Thierry Hoscheit, President of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, joined our colleagues from RTL Radio as a guest on Saturday. Among other topics, he addressed the contentious issue of the begging ban in Luxembourg City.
Despite acknowledging that some "inappropriate things" have been said regarding the ban, Hoscheit expressed confidence that it would not lead to an institutional crisis in Luxembourg. He refrained from taking a stance on whether a begging ban should be implemented, emphasising that such matters may eventually fall under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in a cassation case.
Hoscheit urged individuals to form their own opinions on the begging ban, refusing to speculate on the legality of the government's proposed solution through criminal code reform. He stressed the importance of waiting to see the final law and its alignment with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights for clarity on the ban's legal standing.
Contrary to Prime Minister Luc Frieden's statement regarding the absence of a decision from a supreme court, Hoscheit asserted that such a ruling was unnecessary. He underscored the significance of decisions made by all courts.
Regarding the legal certainty of the ban, Hoscheit noted Attorney General Martine Solovieff's assurance that the public prosecutor's office would address the matter. He speculated on the possibility of cases such as that of Green Party politician Christian Kmiotek, who self-reported for begging, being reviewed by the prosecutor's office. However, Hoscheit clarified that he could not speak on behalf of the office.
In Hoscheit's view, the responsibility for verifying the compliance of municipal regulations lies with the Court of Cassation, not the Constitutional Court. He estimated that if a case were to reach the Court of Cassation after traversing other judicial instances, a decision would likely take approximately a year to be reached.
Amidst the fervent discussions surrounding the begging ban, tensions between the government and the judiciary have arisen. However, Thierry Hoscheit dismissed notions of an institutional crisis, deeming such descriptions as "exaggerated."
Nevertheless, Hoscheit highlighted concerns over statements made about the judiciary during the debate, labelling them as "inappropriate."
For example, a statement by Luxembourg City councillor and Democratic Party (DP) politician Claude Radoux, who accused members of the public prosecutor's office of having political motives. According to Hoscheit, such statements lacked objective support. He emphasised the distinction between legal and political opinions, asserting that a legal opinion does not inherently carry political motives.
Trust in the judiciary
In emphasising the importance of trust in the judiciary as the third power in the state, Hoscheit stressed the necessity for the judiciary to earn and maintain public confidence through diligent performance. He underscored the importance of well-founded judgments that provide clear explanations to litigants regarding the rationale behind decisions.
Addressing concerns over lengthy waiting times, Hoscheit acknowledged the existence of procedural delays but also attributed part of the issue to staffing shortages within the magistrate's office.
Staffing and space challenges
With the growing population comes a surge in court cases, necessitating an increase in personnel within the judicial system, according to Thierry Hoscheit.
However, Hoscheit lamented the longstanding issue of the magistrate's office struggling to recruit adequate personnel, citing difficulties in finding suitable candidates.
He attributed this challenge partly to the perception that the magistrate profession lacks attractiveness for young law graduates, who may find more appealing salary and career prospects in the private sector. Hoscheit acknowledged the demanding work hours prevalent in large law firms, contrasting them with the comparatively regulated hours in the magistracy.
He stressed that aspiring judges must possess a diverse set of competencies, adding complexity to the recruitment process.
Efforts are underway to make the magistrate profession more enticing to potential career changers without requiring them to start from the bottom of the career ladder.
Hoscheit underscored the importance of innovative approaches to address staffing shortages, particularly in light of the ambitious goal of recruiting 200 new personnel within five years. He hopes that the new Minister of Justice, Elisabeth Margue, will take the necessary steps to achieve this.
As the number of judges exceeds the capacity of the current judicial complex in Luxembourg City, Hoscheit advocated for the construction of a new facility outside the city centre.
Highlighting the failure to anticipate this development two decades ago, Hoscheit expressed support for investing in a new complex despite the financial challenges it poses.
Media regulation and social responsibility
In addition to his role as President of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court, Thierry Hoscheit holds the position of President of the media regulator ALIA.
According to Hoscheit, both functions are exercised with "complete independence and impartiality," with no perceived conflict of interest.
Hoscheit addressed recent allegations against Minister of Education Claude Meisch within a broader context, highlighting the influence of social media. He emphasised the responsibility of traditional media outlets, such as radio, television, and print, which operate under editorial guidelines. In contrast, social media platforms allow virtually anyone to disseminate content without the same level of accountability. Hoscheit stressed the importance of caution for individuals posting on social networks, as they are also subject to various rules.
Expressing concern over the rapid spread of accusations on social media, Hoscheit noted the potential harm caused when unfounded allegations target public figures.
ALIA aims to exert more authority in regulating the internet, particularly social networks, although Hoscheit acknowledged that this would require additional resources.