At the General Assembly in Ljubljana 7-9 June 2023, the ENCJ adopted the 2022-2023 Report on the Independence, Accountability and Quality of the Judiciary.
The Report deals with several issues:
In relation to Independence and Accountability, the main findings are that :
- There is still room for improvement in all judiciaries (North and West Europe: weak formal safeguards; Central Europe: low perceptions of independence);
- External perceptions of independence have improved
Independence: gains and losses
- Legal basis of independence scores high(er)
- Finance scores declined further
Accountability: no further improvement
- Participation of civil society is low: danger for all judiciaries
- Accessory functions and financial disclosure fall short
- insufficient data about court users and lawyers is collected
- perceptions of citizens and judges differ within countries: risk!
- perceptions of corruption and activities within judiciaries against judicial misconduct and corruption show problems in several countries
- Trust in the judiciary is higher than trust in government and parliament.
Human resource management re judges:
- the tension between formal safeguards and the opinion of many judges
In relation to the Quality part of the Project, the replies to the questionnaire have resulted in relatively low scores, in areas such as Digital procedures; Summary procedures; Performance of judges; Format of judgments; Assessment of quality of decisions: controversial; Access to case law.
In relation to Court Users Survey:
In 2022/2023, a questionnaire was circulated among members and observers with the aim, on one hand, to identify the reasons for not conducting court user surveys and, on the other, to see whether there would be interest in establishing a mentoring programme.
Based on the results, the following conclusions can be drawn:
-Reasons for not conducting surveys
According to the answers, 13 out of 22 (59%) members/observers have not conducted a survey in 2022 and 12 out of 22 (54%) do not plan to conduct one in 2023, the reasons being financial (in 2 cases), logistic/administrative constraints (in 9 cases), opposition of the Council or court administration (in 2 cases) and other reasons (mainly no interest) in 4 cases.
-Interest in being a mentor or using a mentor
According to the answers, 3 members/observers expressed interest in using a mentor to help them navigate the task and 3 expressed interest in being mentors. Also, 3 members/observers think a country visit would be beneficial to that end.
Furthermore, although a pan-European survey was put to hold for this year, the European Commission expressed vivid interest in conducting one and approached the ENCJ for cooperation. The issue arises as to which institution (from each judiciary) would have to give their consent in order for a pan-European survey to be conducted in the courts. Therefore, earlier this year, a questionnaire was circulated among members and observers (EU member states). Due to the low response rate (14 out of 28), no reliable results can be drawn.