At the ENCJ General Assembly of 10 June 2020 the project team reports were adopted.
In relation to Independence and Accountability the main findings are that
- In most judiciaries there is still much room for improvement with respect of independence as well as accountability, judging from the difference between the actual scores and what are considered to be good arrangements (100%). For most indicators at least one Judiciary reaches a 100% score, showing that good arrangements are achievable.
- The funding of the Judiciary is still an issue. Judiciaries are often not involved in budgetary processes and dependent on discretionary decisions by the government.
- With regards to perceptions, most countries have very low scores on the indicators about the independence of the Judiciary as perceived by court users and as perceived by lawyers. The cause is that most judiciaries still do not conduct court user surveys, and not low satisfaction about independence.
- The scores on perceived corruption show that corruption remains a major challenge in a number of countries. The perceptions about adherence to ethical standards and the adequacy of actions by judicial authorities to address judicial misconduct and corruption differ much between judges and lawyers, and this should be cause for concern.
In relation to Quality:
The measurement of the Quaity indicators showed that despite some caveats in the picture emerging from the data, the questionnaire has produced some interesting and informative data. The data in te report reveals strengths and weaknesses across all participating judiciaries. Some outcomes are encouraging. For example, it appears that most countries ave a procedure at first instance and on appeal to determine whether a case should be heard by a single judge or a panel of judges.
In relation to Court Surveys
Perceptions about judicial independence are of particular importance in the indicator system. The perception of court users - paying attention to the court users’ perception and experience of the independence during their visit in the court - are usually lacking from the available data. Therefore, in the period 2018/2019 the project has been working on a format for a court user survey that could be used across the judiciaries of Europe to help fill in this gap. Before the ENCJ could suggest to Members and Observers to incorporate this format in a national court user survey, the questions needed to be refined and tested in a pilot.
1. Communication is a good way of enhancing public confidence in justice that assures the public that state powers have a good understanding of each other. All state powers should support each other in carrying out their functions, and refrain from interfering with others’ competences. Independence is an essential principle of justice, but it shouldn’t discourage or prevent the judiciary from being open for dialogue.
2. The continuous dialogue between the branches of power can be maintained by structured and transparent communication channels. Councils for the judiciary should promote this dialogue and take the initiative in developing structured communication channels. Clear internal communication within the judiciary is a prerequisite of effective external communication.
3. Individual members of the judiciary might communicate with stakeholders of the other branches of power through various non-formal channels. This has advantages and disadvantages
The report contains a number of recommendations for Councils for the Judiciary and an overview of national practices in this field.
The recommendations of the workshop on the Evaluation of Judges were also adopted.
1. An external view may be useful for the evaluation of judges, the participation of lay members in certain parts of the evaluation process could be interesting and may contribute to the accountability of the judiciary.
2. Training, and further improvement of judges should be linked to the results of the evaluation process. This should not only be the case in when deficiencies have been established, but all judges should be involved in continuous training.
3 The Councils for the Judiciary should be involved in the drawing up of criteria. It is not recommended that all criteria are regulated in the law; there should be ample discretionary authority for the judiciary.
4 The quality of decisions should be taken into account when evaluating the performance of judges. However, quality should be determined not based on the merits of the decision, but on formal elements of the decision such as procedural issues and judicial craftsmanship.