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Greece: Early Retirement and Removal of Judges from the Judiciary

(Feb. 2, 2008) Under the Greek Constitution, judges are appointed for life, with a mandatory retirement age of 65 for all judges up to the rank of Court of Appeals Judge or Court of Appeals Deputy Prosecutor. For those of a higher rank, retirement is mandatory at 67.

A new law on the early voluntary retirement of judges is currently being discussed in the Greek Parliament. The draft law also establishes a special procedure for removal from the judiciary of those judges deemed unfit. Two reasons prompted the introduction of this legislation: a) the long lapse of time – 25 years – since a similar law was enacted and implemented; and b) a relatively high occurrence of incidents of corruption among judges. The draft law allows 100 judges to leave the bench at this time. Of these, 70 may come from the civil and criminal courts, up to 25 from administrative courts, up to 3 from the Conseil d'Etat, and up to 2 from the Comptroller's Court.

Pursuant to the draft law's provisions, Greek judges who serve the civil, criminal, and administrative justice system have the option to retire early, provided that they have served for at least 13 years and are deemed either:

  1. incapable of fulfilling their duties; or
  2. unfit to continue serving on the bench due to health or other personal reasons

In addition, the draft provides some incentives for early retirement, such as promotion to a higher grade and the possibility of appointment to government administrative positions, provided the applicant fulfills certain criteria. A judge who wishes to retire early must apply to the Minister of Justice within two months of the publication of this law. Within 20 days, following the lapse of the deadline, the Minister of Justice will forward the applications to the Supreme Judiciary Council. The Council decides on the applications.

The draft law includes a clear procedure for removing judges who have not performed satisfactorily for some period. It assigns the inspectors of civil, criminal, and administrative courts to review the personnel files of such judges and to collect information based on the files and on any charges or negative reports against the judges. The inspectors prepare a report, which must confirm that "for a long time a judge obviously has diminished productivity, in quantity and quality," or has exhibited inappropriate "professional and social behavior and demeanor." The Minister of Justice the Presiding Judge of the Supreme Court, and the Presiding Judge of the Conseil d'Etat have the right to set in motion the procedure for permanent removal of a judge "who is deemed incapable or unable to exercise his duties or because of professional incompetence."

The Conseil d' Etat, the highest administrative court, in a 2002 decision, defined the term "professional incompetence" as follows:

  • the inability of a judge, through no intention of his own, to carry out his duties or adjudicate cases satisfactorily for a long period of time. The inability to adjudicate cases may arise from personal or family misfortunes or may be due to lack of or insufficient professional qualifications or laziness or carelessness in regard to the judicial profession, and such conduct has resulted in a large number of pending cases and consequently the judge is unable to deal with them.

(Draft Law on Departure of Judges from the Judiciary, (last visited Jan. 16, 2007).)