The law governing judicial selection, appointment and removal of judges has been in effect for almost 15 years, without any change. The system of Ethiopian judicial administration was being governed by three important instruments. These are;
1) Federal Courts Proclamation No. 25/1996
2) Federal Judicial Administration Commission Establishment proclamation No. 24/1996 and
3) A Proclamation to Amend the Federal Courts No. 321/2003.
Basically proc. No. 25/96 is a law establishing the jurisdiction of federal courts. But, it also contained some provisions about the criteria for judgeship, removal and disciplinary measures against judges. Proc. No. 24/96 is about the institutional structure of judicial administration. Proc. No. 321/2003 is an amendment to the jurisdiction of courts. However, it also contains few articles relevant for judicial administration.
Now after 15 years, the House of People’s representatives has made some changes to judicial administration. The new law amends mainly proc. No. 24 and 25 of 1996. We will have a brief look at the contents of this new law and try to identify the significant changes brought about by this act.
Selection and removal of judges
According to the new amendment, any one interested to be judge may submit his application to the Federal judicial administration council. Key changes in this regard, are that the position of judgeship is now open to any individual who fulfills the legal requirements. Judicial selection therefore will be totally conducted based on a competition, thus avoiding the possibility of favoritism on personal grounds and political affiliation.
The criteria to be a federal judge is almost similar with the previous law save some additional requirements. According to Article 11 of the new law, any Ethiopian who fulfills the following criteria may be appointed as a federal judge:
A federal judge whose tenure is terminated is not allowed to appear before any bench in a federal court in which he served as a judge representing litigants for a period of two years starting from the last date of termination of office.
Structure and Organization of the judicial Council
The Federal judicial council is established as an entity having its own legal personality. The Council has its own secretariat, head of secretariat, budget and the necessary staff. The head of the secretariat serve as the Council’s secretary.
The Council shall have the following members:
a) The President of the Federal Supreme Court-----Chairperson
b) The Vice President of the Federal Supreme Court---- member
c) Three members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives---- member
d) The Minister of the Federal Ministry of Justice --- member
e) The President of the Federal High Court ----- member
f) The President of the Federal First Instance Court ---- member
g) A judge selected by all the Federal Judges ----- member
h) A lawyer appointed by the Council from those practicing in the Federal Court--- member
i) Law academic appointed by the Council from a recognized higher educational institution--- member
j) A distinguished citizen appointed by the Council ---- member
Powers and Duties of the Council
As indicated above one of the key duties and responsibilities of the judicial council is related to the selection and recruitment of federal judges. In this regard it orders a notice to be issued and decide how and where such notice shall be publicized. After receiving application the council will nominate candidates who qualify for judgeship from among persons who applied for judicial positions.
Some of the important powers of the council include;