The District Court in Banja Luka has ruled in favor of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) in an administrative review case against the Basic Court in Banja Luka after the court denied access to the records on court-appointed lawyers’ earnings.
In Dec 2016, CIN reporters requested the names of court-appointed lawyers and the amount of fees they had received between 2010 and the end of 2016. The Basic Court in Banja Luka offered the total amount of all fees paid to court-appointed lawyers without a breakdown.
The Court officials stated that they did not keep records on the fees and that gathering data would require extraordinary efforts and made it difficult for the court to perform its regular activities without hiring new staff.
The District Court did not accept such explanation and concluded that the records requested by CIN did fall under the regular court’s business. It added that the lack of updated records should not be the reason for the rejection of a request.
“The revoked resolution does not contain valid arguments why the request had not been honored in full,” states the ruling which bound the Basic Court to issue a new decision within 30 days.
The District Court pointed out that the purpose of Freedom of Information Act was to give the public an avenue to hold the executive branch accountable.
“For this reason public bodies must promote open governance and the principle of maximum revelation of information as a fundamental principle of every democratic society, which will reduce the submitting of individual requests so that the authorities have to undertake certain steps in the sense of disseminating key information in the public,” the ruling stated.
In May 2017, CIN published an investigation which found that the courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) have spent more than 76 million KM on court-appointed lawyers over seven years. Along with the investigation, CIN published a database which holds records from nearly all of BiH courts. The court in Bugojno is the only one that has not disclosed the records on payments.
In Oct 2017, CIN won a case against the Municipal Court in Bugojno.