On 25, 26 and 27 October 2023, EJTN organised the second edition of the judges@europe forum, at the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights in Italy.
The forum brought together judges from 25 EU Member States, selected by drawing lots, as well as a large number of high-level speakers from key European and international institutions, including the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.
Discussions between participants and speakers took place in a protected environment, in accordance with the Chatham House rule.
The main theme of the event was the good administration of justice, envisaged from three different perspectives: “judicial accountability through disciplinary proceeding and liability”, “judicial accountability through performance in the digital era” and “judicial accountability through transparency” (agenda available here).
Prof. Richard Devlin (Dean of the Dalhousie School of Law, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada) set out in his introductory speech the conceptual background of the discussions. He referred in that respect to the metaphor of a ‘Temple of Justice’ which has as its roof public trust in justice systems and as its two main pillars ‘Resources’ and ‘Procedures’. He described judges as ‘stewards of the public trust’ in justice systems, and thus prompted them to keep reflecting individually and collectively on what elements are such as to foster or, on the contrary, undermine that trust. Renowned speakers then presented in the plenary sessions the challenges facing our justice systems in the EU. The relevance of both hard law (national constitutions, EU Treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, ECHR, in particular) and soft law (such as recommendations of the Venice Commission, CCJE, ENCJ, CEPEJ, etc.) was addressed, as well as the challenge of striking balance between respect for national legal traditions and safeguarding common values in Europe.
The importance of objectivizing and improving performance monitoring for judges and prosecutors was also discussed. Furthermore, the need to engage in digitalisation and the reasoned use of new AI tools to assist them in their functions was largely acknowledged, on condition that it does not undermine key principles such as independence, the human dimension of justice-seeking fairness, and control on data input and output ‘setup’ to safeguard the legitimacy and quality of justice.
The presentations also addressed key contemporary issues such as the role of courts’ chiefs as managers, the supervision functions of councils for the judiciary, or the need to balance increased demand for transparency of justice with the judges’ and prosecutors’ rights to privacy.
Furthermore, 12 dedicated workshops (in groups of about 15 participants) allowed participating judges to exchange views on real cases or fact patterns inspired by real cases. The workshops covered a wide range of topics, closely linked to the presentations in plenary sessions, including in particular the disciplinary liability for ‘misconduct’ or ‘underperformance’, the procedural guarantees surrounding disciplinary proceedings, the digitalisation of the judicial process, promises and threats of AI tools applied to judicial functions, judicial ethics or predictive justice.
The debates among participants were particularly rich and engaging, allowing them to share experiences and shedding light on elements of convergence, common points of interest or concern, and sometimes also different conceptions on the topics under discussion. The key elements of each of the workshops, including statistical data obtained through the use of mentimeters, were shared by each workshop coordinator in plenary sessions.
Looking ahead: developing new training materials for all European judges
EJTN’s Secretary General Judge Ingrid Derveaux emphasized that “our ambition is that this adventure, this meeting of judges from the four corners of Europe, continues, to defend and support our values, to strengthen together this European judicial community in the service of the Rule of Law”.
Against that background, EJTN and the Council of Europe Programme on Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP Network) will develop an online course based on the training materials used during this edition of judges@europe. The course will be made freely available to all European justice professionals. EJTN will also publish a collection of the different interventions of the experts that participated in this edition of the forum, together with general conclusions summarizing the key orientations that emerged out of the discussions in the workshops and with all participants in the plenary.
The main goal of these two instruments is to increase the forum’s impact and to disseminate contributions that are of interest to the entire European judiciary.
Judges@europe, an event built on trust and cooperation
EJTN was honoured to be entrusted by the European Commission to organize this important forum, created at the request of the Council of the European Union in its Conclusions “Boosting Training of Justice Professionals” (8 March 2021).
This second edition of judges@europe was developed by an ad hoc group comprising the judicial training schools from Bulgaria (NIJ), France (ENM), Italy (SSM), Portugal (CEJ) and Spain (Escuela Judicial), along with representatives from the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, European Judges for Democracy and Liberty (MEDEL), the Association of European Administrative Judges, the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU, and the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary.
In her opening remarks, EJTN’s Secretary General Judge Ingrid Derveaux stressed that: “Independence does not mean the absence of responsibility. The judge and justice itself are accountable to citizens for the proper execution of their mission. It is this responsibility which also establishes society’s confidence in its justice. Justice must function properly and be well administered. States have a responsibility to ensure that judges have the means to accomplish their missions. This does not only mean material means, but also judicial training, which must support judges to walk the fine between independence and responsibility, in the service of the rule of law”.
Martin Kuijer, Judge at the Supreme Court of the Netherlands and member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) emphasised that the topics addressed at this forum relate closely to preserving the Rule of Law value in Europe. Building upon his position as a privileged observer at the Venice Commission, he explained why we should not rest on our ‘acquis’ in this respect and remain vigilant to any relevant developments across Europe, such as to undermine public trust in justice.
Stanislas Adam, Legal Secretary at the Court of Justice of the European Union, emphasized the importance of fostering the “confidence of the public in justice in a democratic society” in the European legal space, through a common reflection on judicial accountability. He explained the key role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in recent years as a “bulwark against misuse of disciplinary proceedings as an instrument of political control of judicial decisions”. He thus highlighted the requirement in the case-law that “any measures – either formally classified as disciplinary or not – which have serious consequences on the private life or careers of judges be justified by objective and verifiable grounds, and strictly proportionate to the objective pursued”. That functional protection, he added, “is however without prejudice of the fact that judges’ disciplinary or criminal liability can and sometimes must be engaged to preserve public trust in justice systems”.
In his remarks introducing the closing dialogue with the EJTN Secretary General, Stanislas Adam referred to four axes that emerged from the speeches and discussions :
(a) the need to develop and deepen consciousness of the purpose for which we all engage in justice office, namely public trust;
(b) the importance of striking balance in our approach to any of the issues revolving around the good administration of justice (multi-level governance; liability and quality; transparency and privacy, etc.);
(c) the curiosity without which we shall not be able to engage in the “cultural revolution” of digitalisation, and
(d) an unfettered commitment to not only accomplish our short-term objectives in our judicial offices but also to keep thinking about the nature of our function in society and thus to engage in training.
Speakers and moderators
EJTN is thankful to the following speakers and moderators for their valuable contributions to this event:
– Gilles Accomando
– Stanislas Adam
– Thomas Cassuto
– Emmanuel Coulon
– Francesco Depasquale
– Ingrid Derveaux
– Richard Devlin
– Silvia Dimitrova
– Anke Eilers
– Marco Fabri
– Monika Fraçkowiak
– Gianluca Grasso
– Keri Grieman
– Ivana Hrdličková
– José Igreja Matos
– Martin Kuijer
– Villu Kõve
– Emmanuelle Laudic-Baron
– Filippo Michael Musca
– Evgenia Papadopoulou
– Roxana Ioana Petcu
– Betlem Roíg Mateo
– Raffaele Sabato
– Herman van Harten
– Dalia Vasariene
– Fernando Vaz Ventura
– Tatiana Veress
EJTN is also grateful to the following organisations for their precious support:
– Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)
– European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
– Council of Europe
– European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission)
– European Commission for the efficiency of justice (CEPEJ)
– Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
– European Network of Justice Inspection Services (RESIJ)
– European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ)
– Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés (MEDEL)
– Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU
– Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ)
– United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
– Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights