Extracts of the report of the 8th CEPEJ plenary meeting

13. Mr CANIVET said that his request to the CEPEJ was prompted by the task assigned to him as First President of the Court of Cassation by the French Minister of Justice, Mr Pascal CLEMENT, which was to propose a mechanism for improving the selection of court presidents and preparing them better for their functions, particularly with regard to management, and for enabling the judicial system to be more open to civil society. This raised three sets of key questions:

§ What was a judge or prosecutor with potential? How did one detect that potential (internally, or through an expert assessment by someone outside the judiciary)? How open should the procedure be?
§ What should the training include in order to cover the management aspect? Where should it take place (should a special institution be set up? should links be established with the grandes écoles and the business community?) What should the pace of training be? What openings should there be to other legal systems?
§ What measures should be taken to reach out to civil society? (Enabling the judiciary to understand what society expected of it and raising public awareness of the workings of the judicial system; training judges and prosecutors in communication skills).

14. The CEPEJ members in respect of Hungary and Sweden described their countries’ experiences. The main points of their statements are set out in Appendix IV to this report.

15. The member in respect of Italy said that the separation of judicial and administrative functions in the higher echelons of the courts was currently the subject of much debate in Italy.

16. The representative of the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE), supported by the Latvian member of the CEPEJ, drew attention to CCJE Opinions No. 1 on standards concerning the independence of the judiciary and the irremovability of judges, No. 4 on appropriate initial and in-service training for judges at national and European levels and No. 7 on justice and society, which set out the positions of the CCJE and contained recommendations relevant to the questions raised by Mr CANIVET.

17. The CEPEJ member in respect of Estonia said that special leadership training was offered to all presidents and administrative directors of courts in Estonia.

18. The CEPEJ member in respect of Cyprus said that all judges in Cyprus attended an annual training course. The Judicial Service Commission, which was made up of members of the Supreme Court, selected future judges from among lawyers possessing a certain degree of experience.

19. The CEPEJ member in respect of the United Kingdom said that candidates had to show special abilities in order to be appointed as head of a UK court from a list of experienced lawyers recommended by the selection centre. Training support for these judges was provided by the Judicial Training Board.

20. The member in respect of Switzerland said that regular opinion polls were held in certain Swiss courts, in which questions were put to judges, prosecutors, lawyers, solicitors, litigants and the general public in order to assess user satisfaction. Schemes were also run with schools to raise awareness of judicial issues among young people.

21. The member in respect of Germany said that future presidents of courts were pre-selected at Länder level from among young judges, who were then steered towards special training courses and work experience in the area of management while continuing with their regular judicial duties. The German Judicial Academy in Trier provided training for judges, which was supplemented by special training at Länder level.

22. The member in respect of the Russian Federation talked of the difficulty of training nearly 24 000 judges in such a vast country. The Judicial Academy of the Supreme Court was responsible for training. Consideration was currently being given to the possibility of reinstating the system under which presidents of courts had been elected by their peers.

23. The representative of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) noted that the heads of public prosecutor’s offices were responsible for criminal policy-making as well as for administrative matters and this had to be taken into account when selecting and training principal prosecutors.

24. The member in respect of France stressed that the question under discussion raised the more general issue of career streaming, noting that the wisdom of investing in specific training for presidents of courts was all the greater if the persons concerned were likely to remain presidents of courts. In turn, this raised the issues of career development, access for persons who had not attended specific training courses to the post of court president and appraisal of presidents of courts.

25. The Secretary General of the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN) said that the Network was willing to contribute to discussion on this subject.

26. Finally Mr CANIVET pointed out that until now the French system had applied the principle that the independence of the judiciary implied that court presidents were required to have management skills – an approach which contrasted with that of the Court of Justice of the European Communities for example, where judicial and administrative functions were strictly separated. At all events, the concept of “judicial management” required further development.