Dimitrios Hatzihambis: The judge who recorded the history of the Supreme Court

SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE

The former President of the Supreme Court Dimitrios Hatzihambis, also known as Akis Hatzihambis to friends and colleagues, spoke to "DIKAIOSYNI" about his life, the idea of ​​writing a book on the history of the Supreme Court and its Judges, about important legislating and commenting on recent developments in judicial reform.

The idea for writing the book

"With an early and constant interest in history, I thought it would be good to have a book about the Supreme Court and its Judges. Without history we cannot have and understand tradition. My interest was to preserve, because a lot of data is lost over time, all the information that could be collected, so that it is recorded with the relevant references. So I went back to see what I could find, and there really was a lot of evidence. "It was quite a big job and we had to search various archives and sources of information of all kinds. It took a long time since we are talking about a two- or three-year job."

The visit to the court that changed the plans of his professional career

"I was born and raised in Famagusta, where I spent my childhood and youth, the best years of my life, in an environment that can not be compared. In High School I had chosen the Practical Department with the prospect of studying Architecture which I really liked. In the sixth grade, however, I changed my mind when we were taken to court one day and I was excited. Since then I went to Law, despite the fact that we had no family tradition with it. After finishing High School I went to study in England. I graduated from the University of Exeter with an LLB and then went on to pursue a PhD at the University of Cambridge which awarded me a PhD. "Returning to Cyprus, after doing my internship at the law firm of Andreas Pougiouros, I opened my own office and practiced law for about two years until 1974, when we were deported from Famagusta."

image 15 SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE
Graduated from the University of Exeter in 1968.

image 8 SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE
With his parents, after receiving his PhD from Cambridge in 1972.

Teaching in England and decision to return to Cyprus

"In 1974, my teachers at Exeter, with whom I had constant contact and who were very concerned about what had happened in Cyprus, were able to contact me in October. I was then offered to teach at the university where there was a vacancy due to a professor taking leave for two years. I have always been attracted to education, and I also thought that, with the conditions that existed then, it would be very difficult for me to start practicing law in Cyprus again. So I went for two years, which eventually became five after the substitute teacher decided not to return. At the age of five, however, longing for Cyprus and always having the court seat in mind, I decided that if I stayed longer I would never return. So I returned to Cyprus and practiced law again. I was then appointed to the judiciary, retiring in 2014 as President of the Supreme Court. In 2012 I was awarded an honorary doctorate (LLB honoris causa) by the University of Exeter. "Now I teach again at UCLAN University, of which I am an honorary member (Honorari Fellow), Philosophy of Law".

image 9 SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE
He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Exeter. Pictured on the right are the Rector of the University and the wife of his sister Evelthon Glykis and on the left, his sister Nora.

Interesting cases in the practice of law

"I dealt with all kinds of cases, since in Cyprus and especially then, it is difficult to specialize from the beginning. But I always wanted to study every aspect of any case and not take things for granted. I am reminded of two interesting cases I handled in Famagusta. One concerned the company EUREKA, which was owned by my father's brother's friend Xanthos Sarris. He was accused of conducting gambling in that, after answering an easy question, there was a draw between everyone. I insisted not to admit because, since there was the element of the question, the competition was not exclusively lucky according to English case law, and he was indeed acquitted. The other case concerned the decree demolishing a building that had been erected without permission. Examining the law, I saw that the provision for a demolition order had been added to the law after the house was built and so it could not operate retroactively, so the accused was acquitted again. "The bottom line is that the lawyer should not take anything for granted and stop where things seem to be, but investigate, go back and consider whether he has any room in the law or in the facts."

Important decisions that made case law

"During my service there were many cases that were of wide interest to the public and that made case law in which I participated and issued the decision. They are the ones I consider the most important because they are the legal side of the case that matters for the future. One of them was the case in which, reviewing all previous case law, we decided that a property that was expropriated and not used for the purpose of expropriation should be returned to its owner. The constitutional order was thus restored, because it is a great impunity for the state to keep the property after decades without doing the work for which it expropriated it. Another case involved telephone surveillance. Given the monitoring, we decided to pay damages for violating the constitutional right to private communication despite the fact that there was no law to define it. Decisions concerning fundamental rights and freedoms are the most important. The functioning of the Supreme Court is both individual and collective and is seen through the decisions. We have very remarkable judges at all levels and the Cypriot justice has been kept very high over time, as confirmed by the European Union when Cyprus became a member. However, we are lagging behind in the speed of its award and in the continuous monitoring and control of the system and its practices. "

The reform of the courts

"The reform of the courts has been absolutely necessary for years and it is an issue on which I have expressed radical views and even written articles about it. It is important to separate the Supreme Court into the two Supreme Courts provided for in the Constitution, the Supreme Constitutional Court as a constitutional court and the Supreme Court as an appellate court, so that we can return to the constitutional order and enjoy the benefits of decentralization and due diligence. jurisdiction depending on the jurisdiction of both Supreme Courts, with a much smaller number of judges each, to function more smoothly and more efficiently as supreme courts. This is followed by the creation of an interim appellate court that deals with appeals in the first instance with a limited right of appeal primarily on important legal points in the Supreme Court, so that the Supreme Court does not deal with all appeals, significant or insignificant, substantial or insignificant. And then there is the reform of the system of appointments, promotions, etc. of the judges of the District Courts so that there is an objective judgment, transparency and selection of the most appropriate - in this, we must get rid of the mentality of antiquity and order and establish substantially and not only verbally the criterion of value as the primary and sovereign. But the functioning of the District Courts also needs to be reformed so that adjournments are infrequent and fully justified and not the rule as it is today - to this end, the system of preparing the case for hearing must be reformed with the minimal involvement of the judge, who thus to deal essentially only with hearings, and the hearings to be done with the pool system and not depending on the mood and time of each judge.

For me, the most important elements for a judge are honesty, independence and courage of spirit, conscientiousness and freedom from any syndromes, law and diligence. "

image 10 SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE
From left: The judges at the Larnaca District Court, in the late 80s: Antonis Indianos, Antonakis Ioannidis, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, Frixos Nikolaidis, Savvakis Nikolaidis, Andreas Paschalidis.

image 11 SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE
As President of the Nicosia District Court with his Judges, in 1996.

image 12 SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE
As President of the Supreme Court with his Judges, in 2013-14.

Writing and research are his main occupations

"My constant interests are historical research and writing, especially regarding ancient Greece, philosophy and poetry. I have published books about them, I have given lectures and written articles. My publications include the "Supreme Court of Cyprus and its Judges, since its founding in 1878", "The genealogical and chronological historicity of Greek mythology", "The beauty and wisdom", "Mar Khayyam", "Thoughts and feelings ", One hundred love couplets written in Cypriot".

"Judges, for the sake of independence, do not deal with organizations, so the only thing that bothered me was the gymnastics club of my city, the GSE, and this for the sake of preserving the status of Famagusta."

image 13 SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE
His parents Charalambos and Iro, his brother Michalis, his sister Nora and himself during the presentation of his mother's book "Telling my life".

image 14 SUPREME COURT, Dimitrios Chatzihambis, JUDGE
With his good friends Koumoulides at their home in Sirena Bay.

Source: dikaiosyni.com