Strasbourg, 17 November 2016
EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR THE EFFICIENCY OF JUSTICE (CEPEJ)
WORKING GROUP ON QUALITY OF JUSTICE (CEPEJ-GT-QUAL)
20th Meeting (29 - 30 September 2016)
Report prepared by the Secretariat
I. OPENING OF THE MEETING AND ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA
1. The Working Group on the Quality of Justice (CEPEJ-GT-QUAL) of the European Commission for the efficiency of justice (CEPEJ) held its 20th meeting at the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg on 29 and 30 September 2016. It was chaired by François PAYCHÈRE (Switzerland).
2. The agenda and the list of participants are respectively attached in Annex I and II of this report.
II. INFORMATION FROM THE PRESIDENT AND THE SECRETARIAT
3. The President informed the group about its participation in the meeting of CEPEJ cooperation experts on 23 September 2016, as well as in the 20th Congress of the European Expertise and Experts’ Institute, in Strasbourg on 24 September 2016 where the harmonization of the procedures related to expertise in Europe was addressed.
4. The Secretariat informed the members of the Group of the upcoming publication of the CEPEJ report on the evaluation of European judicial systems, together with a thematic report on the impact of information technology (IT) in reducing the workload of the courts and an interactive database.
5. The Secretariat highlighted the on-going cooperation programmes in the Southern Neighborhood (Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan), in the Eastern Partnership region (Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova), and in Albania and Kosovo. Another co-operation program with Croatia was successfully completed. The aim of these programmes is to support policy makers and the courts of these countries in the application of CEPEJ methodology and tools on judicial time and quality of justice, taking into account national specificities.
III. MEAUSURING THE QUALITY OF JUDICIAL SERVICES
6. At its 19th meeting, the CEPEJ-GT-QUAL had tasked Fabio BARTOLOMEO (Italy) to prepare an updated document on "Measuring the quality of judicial services" in view to the 20th meeting, based inter alia on inputs from the Secretariat aimed at harmonizing the terminology related to a few indicators proposed in the document and used by other CEPEJ Working Groups.
7. Fabio BARTOLOMEO introduced the main objective of the document which was not to propose new tools for justice quality measurement but rather to foster the understanding and encourage the use of relevant CEPEJ tools and indicators. The document gives to the reader the possibility to choose and weight different indicators, in the light of the focus and the objectives of the measurement, and calls for the consideration of three elements in particular: 1) the quality of procedures and judicial decision, 2) the performance of judicial services, as well as 3) the satisfaction of users. With regard to the performance of judicial services in particular, a thorough work has been carried out to ensure alignment with the indicators generally used by CEPEJ-GT-SATURN and CEPEJ-GT-EVAL.
8. The Group expressed its support to this work and endorsed the document’s structure, style, and the balance it seeks between a quantitative and a qualitative measurement approach. A few suggestions for improvement were nonetheless formulated, such as including the section on the appeal rate in the third part of the document instead of the second one, so as to give less visibility to a problematic indicator; making it more explicit, on one hand, that the document does not intend to measure the quality of judgments, and, on the other hand, that the elements mentioned above (paragraph 8) need to be considered together in order to gain a full appreciation of the quality of judicial services.
9. The Group set the 7th of October 2016 as the deadline for the submission of comments on the content of the document and the 15th of October 2016 as the deadline for the preparation of an updated document, which would be then subject to electronic consultation among the Group’s members, with a view to its adoption at the plenary meeting of the CEPEJ in December 2016.
IV. How to drive changes towards e-justice - Preparation of guidelines
10. During its 19th meeting, the CEPEJ-GT-QUAL had continued the discussion about driving changes towards e-justice and instructed the scientific expert, Harold ÉPINEUSE (France) to prepare "Guidelines on how to drive changes towards e-justice", on the basis of the already available text and the guidance provided during the meeting.
11. Harold ÉPINEUSE introduced the new version of the Guidelines which intend to be a comprehensive reference document, based, on one hand, on the data available in the framework of the CEPEJ evaluation cycle 2016 and the CEPEJ report on new technologies (see II. 4), and on the outcomes of the discussions conducted with various stakeholders – including CEPEJ national correspondents - by the expert himself during the first half of 2016. The first part of the Guidelines identifies existing e-justice solutions deployed at European level depending on the purpose sought: access to justice, communication between courts and professionals, court administration and direct assistance to judges, prosecutors and registrars. The second part includes recommendations and lessons learnt in the deployment of e-justice, with a view to supporting policy-makers and justice professionals in launching, implementing and evaluating e-justice projects. He further explained that the document makes reference to CoE’s instruments, such as Parliamentary Assembly Resolutions, CCJE Opinions etc, and that it equally includes systematic references to the Checklist on the quality of justice and the courts. He also mentionned that the Guidelines include a Checklist for implementers and users of an IT project, as well as a bibliography.
12. The Group expressed appreciation for the in-depth work performed. The link with the CEPEJ evaluation report in the first part of the document was particularly praised. Only a few suggestions on how to further improve the content of document were formulated, such as: making reference to the European Commission Directive 98 (2013) in paragraph 17 to indicate the limitations in this field; mentioning more explicitly the need to guarantee the quality of data, in addition to security; detailing the reasons behind the for unsuccessful deployment of e-justice projects in certain countries, as well as very other targeted suggestions.
13. The Group adopted the document. The scientific expert would update it on the basis of the Group’s comments by the 15th of October 2016. The document would be presented at the next CEPEJ Plenary session for adoption.
14. Harold ÉPINEUSE also informed the participants that the first European cyber-justice conference gathering CEPEJ members, scientists and experts would take place in Strasbourg on the 5th of December 2016. The conference would focus on the impact of IT on judicial systems and will be structured around different thematic sessions, with a view to highlighting significant developments in this field.
V. Structural measures adopted by some Council of Europe member states ahead of the introduction of effective domestic remedies required by the ECHR – Good practice guide
15. During the 19th meeting of CEPEJ-GT-QUAL, the Group performed an in-depth review of the document “Which actions to improve the functioning of justice and relieve judicial systems”? and tasked Francesco DE SANTIS (Italy) to update it on the basis of the indications provided by the Group’s members.
16. Francesco DE SANTIS recalled the main features and presented the novelties of the updated version. The purpose of this document is to make an inventory of different structural measures adopted by some CoE member states to relieve and ensure a better functioning of the justice systems, ahead of the introduction of effective domestic remedies required by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in particular in respect of excessive length of proceedings. Such measures include: collegiate or single-judge decision making, organisation and the working methods of the courts, case management, concentration of proceedings and time-limits, summary proceedings, as well as other aspects related to the demand for justice and non-judicial settlement of the disputes. Francesco DE SANTIS confirmed having taking on board all the suggestions made in the previous CEPEJ-GT-QUAL meeting (i.e. emphasis on the need to take into account the effects on quality of justice when introducing such measures within judicial systems, references to the proportionality principle etc.).
16. The Group discussed on the content of the document. The representative of the Department of the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) praised the document as a very important source of information as regards existing avenues to deal with structural problems giving rise to violations of Article 6 of the ECHR, and hence a valuable support in the framework of the process of execution of judgments of the ECtHR. She explained how important it was to improve the approach and the methods used by CoE member states in this framework, and that the document would serve as a reference to increase the quality of their action plans and avoid patchy comments and solutions to complex and problematic situations.
17. The Group made a few suggestions to improve the document.
18. The Group adopted the document and tasked the expert to introduce the proposed changes by the 15t October 2016, and the Secretariat to ensure a thorough proof-reading of the English and French versions, so that the document can be presented for adoption in the CEPEJ Plenary Session of December 2016. Moreover, the Group recommended ensuring a broad diffusion of the document, including in paper support and in several languages, and its regular updating.
VI. Update of the Handbook on conducting satisfaction surveys for court users (CEPEJ(2010)1)
19. During the 19th meeting, the CEPEJ-GT-QUAL agreed to revise the Manual and the related questionnaires by appointing Professor Martial PASQUIER (Switzerland) as a scientific expert. An updated version of the Handbook “On conducting satisfaction surveys for court users” has been prepared accordingly.
20. Due to the absence of Professor Martial PASQUIER, the Secretariat presented the revised Handbook by highlighting changed and unchanged issues. The document is made up of four chapters: 1) an introduction, 2) guidelines for putting in place a survey for court users, 3) determination of different steps of the survey, and 4) the model questionnaires. Overall, no radical changes were made to the previous version, but the new version was more coherent and better structured, and in line with the approach retained by the CEPEJ, which was to get feedback on concrete services received by the user. Some novelties had also been included in line with the recommendations made in the CEPEJ-GT-QUAL meeting of March, for instance the time needed for administering the different types of questionnaires, and a more detailed section on the processing of the results of a survey. Finally, the Secretariat pointed out that the interview questionnaires had been shortened and simplified, for instance by making double scaling importance/level of satisfaction optional.
21. The Chair clarified that the Handbook does not impose to the states the use of any specific models but simply proposes practical guidance and tools that can be adopted in some possible situations. It was proposed to make reference to free software available on the market to process data, in order to encourage court managers and presidents to resort to satisfaction surveys more often.
22. The Group adopted the revised Handbook and tasked the Secretariat to share it with the members and to perform an electronic consultation once it would become available. The updated Handbook would be presented at the plenary meeting of the CEPEJ for final adoption.
VII. Sharing knowledge within the judiciary
23. Iñaki VICUÑA DE NICOLÀS, Director of the Centre of Judicial Documentation of Spain (CENDOJ) introduced the database created over 20 years by CENDOJ. This database is accessible to legal professional, judges, prosecutors and the public, although some limitations apply depending on the target group. The database allows access to the case law of Spanish courts, with more than 5 million decisions on line, as well as to the case law of European Courts and other useful tools for legal professionals such as a Thesaurus with 21 000 legal terms. Mr VICUÑA DE NICOLÀS further explained that CENDOJ could provide personalized advice to judges and prosecutors on legislation, doctrine and the case law, as well as training, draws up thematic files, bulletins and brochures. CENDOJ is decentralized – it has 115 libraries throughout Spain – and a budget of two million Euros just for the translation of the case law.
24. The members asked different questions on subjects such as the existence of forums of discussion among judges, the level of access of information to the public, how to guarantee the anonymisation of judicial decisions. With regard to the first question, Mr VICUÑA DE NICOLÀS explained that the forums are getting more and more used; they involve a restricted number of judges and prosecutors, with a leader of the debate. The success of these forums hints to an ongoing change of mentality, with the judge working less on his own than it was the case in the past. As regards the second question, it has been necessary to put some limits, the danger being the appropriation of the case law by private firms. Finally, Mr VICUÑA DE NICOLÀS highlighted the complexity of the work of anonymisation of the judicial decisions, which is done by CENDOJ staff and external providers and involves co-operation with other institutions. CENDOJ adopted a very detailed protocol for the processing of data and relies on the IT system to anonymise the parties’ data and other personal references, as well as judges and chancellors’ data.
25. The Group confirmed its willingness to work on the topic of sharing information within the judiciary, by paying particular attention to the potentials and challenges of the instruments which can promote such sharing, as well as to the mechanisms encouraging informal exchanges among legal professionals.
VIII. Communication with the media and with the public
24. The Secretariat made a brief summary of the documents submitted to the members’ attention for the meeting. It recalled that the CCJE and the CCPE had issued Opinions on the relations between the judiciary, on one hand, and the media and the public, on the other hand, which provide the main guiding principles in this respect. Other documents prepared in the framework of CEPEJ co-operation programmes revealed the diversity of CoE member states in communication approaches: for instance, in some countries the media spokesperson of the court is a judge, and sometimes is a specialist of communication. Differences subsisted also in appointment, tasks and training of such professionals.
25. A discussion followed among the group members as to how the work on this topic should continue. The members underlined the need to search for good practices in this area, as the principles elaborated by CCJE and CCPE remained unchanged. Harold ÉPINEUSE informed the participants that a conference on this issue would be organised soon in Hungary, and that its conclusions could be very inspiring for the Group’s work. Several members agreed that the communication with the public should also be part of the analysis, in addition to the one with the media, and that it was necessary to refer to new tendencies in this area. How to effectively communicate on situation of crisis should also be explored.
26. The Group decided to focus on the ways to communicate with the media (not solely with the press) and the public taking into account modern tendencies in this respect. The analysis would rely on the good practices in this area and deontological codes of communication developed within the judiciaries in different member states. The subject of how to communicate effectively in situations of crisis was also retained. The President suggested that a specialist of communication be identified to work on this topic, instead of a lawyer or a researcher.
IX. Review of the definitions used by CEPEJ Working Groups
27. The President opened for discussion the draft compilation of definitions used by CEPEJ Working groups prepared by the SATURN Working Group on judicial time management. The Secretariat clarified that the document was prepared with a view to harmonising and unifying concepts which were being referred in different working contexts by CEPEJ working groups, and that it was ideally to be submitted in the plenary meeting in December.
28. The discussion revealed the doubts of the Group’s members on this document, which needed considerable improvement. In particular, the ratio of the document, the criteria of selection and of redaction of the definitions, the retained sources were unclear. Since these definitions would be used by all the CEPEJ Working Groups, they called for a common work with input and participation of representatives from all the Groups.
28. At the end of the discussions, the President asked the Secretariat to share with the CEPEJ- GT-SATURN its remarks on the document and the approach to be followed. He recommended the setting up of an ad-hoc group with representatives of each CEPEJ working group which would be tasked to review and finalize the document.
Annex I – Agenda
Discussion on the document prepared by Mr Fabio Bartolomeo, member of the CEPEJ-GT-QUAL (Italy)
Discussion on the document prepared by Mr Harold Epineuse, scientific expert (France)
Preparation of the Forum on IT an justice (Strasbourg on 5 December) /
Annex II – List of participants
Nikolina MIŠKOVIĆ, Judge, Commercial Court in Rijeka, Croatia
Anke EILERS, Presiding Judge of the Court of Appeal, 50670 Köln, GERMANY
Ioannis SYMEONIDIS, Judge, Court of Appeal, Professor at the Law School, University of Thessaloniki, GREECE
Fabio BARTOLOMEO, Director General of the Office of Statistics, Ministry of Justice, Rome, ITALY
Joao ARSENIO DE OLIVEIRA, Head of Department, International Affairs Department, Directorate-General for Justice Policy - Ministry of Justice, Lisbon, PORTUGAL
François PAYCHÈRE, Magistrat titulaire de la Cour des Comptes de la République et du Canton de Genève, Genève 3, SUISSE
(Chair of the GT-QUAL / Président du GT-QUAL)
Gilles ACCOMANDO, Président du Tribunal de Grande Instance d’Avignon, France
Harold EPINEUSE, Chargé de mission à l’Institut des Hautes Etudes sur la justice, FRANCE
Francesco DE SANTIS, Avocat, Chercheur en droit procédural civil à la Faculté de Droit de l’Université de Naples « Federico II », ITALIE
OBSERVERS / OBSERVATEURS
CONSEIL DES BARREAUX EUROPEENS (CCBE)
Stéphanie ALVES, Legal Advisor / Conseiller juridique, CCBE, Conseil des barreaux européens –Bruxelles, BELGIQUE
EUROPEAN UNION OF RECHTSPFLEGER AND COURT CLERKS / UNION EUROPEENNE DES GREFFIERS DE JUSTICE (EUR):
Jean-Jacques KUSTER, Président de l’Union européenne des Greffiers de Justice, Strasbourg, France
EUROPEAN COMMISSION / COMMISSSION EUROPEENNE
Ines HARTWIG, European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice, Unit 0.3 General Justice Policies and Judicial Systems, B-1049 BRUSSELS
OTHER PARTICIPANTS / AUTRES PARTICIPANTS
Iñaki VICUÑA DE NICOLÁS, Directeur du Centre de Documentation Judiciaire de l’Espagne (CENDOJ), SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
DGI - Human Rights and Rule of Law, Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights
Corinne AMAT, Head of Division
DGI - Human Rights and Rule of Law, Division for the independence and efficiency of justice
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