Judge Sofia Tsivouli at Larisa court revealed an irrational decision making process at the defamation lawsuit hearing this morning, which is calculated to further undermine the credibility of Greece’s justice system, and which also underlines the indifference if not contempt some justice officials seem to have for the principle of freedom of the press.
Plaintiff XX and his witness Theodekti Vallianatou, among others, are misusing a lawsuit to supress evidence of their wrong doing against me a journalist performing a public watchdog function and to intimidate me.
Anyway, about two weeks ago, I submitted a written request to represent myself in a letter to Judge Tsivouli because of an ongoing lawyer’s strike, and I was told that she would decide whether to allow me to represent myself or not at the last minute.
So, I went this morning at 9 am with my lawyer and with all my documents, prepared to present my case. My lawyer declared he was on strike to Judge Tsivouli and requested that I be allowed to represent myself.
Judge Tsivouli called me to give my reasons which I did through a translator (substantial damage to my reputation as a journalist through XX’ false claims and damage to my finances).
Judge Tsivouli didn’t respond to any of my arguments or show any sign she had given any consideration to what I had said.
She passed over my arguments altogether and went straight on to say it was prohibited for me to represent myself at the court, and I could not do so.
Err…if it was prohibited, then why did she tell me she would make the decision at the last moment?
Why did she ask me to present my case?
And why was I able to present my case for the temporary injunction?
The inconsistent and irrational approach of Judge Tsivouli opens her to the accusation of incompetence or bias. It is in no way in conformity with the obligation of a judge to follow the law consistently, listen to evidence, and weigh her decision especially in an important case involving the misuse of a civil defamation lawsuit to suppress the freedom of the media.
Judges like Sofia Tsivouli could undermine the country’s ability to attract investment. What business would want to deal with such an irrational, whimsical and inconsistent approach concerning important matters for them as she displayed this morning?
As a result of her misleading statement, I did not focus on getting special permission from the bar association to get a lawyer to present my case.
The plaintiff XX obviously knew the decision in advance because none of the witnesses were present, neither his witness Theodekti Vallianatou nor the witness I had asked for Theoktisti.
Finally, Judge Tsivouli told me not to address any letters to her but to the general office. Readers of this blog will recall I wrote to ask her to allow me to represent myself, noting that it is unacceptable for me as a journalist to have defamation charges slapped on me when I telling the truth.
Fine. But Tsivouli is the judge responsible for my case and she is accountable before the law and public opinion. Where does it say that in the civil code of procedure that the judge handling a case cannot be addressed in a letter? I will ask her to show me the paragraph. If she cannot, then she has to explain why she thinks she can make up the rules as she goes along.
Finally, she said the court had no obligation to supply an interpretor when everyone else has told me it does have an obligation to ensure due process.
I told her that she had denied me justice in an important matter to me, denied me the right to clear my name, and I would complain about her handling of the case.
Her attitude seemed to be she can make her irrational, inconsistent decisions that have a serioulsy negative impact on the principle of freedom of the press and my reputation and finances with impunity.
The next hearing is scheduled for May 20th and I will ask for special permission from the bar association for my lawyer to present my case if the lawyer’s strike continues.
I am a journalist investigating matters in the public interest and I am entitled to a quick decision about a lawsuit that is based on false statements and whose sole purpose is to intimidate me. Every European country tries to take the misuse of a defamation lawsuit to silence a journalist seriously, and Greece ‘s justice officials should take the issue seriously too.