The joint assembly of Bulgaria’s two high courts elected two new Constitutional Court judges on October 26, followed several hours later by President Roumen Radev making his own appointment to fill one of the four vacancies that will open next month.
Pavlina Panova, deputy head of the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC), and Nadezhda Djelepova, deputy head of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), were elected after two rounds of voting, from among 10 candidates, by the 169 judges in the two courts.
As is traditional, the high court judges kept to the informal arrangement that both the SCC and the SAC are equally represented on the Constitutional Court.
Panova, who started her career as a prosecutor and became a judge in 1994, is head of SCC’s penal college and one of Bulgaria’s ad hoc judges at the European Court of Human Rights. Djelepova’s 34-year career in the judiciary includes 17 years in the SAC, where she is now head of the department that handles property registry, construction permit, excise and customs cases.
Later in the day, the presidency announced Atanas Semov, a member of Radev’s legal advisory council, as the nominee for the fourth and final spot on the Constitutional Court.
Semov, a former deputy speaker of Parliament and one-time presidential candidate, had the requisite 20 years legal experience and was “a recognised authority” in Bulgaria and abroad, the presidency said in a statement.
Semov was Bulgaria’s nominee for a EU Court of Justice advocate-general position in 2015, but was withdrawn after a negative appraisal by a consultative committee, which cited his insufficient legal experience at the highest level, according to reports at the time.
He had been previously nominated for the Constitutional Court from the parliamentary quota in 2012, but did not win enough support.
Panova, Djelepova and Semov will be joined by Krassimir Vlahov, the former deputy head of the SCC, who was elected earlier this month by Parliament, in taking their seats on the Constitutional Court.
Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court has 12 sitting judges, appointed for nine-year terms, without an option for a second one. They are appointed by all three branches of government – four by Parliament, four by the president and four by the joint assembly of the judges in the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court.
Every three years, four judges are replaced – this year, this includes one judge appointed by Parliament (Tsanka Tsankova), two elected by their fellow judges (Roumen Nenkov and Stefka Stoeva) and one appointed by the president (Keti Markova). The terms of the four sitting judges expire on November 12.