The procedure for appointing 100 new members to the Court of Cassation and 16 to the Council of State under Decree with the Force of Law number 696 has been postponed until after the 24 June elections. Even though a period of six months at the latest had been envisaged for the appointments in the Decree with the Force of Law issued on 24 December, it has been learnt that the 24 June election results lie behind the postponing of the appointments. It would appear that the opinion reached in the Ministry of Justice has also been influential on the decision. The plan is said to be for the appointments to be made in September at the start of the new judicial year. The word in the lobbies is that the outcome of the 24 June elections lies behind the government’s decision to postpone the appointments until after the election, because it is said that the nationalist wing in the judiciary wants at least forty per cent of the membership appointments made to the senior judiciary. The government front, for its part, is said not to wish to give such a large number of memberships to the nationalist group. The result of the 24 June elections will settle the horse-trading over membership. If, after the election, the AKP has the majority in parliament, it is felt that the importance of the “People’s Alliance” in the judiciary will lessen and no need will remain for an alliance with the nationalists in the judiciary. It is noted that, in this case, the nationalists will have a weaker hand in the dealings and will ask for fewer memberships. In the reverse situation, the nationalist front’s hand will strengthen.
In the senior judicial lobbies there are said to be those who are opposed to the new appointments to the Court of Cassation and Council of State. It is noted that the Court of Cassation in particular does not have a caseload problem and, consequently, the newly appointed members will create a surplus. Interpretations are also doing the rounds that, “If 100 new members are appointed, there will be a surplus of members on the Court of Cassation. To reduce this surplus, the government will before long have to issue a fresh statute. Under such circumstances, the social democrats and nationalists on the Court of Cassation could be purged. This could be the long-term thinking behind the plan to appoint 100 new members to the Court of Cassation.”
If Erdoğan is not elected
In postponing the appointment of members until after the election, one prospect that is worrying the ruling party is the possibility of Erdoğan losing the elections. In this case, the Board of Judges and Prosecutors to be chaired by the Minister of Justice who will be appointed by the new president may appoint members and end the AKP’s control of the judiciary.
It is said that one influential reason for the postponing of the membership appointments to the Court of Cassation is that it has not yet been possible to conclude the FETO and coup trials. There is talk of presiding and non-presiding judges who are hearing many important cases being excluded if membership selection is made just now. It is also claimed that this will negatively affect the trials. Big trials like the Akıncı and General Staff Overarching Trial are still in progress and it is said that the presiding and non-presiding judges hearing these cases wish to be Court of Cassation members. To this end, these trials must be completed as soon as possible.
Reduced to half
With the aim of purging “Gulenist members,” the government had reduced the number of Court of Cassation and Council of State members by half under a statute it issued prior to the 15 July coup. The number of Court of Cassation members was reduced from 516 to 310 and the number of Council of State members from 195 to 116. Cited as the legal grounds for this change was the reduced caseload with appeal courts having come into operation. However, under Decree with the Force of Law number 696 promulgated on 24 December 2017, the government created a body of new members numbering 100 on the Court of Cassation and 16 on the Council of State. A provision whereby the appointment of this body of members would be conducted “no later than six months” as of 24 December was included in the Decree with the Force of Law. This period will end on 24 June.