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Lay judge Mimo Garcia takes part in the European Day of Lay Judges
The conference of the European Network of Associations of Lay Judges on the occasion of the European Day of Lay Judges, celebrated annually on 11 May, took place between 13 and 15 May 2022 in Poznan, Poland.
The conference was hosted by Adam Mickiewicz University.
A representative from Bulgaria was Mimo Garcia, a lay judge at the Sofia Regional Court (term of office 2021 — 2025). In his speech, lay judge Garcia underlined that the institute of lay judges in Bulgaria remains unknown and a media campaign is needed to promote this public office. His colleague from Germany, Marc Würfel-Elberg, agreed with him, adding that in the Federal Republic, too, citizens are unfamiliar with the work of lay judges.
In his statement, lay judge Mimo Garcia said that ‘lay judges can be a bridge between the judiciary and ordinary citizens only if responsible people, who are actively involved – getting to know the cases in advance, listening carefully to the parties during the trial process, asking clarifying questions – are elected lay judges‘.
Lay judge Mimo Garcia was adamant that he had not been pressured during the first year of his term of office, always voting on conscience and conviction. Mimo Garcia explained that, unlike other countries, during the pandemic, lay judges in Bulgaria operated without restriction. Mimo Garcia spoke about his personal conversations with judges, who are glad that there are already active lay judges. He also thanked the administration of his court, which supports him.
Lay judge Mimo Garcia agreed with his colleagues that the remuneration of lay judges should be increased, adding that this would attract high-level professionals to their ranks.
He also expressed his idea that lay judges should be able to rely on legal experts assigned to the courts.
The Vice-President of the European Network of Associations of Lay Judges, Margarita Morelli, representing Italy, specially congratulated lay judge Mimo Garcia, welcoming the ‘young colleague from Bulgaria‘.
Alessia Perolio, honorary president of the European Network of Associations of Lay Judges, thanked Mimo Garcia for his participation, commenting that he was ‘extremely kind and thorough‘.
Representatives of other countries were pleasantly surprised by the information that in Bulgaria the candidates for lay judges must provide a medical certificate that they do not suffer from mental illness.
Professor Rafal Witkowski (Rector for International Cooperation at Adam Mickiewicz University), Prof. Piotr W. Juchacz (Director of the Centre for Transdisciplinary Research on Lay Judges at Adam Mickiewicz University), Filip Skawiński (Representative of the European Commission) and Prof. Ewa Nowak (Chairman of the Philology and Philosophy Faculty, Adam Mickiewicz University) delivered speeches at the opening of the conference.
Rainer Sedelmayer, representative of Austria, was elected President of the European Network of Associations of Lay Judges for one year. Lay judge Mimo Garcia voted for him. They had a 30-minute conversation on Bulgarian law regarding lay judges.
Mimo Garcia promised Rainer Sedelmeyer to send a report on the conference to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.