After 42 years on the bench, Nikos Sakellariou resigned with an address that lambasted the government’s intervention in the judiciary, the devastating social impact of Greece’s bailout memorandums, and the internal operation of the high court.
Since the restoration of democracy in 1874, there has been no other resignation of a Greek High Court chief justice.
While many of his colleagues were surprised, others noted that there were previous leaks and no judge resigned.
In his 600-word televised statement of resignation, wearing judicial robes, Sakellariou signaled seven reasons that led to his decision.
The first is his opposition to further pension cuts. “We believe that there is now a palpable threat of further pension cuts, resulting in the complete pauperisation of pensioners,” he said.
Secondly, he asserts that the rule of law is retreating in the name of economic targets, and notes that from the start he and some of his colleagues warned that provisions in the bailout memorandums violated the constitution.
Thirdly, the leaks from the Council of State violated rules of confidentiality and created an uproar throughout Greek society. That is linked to the fourth reason, which was his own inability to prevent those leaks from happening.
Fifthly he cited the fierce competition to succeed him, with more leaks, when his term as president was to end next month.
Sixth, there was almost open warfare between the government and Sakellariou, who accused the government of raw intervention in judicial affairs.
Finally, he wanted to send his fellow justices a message that they must rise to the occasion and that citizens should continue to trust the judiciary.