Model of selection, evaluation and promotion of judges: What competences and skills matters? Best practices and trends.

13-14 June 2022

Prof.As.Dr. Sokol Sadushi

Vice-President of the Supreme Court of Albania

Dear colleagues and participants of this conference,

Together with the Chairperson of the High Judicial Council, it is our great pleasure to welcome you in Tirana to this conference in the framework of the Project “Portrait of a judge”. The initiation of this project funded by the EU actually marks the restarting of working of the Supreme Court after a non-functioning period as a result of the implementation of the justice reform. The challenges we faced as the first three judges of this Court as well as the limited number of legal advisors and support staff produced their effect even on the initial pace of the project fulfillment. Notwithstanding, the Supreme Court has continuously expressed its full commitment, which fortunately founded immediately the HJC’s willingness to contribute to the achievement of concrete outcomes.

Almost 2 years after the project initiation, we are gathered here in Tirana to discuss about a current major issue not only for the Albanian judiciary. Nowadays, a considerable number of European countries are facing dilemmas to improve the models of selection, evaluation and promotion of judges in order to recruit the best judges and motivate them within the system.

We have dealt with similar dilemmas during the reform of 2016, which without hesitation can be considered as the deepest reform with a major impact on the justice system since the 1990s. Despite the selected model, which is more or less similar to those of the European countries, there are reflections if there are some mechanisms, qualities or skills that may guarantee a professional judiciary with integrity and independence. If we accept a priori that each model being theoretically based on positive qualities of a jurist will provide judges that would perform with quality in practice, then the success would be guaranteed.

However, which is the reason that although the model is based on measurable and objective skills and qualities, again the selection of the best judges is not guaranteed?

Does the ideal judge exist?

Does the ideal evaluator exist?

Doe the ideal evaluation system exist?

Certainly, these are rhetoric questions. But their purpose is to approach the primary issue: do we need an ideal judge?

Socrates in the Ancient Athens described that a judge must have four qualities: To hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.

We all agree on these qualities, but how can we measure these qualities objectively? Which are the mechanisms that should be used and do they produce the expected results? Which from the known models for recruitment and promotion of judge guarantees that the individual qualities of each candidate are identified and measured adequately?

The comparative studies conducted by the project experts will bring about results for all the questions I am making today. Therefore, I do not want to precede them, much less to orient the experts. Raising the right questions is a pre-condition to taking the necessary answers. Therefore, I think that part of this project, which from its title promises interesting findings, should be the analysis of the objectively measurable qualities, but also those that are difficult to be evaluated.

It is already accepted that the expectations towards “a good judge”, as a rule, are divided into two main groups that contain: a) profesional qualities and (b) social qualities. From the first group it is expected that the judge should have necessary professional knowledge to decide fairly and independently. The second group includes such human aspects that make the judge decide objectively: “the ability to listen”, “empathy” and “patience”.

If for the competences of the first group, there are measurable methods and indicators, the qualities of the second group are challenging for the evaluator. The characteristics of the judge as a human: sensibility, prudence, open- mindedness, temperament in communication, self-restraint, the desire to enrich his/her non-judicial culture, the curiosity beyond profession tell much about the image of a legal professional. Some of them condition even the development and achievement of professional competences, whereas some others are difficult to be evaluated because the human nature in many cases is enigmatic or easily impenetrable.

The degree of difficulty can be increased if we take for granted that the performance of a judge in most of cases is evaluated based on his/her judicial decisions. The fact that a judge provides at his/her best and fully the arguments and allegations of the litigants, does not imply in each case that he/she has good listening skills or he/she is patient. These are only evaluated in interaction with parties. Furthermore, the fact that a judge has legal knowledge but not sensitivity or approach to economic and social problems of the society, raises a question about his/her objectivity in granting the right.

In my opinion, those and other dilemmas of this nature should become part of the conclusions and recommendations of the project in order to propose such effective mechanisms that may bring about obvious results in improving the image of a judge, in overall.

As you are aware of, Albania is implementing a deep justice reform, which exceeded the bold expections of the experts, while shedding light on the lack of mechanisms for control of judges’

professionalism and prosecutors compared to the basic professional knowledge, but also of the human nature showing behaviours that are incompatible to the profession of judge: irresponisibility in dealing with litigants, non-compliance with the basic judicial procedures, living in conditions that raise questions for the ethics and approach to general economic and social level of the country, the lack of empathy towards the victims of violence and discrimination, lack of desire to increase or update the general professional knowledge, etc. I am not mentioning here the deep problems regarding the general professional level and those linked with financial and political corruption being already known.

The Veting process is ongoing. It has produced its outcomes, which should serve to the governing bodies of justice system during the process of evaluation, admission, appointment or disciplinary responsibility of judges. Following the completion of the veting process, which was designed as temporary and extraordinary, the permanent system of evaluation should find implementation. This evaluation system for the recruitment and promotion of judges, which is based on measurable professional merits and competences, became functional in spite of the difficulties faced for several reasons.

What I would like to suggest, in the capacity of a judge, former Director of Albanian School of Magistrates and law professor, is that the primary focus to have good judges should not only be to the professional knowledge, which can be recovered during his/her professional life. A judge should be able to distinguish right from wrong and reflect that in the judicial decisions given by him/her. The manner he or she approaches the right or wrong not only in the courtroom, but outside where the public does not watch, indicates more than any measurable professional competence. To have good judges, we should have good and righteous people, who are sensitive to injustice or juridical norms being not in individual interest. Therefore, the formation of a judge does not start since the faculty of law, nor school of magistrates. It starts much earlier from the family, society and afterwards in the school setting.

Let us do as much as we can to have better people, more competent judges and a more peaceful society.

Best wishes for success to this conference and project in achieving its objectives!

Thank you!

13 June 2022

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