From Iceland — Fastsplaining The Judges Scandal

Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Fastsplaining is a fairly irresponsible way to explain complicated things in an oversimplified terms. So please check out our links in the article if you want to know more.)

So, there are a few facts we need to get out of the way to explain this mess.

First one: Parliament passed a legislation about the Court of Appeals in 2016. Before that, we only had district courts and then the Supreme Court. This was called the biggest judicial reform in decades.

Second: The Minister of Justice, Sigríður Á. Andersen had to find 15 judges to appoint to the court. That happened in June 2017. This is what the whole trouble is about, more or less. So what happened is that Iceland has fairly strict laws about how to pick judges. You have to think about gender, qualifications and stuff like this. The Minister got a list from what we call a competence committee that suggested that there are 15 judges that are qualified for the job.

Sigríður Andersen did not agree with the committee and decided to change the list without solid reason. So here is what she did: she removed four names off the list, and put four other names that she thought was more qualified. One of those persons is the wife of a fellow party member of Sigríður Andersen.

So. The four lawyers that were removed said this was illegal, so they subpoenaed the minister and end up winning in Supreme Court. The Minister of Justice was now convicted of breaking the administrative procedures act.

And now stuff gets crazy.

A lawyer named Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson defended a man because of traffic violations last year. The man was convicted for his offense but Vilhjálmur said that the verdict wasn’t legal because the court wasn’t legal at all because of the Minister’s mistakes.

So Vilhjálmur stated his case for District and Supreme Court, and lost. But he is a persistent one. So he filed his case at the European Court of Human Rights. Their verdict was simple: The court was indeed illegal.

So Sigríður Á. Andersen has resigned and the appeal court has reopened after a four-day break, but none of the four judges will work in the court while the government tries to fix the whole issue.    

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