Strasbourg, 7 January 2019
CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL OF EUROPEAN JUDGES (CCJE)
Please in your answers do not send extracts of your legislation (except just in one case mentioned below under question 26 where a separate attachment is possibly requested) but describe the situation in brief and concise manner.
Comments on what is also happening in practice, and not only on point of law, will be much appreciated.
This questionnaire aims at gaining information about the role and duties of assistants who support judges in their work. However, members of the security and IT staff are not covered. While there are different models in member States, this questionnaire distinguishes between administrative assistants and judicial assistants. The CCJE realises, however, that the line between the two groups is not always clear-cut.
For the purpose of this questionnaire, administrative assistants are assistants who help fulfilling the administrative duties of the court. They work, for example, on the organisation of files, correspondence, preparation of official versions of decisions, collecting documents and statistical data.
Judicial assistants usually have a legal education and support judges or panels of judges in their adjudicative work. Judicial assistants undertake a wide range of tasks such as research, acting as a sounding board in discussions with a judge, preparing memos on whether to grant permission to appeal or drafting judgments. Such persons might be called judicial assistants, law clerks, legal officers, secretaries, Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter, Gerichtsschreiber, référendaires or greffiers.
It should be emphasised that the court employees who are assigned their own tasks (i.e. Rechtspfleger) are not within the scope of this questionnaire. However, the questionnaire does touch upon the situation in some countries where judicial assistants, in addition to supporting judges, have their own tasks.
Part I contains questions about both administrative and judicial assistants and then focuses on the duties of judicial assistants. Parts II-IV contain questions exclusively about judicial assistants. Part II concerns the organisation of judicial assistants, Part III concerns the education and selection of judicial assistants, and Part IV concerns their regulation and status. Part V has two general questions about the optimal support for judges and the challenges your member State faces.
I. How are judges supported?
1. Are judges supported in their work by assistants who are not judges at that court (and also not members of the security or IT staff)?
a) by administrative assistants
b) by judicial assistants
Yes. There are several administrative assistants (Court recorder, Court interpreter, Court administrator, Chancellery staff) and two judicial assistants – Assistant to a Judge and Court consultant. Usually each judge have a Court recorder and Assistant to a Judge. Other assistants are some for all court and assist to all judges in the court.
2. What is the rationale for employing assistants in your system? If there are different rationales for employing administrative assistants and judicial assistants, please describe those rationales separately.
Rationale for all assistants are mostly the same. Preferable to have experience in court system or in governmental institution, relevant level of IT skills, stress management etc. The only difference is requirement of legal education for judicial assistants.
3. What kind of duties judicial assistants have at the courts in your member State? If they perform different duties in different courts, please explain these duties separately. Such duties may include (Yes; No):
· Research, maybe summarised in a memo
· Discussion with the judge(s)
· Memos with a summary of the facts of a case and the relevant law
· Memos with a summary of the facts of a case and the relevant law and a suggestion of the judicial assistant how the case should be decided
· Memos summarising the facts and the relevant law and including a suggestion if a case should be accepted for appeal/constitutional review
· Drafting parts of the judgment, if so which parts? Facts, certain points under discussion? – depends of the Judge
· Drafting complete judgments – depends of the Judge
· Proofreading of decisions, maybe including discussing certain points with the judge/pointing out inconsistencies etc.
· Reading draft judgments of other judges and discussing them with the judge
· Crosschecking references
· Drafting press releases
· Drafting procedural decisions
· Deciding procedural issues such as appointing an expert or deciding on costs of proceedings
· Conducting hearings and deciding simple cases autonomously, for example concerning enforcement, or simple criminal cases. If so, please specify if a judge has to approve the decision or if the decision is taken by the judicial assistant alone.
· In addition to tasks such as those mentioned above, judicial assistants may also perform administrative duties such as:
- Writing protocols in hearings
- Organisation of files
- Correspondence with parties
- Preparing the official copies of decisions, preparing decisions for publication
- Collecting statistical data
4. If judicial assistants help in the drafting process, how do they do it?
Usually they prepare a draft of the decision, do the research and other preparatory jobs.
5. Are judicial assistants present during deliberations? If yes, do they participate in the discussion?
Depends what kind of deliberations. Assistant to a Judge can participate in deliberations with the Judge but not in deliberations during the proceedings or deliberations between Judges.
6. Are judicial assistants present in hearings? If so, what duties do they have during hearings? Are they allowed to ask questions?
No. Court recorder (administrative assistants) are presented in hearnigs. They are responsible of recording the hearing, check the identity of people presented in court, ensure the video conference etc.
7. Is there a formal rule or an informal consensus among judges, what kind of duties a judicial assistant should and should not undertake?
No. There are standard duties form job contract but anyway they must help to Judges and do all legal work which is needed in particular case.
8. Which duties belong exclusively to the judge?
All the duties of a Judge belonging exclusively to the Judge. Exceptions can be only in preparing the drafts of the documents (explained above). Only Judge decides the cases, makes decisions, leads the hearings, ask questions, gives orders etc.
9. How does the work of judicial assistants affect decisions and judicial decision making? How do judges ensure that the decision remains "their"?
The work of judicial assistants affect the time what is necessary to prepare a decision and the workload of the Judge. Judge always revises the drafts of the documents prepared by assistants and makes corrections. Usually assistant knows the writing style of the Judge and prepares the documents in similar style so the Judge can easily make corrections only about the case not the style.
10. Is there any official data or - if not - do you have a view how useful judicial assistants actually are e.g. in saving judges’ time ?
There is no any data but we can assure that assistants gives a big impact on saving Judges time (also see the answer to question 9.).
II. Organisation of judicial assistants
11. At which courts in your member State are judges supported by judicial assistants? First instance/second instance/third instance/constitutional court?
In all instances Judges are supported by judicial assistants.
12. If there are lay judges in your system, are they specifically supported by judicial assistants?
There aren’t lay judges in Latvia.
13. How are judicial assistants organised? If there are different forms of organisation at different courts, please explain the different models. For example:
· Are assistants assigned to one judge individually? If so, how many assistants work for each judge?
· Or are they assigned to a panel of judges? If so, how many judicial assistants work for each panel?
· Or are they part of a pool of judicial assistants serving the whole court? If so, what is the ratio judge/judicial assistant?
· Or do they work in teams put together for certain cases? If so, what is the ratio judge/judicial assistant?
Assistants to a Judge are assigned to one Judge individually. Court consultants are several in each court and serving the whole court.
14. Who pays them?
All court staff is paid by Court administration in the name of Government.
15. What is their status? Are they considered as, for example, civil servants, seconded judges or just employees?
Court staff in Latvia are just employees.
16. How much do they earn compared to the judges for whom they work? You do not need to indicate exact amounts, but mentioning the proportion between the salaries of judges and assistants would be helpful. For example, how does the salary of a judicial assistant working at a first instance court compare to that of a judge at that court?
Salary of a judicial assistant is approximately 1/3 of the salary of a judge of the particular court.
III. Background and selection of Judicial Assistants
17. Is serving as a judicial assistant a necessary part of the legal education in your member State / a prerequisite for becoming a judge?
To be a judge it is necessary to have at least 5 years experience as an assistant of a judge/sworn advocate/bailiff or as a lawyer.
18. What kind of education do judicial assistants have? For example, studies of law, politics, service in the police or military etc., a special education?
It is required that judicial assistants have higher education in law.
19. What kind of work experience do judicial assistants have? If they have a legal education, have they qualified for practice? Are they seconded judges? Have they gained practical experience, if so, in what areas?
They have a legal education and usually they become as judicial assistants from other positions in court. They start, e.g. as a court recorder, and when there is a vacancy of a judicial assistant then they apply for this position. So, usually they already have some experience in court.
20. How are they selected?
If there is a suitable candidate from non-judicial assistants in the court then he/she is promoted. If not then an open competition takes place.
21. How long do judicial assistants usually work in that capacity? Just for one or a few months, or years? Or is it a long-term/permanent career?
There are three parts of them: (1) permanent career; (2) necessary experience for Judge position – approximately 5 to 10 years; (3) as a career step for future, e.g., for a legal counsel or advocate career. The last part usually holds from 1 to 5 years.
22. If it is a short-term position, what do they do afterwards?
Those who works short-term usually choose career in legal firms or in big corporations where salary is bigger.
23. If serving as a judicial assistant is not part of the legal education, why do applicants apply to work as judicial assistants?
It is not part of legal education. Assistant of a Judge is a great experience that is highly valued in legal firms. After work in that position is easily to get job in high-paid legal positions.
24. If being a judicial assistant is a long-term/permanent position, are there opportunities for advancement?
No, there are no opportunities for advancement in context of legal experience. Next step would be position of a Judge and it’s not possible to get promoted to Judge position. There is position of a Chief Judge but it’s not fully legal position. It’s more managerial position.
IV. Status and regulation of judicial assistants
25. Do judicial assistants swear an oath? Do they wear some form of official dress at certain occasions? E.g. gowns when in court?
No, there is no oath and no official dress.
26. Are there formal regulations concerning the status and duties of judicial assistants? if so, is it a statute or internal regulation? If yes, what is regulated by them? Could you provide, as a separate attachment to your answers, the text of the regulation please?
There is no status of judicial assistants. In the law “On Judicial Power” is stated what type of court employees can be in a court. For each type key duties are stated as well. More detailed duties are stated in the job description of each employee.
27. Are there informal rules governing the relationship between judge and judicial assistants?
No, there are no informal rules. Judge is like a manager for Assistant of a Judge and for Court recorder which are assigned to this Judge.
28. Are there any rules - formal or informal - concerning the independence and impartiality of judicial assistants?
No, there are no rules. It is encouraged that all lawyers should respect the Ethical code of particular occupation (Ethical code of Judges, Advocates, Bailiff’s etc.).
29. Can judicial assistants in your member State become members of an association of judges or is there a special association for them?
Only Judges can be members of association of Judges. There is no special association of judicial assistants.
V. General considerations about the support of judges
30. Do you believe that judges in your system would need more or different support by personnel to work effectively? If yes, what kind of support?
It is not proved that additional support would be the better solution. There are some concerns on effectiveness of the court because of high turnover of court employees which rises from low salaries. Big effort is needed for training of new employee. If experienced employees would stay longer in courts than effectiveness would be higher.
31. Are there certain challenges that your member State faces as regards the support for judges which have not been mentioned so far?
At this moment there are no fundamental challenges with regards the support for judges. We can mention that the range of measures should be extended to raise the self-esteem of judges as regards the independence of the judiciary.