a lot of dispute cases and magistrates cannot discuss all of them. Therefore, we should think of alternative mechanisms and fundamental reforms rather than taking this type of decisions. We should consider this issue from the standpoint of system changes and we should not try to resolve the problem in 5 minutes. We should not expect that the number of disputes will decline by creating the mentioned narrow specialization, however, we should expect general results anyway», Bochorishvili said.

As to magistrates, it is unclear for Bochorishvili why the selected magistrates  need trainings.

«If we have to train these magistrates, then why High Council of Justice says that these magistrates will discuss cases faster and in more qualified way. Why do they need trainings? Let’s choose qualified magistrates directly. I have no objection against these specific four magistrates. I just cannot take this statement. If the existing staff  needs trainings, then we should not talk about reforms. The problems may  be resolved only by qualified staff. There should be alternative ways of resolution of disputes», Bochorishvili said.

The special civil board should not discuss disputes only above 500 000 GEL: «Why only Tbilisi and not other cities? I think this is the most unequal moment. Why should not  this service be available for Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti? Moreover, other disputes should be also discussed in the same process», Bochorishvili said.

Fady Asly, head of the Georgian national committee of International Chamber of Commerce, shows also pessimistic attitude towards creating the special direction for discussing commercial disputes at the Civil Court. The system will remain non-transparent again, the businessman said.

“As a result of creating a special direction for commercial disputes at Civil Court, discussion of commercial disputes will be accelerated, but transparency will not increase, corruption will be maintained in the court system, because government officials or nongovernmental bodies will still make calls to magistrates and use personal contacts for disputes resolution. They will not invite magistrates from Switzerland and the same magistrates will discuss cases. Thus, a special direction will be organized for commercial disputes at the court, but the problem will not be resolved. I have very pessimistic expectations”, Fady Asly said.

At the same time, Fady Asly warns Georgian Authorities again: “If the Government does not take steps for improving the situation and promoting business sector activities, we will notify all international investors to abstain from making investments in Georgia”, Fady Asly said.

As to 4 magistrates, Giorgi Mikautadze, secretary of High Council of Justice explains that if the number of cases grows, the Tbilisi City Court chairman is authorized to assign 5-6 magistrates to the direction of commercial disputes.

After Civil Court, it is not ruled out to create similar special direction at the Court of Appeals, he said.

«If the number of cases grows, Tbilisi city court chairman is authorized to attach 5-6 magistrates to this board. In general, four magistrates are sufficient, because today we have about 220 commercial disputes left. Each magistrate will have to probe into 55 cases, while today each one has to discuss 300-400 cases. Therefore, it is easier to manage 55 cases», Mikautadze said.

The process of assigning cases to magistrates has started and they will be trained in the future, he said.