Thousands of European judges appraise their independence

For the third time in five years, a survey was conducted among 11,335 judges from 25 countries in Europe.  Judges for Judges highlights the main findings in the extensive report.

Niek van de Pasch

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union establishes in article 47 the right to an effective remedy, in the form of a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal. The European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) furthers the realisation of this right, by systematically developing standards and guidelines for judicial governance and conduct. Its ultimate goal is high quality justice by an ‘independent yet accountable’ judiciary. Assessing both formal safeguards and stakeholder perceptions, the ENCJ bolsters strategic planning through cyclical processes of improvement at the national level.

As part of this ongoing endeavor, over the last few months a survey was conducted among 11,335 judges from 25 countries in Europe. (Most notably, Poland did not participate because the ENCJ membership of its council was suspended.) Overall the outcomes remain roughly the same as in 2015 and 2017. The main findings are as follows:

  1. Judges rate the independence in their country on average between 6.5 (Latvia) and 9.8 (Denmark) on a 10-point scale.
  2. The vast majority of judges do not experience inappropriate pressure to influence their decisions in judicial procedures.
  3. Judges are critical about human resource decisions, in particular appointment and promotion.
  4. Case load and court resources are a great concern in all countries except Norway.
  5. Many judges experience – and increasingly so – a lack of respect for their independence by the other state powers and the media.
  6. Systematic implementation of court user and lawyer surveys about actual experience is necessary to provide essential feed-back.

The 105-page ENCJ report (adopted in Bratislava on 7 June 2019) is available online by clicking on this hyperlink.

Niek van de Pasch