President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson yesterday approved the appointment of 15 judges to a new middle-tier court called Landsréttur, or ‘Land’s Court’, according to Vísir . The president issued a statement explaining the rationale behind his decision to sign the letter of appointment.
The president received the letter of appointment two days before he ultimately signed it. He specifically explained in his statement that he had had to study the matter carefully, in light of the fact that the issue had attracted a lot of attention due to doubts having been raised about the selection procedure.
Minister of Justice Sigríður Á. Andersen had been heavily criticized by the opposition for failing to follow the recommendations of a selection committee charged with assessing the eligibility of nominees in selecting judges to Land’s Court. In 2010, the law was amended in such a way that the justice minister is not allowed to appoint judges other than those recommended by the selection committee, without seeking the approval of Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, according to RÚV.
The president thus first wanted to obtain confirmation of the progress of the case and whether there had been any irregularities in the voting procedure in parliament. The statement from the parliamentary office, which the president received and quoted in his statement, confirmed that the vote was legitimate. The minister had made recommendations on the judges and complied with the law. In addition, the Constitutional and Supervisory Committee also submitted a parliamentary memorandum, which included recommendations on each judge in numbered paragraphs. The president also had talks with the chairmen and leaders of the parties, who stated that MPs had not objected to the voting arrangements, which entailed a single vote on all 15 nominations as a whole, stated the Vísir report.
"In view of all the issues raised here, I concluded that mistakes had not taken place in the preparation and arrangement of the vote on June 1, and it would have been in accordance with law, parliamentary custom and parliamentary procedures," said the president in his statement.
The matter is not likely to rest here, however, as one of the four nominees among the top 15 candidates according to the selection committee evaluation who was passed over by the justice minister in favor of another nominee further down the list is suing the government, and Pirate Party MPs have vowed to keep investigating the issue, according to RÚV.