Government aiming to avoid retroactive payday for judges

The government is involved in a wrangle with the country’s judges and state attorneys after a court ruled that they were due years of back-pay due to a miscalculation of their salary levels. The payout would punch a sizable hole in the state coffers – and the government now wants the Constitutional Court to consider the matter.

The Supreme Court,  photo: Radio Prague
In response to a case taken by a judge, the Supreme Court ruled recently that the Ministry of Labour had made a miscalculation when it set the pay levels of judges and state attorneys. This led to them being unknowingly underpaid for three years.

The Supreme Court ruled that the justices should now get back the difference between their actual pay packets and what they ought to have received. The total payout would come to no less than CZK 3 billion, according to a Finance Ministry official.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: ČTK
The government is keen to avoid forking out. On Tuesday Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka discussed the matter with the ministers of labour and justice and the government’s legal advisers – and said his team’s main aim was to save the country money.

“We will look for an approach that is responsible and cost-saving with regard to the state budget. We therefore need to weigh up all the risks to the budget that currently exist – and to choose the safest approach and also the safest approach financially.”

Mr. Sobotka said he accepted the Supreme Court’s verdict in general. But he said the element of retroactivity contravened an earlier Constitutional Court ruling.

Petr Jirsa,  photo: ČT24
His government now wants the matter to be heard at the Constitutional Court.

There is a catch. The only person who can file such an action is the chairman of a Brno district court, Petr Jirsa, who represented the state in the previous hearing.

The justice minister, Helena Válková, has called on him to take the matter to the country’s highest court. But Justice Jirsa says he is not sure if he will do so.

Photo: Radio Prague
“I will have to decide. Again, I did my best to represent the state in the previous hearing. I thought the decision of the Supreme Court would resolve the situation. I thought the Supreme Court would be respected.”

Meanwhile, the justices – whose average monthly pay is over CZK 70,000 – deny they are being immoral in seeking the money. Tomáš Novosad is the deputy president of the Judges Union.

“Some people talk about ethics. I think they should think about whether it’s moral for the state to pay its employees less than what it should pay them by law. I think it’s a case of ‘first take the beam out of your own eye, then you’ll see clearly to take the mote from your brother’s eye.’”