Court orders government to find hundreds of magistrates under penalty of law

The Brussels Court of Appeal has ordered Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt (Open VLD) to fill around a hundred vacant magistrate's and judge's posts. Failure to do so will result in a hefty fine, as reported in De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad on Tuesday.

The Federal Public Service Justice announced in the Government Gazette on Monday that it was looking for almost a hundred judges and public prosecutors. The vacancies concern almost all courts in Belgium. They include five judges at the Brussels Court of Appeal, four at the Ghent Commercial Court and thirteen public prosecutors in Brussels.

Civil suit

The publication of all these vacancies results from a decision taken by the Brussels Court of Appeal at the beginning of November 2023. The Order of the French- and German-speaking Bar Associations had filed a civil suit against the Belgian state because the staff quotas in the public prosecutor's offices and the courts had not been filled for years due to budget cuts.

According to the Bar Association, the current situation is "an attack on democracy". Citizens must wait too long for a decision, and lawyers cannot work correctly. Several protests have been made to the government, but to no avail. The Bar has, therefore, asked the court to force the Belgian state to fill all the planned posts.


The government was ordered to declare and publish all vacancies within three months. Failure to do so will result in a fine of 1,000 euros per day per vacancy. The total fine could reach 250,000 euros.

However, there is a remarkable detail in the ruling. The judiciary is obliged to advertise the vacancies and look for new judges. But there is no obligation to find those judges. The question is whether the vacancies will be filled and whether there will be any practical change in the workload under which many courts and prosecutors' offices operate.



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