Strasbourg, 29 April 2002
CCJE (2002) 28
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire on the conduct, ethics and responsibility of judges: reply submitted by the delegation of Finland
Questionnaire on the conduct, ethics and responsibility of judges
1. (What are the statutory obligations by which judges are bound?)
There are no such specific statutory obligations for judges, but the obligation concerning all civil servants to perform one’s duties properly, impartially and without delay is also valid for judges. A civil servant has to act in a manner that is expected from a person in his or her office and position.
2. (Is there a judge’s code of conduct?)
3. (What incompatibilities are there between the duties of judge and other functions or professions ?)
According to law no judge may accept any part-time job without the permission of the court. When considering the question of granting a leave the court has to take into account that the judge may not become disqualified in his office. The part-time job shall not endanger the confidence in the judge’s impartiality or in any other way hinder the proper performance of his or her official duties. In practice, a leave is sometimes granted for a part-time job as judge in a specialised court, as chairman of a court of arbitration or as a member in a law-drafting committee.
4. (In what circumstances can the impartiality or apparent impartiality of judges be called into question in accordance with the law or case-law?)
The impartiality may by any party be called into question at court proceedings. A recent amendment of the Act on Legal Proceedings contains a detailed lists of situations, where a judge is disqualified to decide a case (should a need for a translation of the chapter occur, it can be arranged). In brief, the grounds for disqualification concern the relation between the judge and the parties, the counsels and the witnesses, taking in account especially family connection and economic relations; the situation, where the outcome of the case may be of advantage or harmful to the judge or his relatives and the situation where the judge in an other office or position has taken a stand in the matter in question. It may be noted that a judge is disqualified if he or she because of an employment or otherwise has a relation to one of the parties which arises a reasonable doubt as to his or her impartiality. He or she is also disqualified for any other reason comparable to these that brings his or her impartiality under reasonable suspicion. The act is complemented by a rich case-law by the Supreme Court following the outlines of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights on art. 6 .1 of the ECHR.
5. (Can judges incur criminal or civil liability for acts committed in the performance of their duties?)
1.1. (In what circumstances ?) A civil servant (including a judge) is responsible for the lawfulness of his or her official actions. He or she is also responsible for a decision made by an official multi-member body that he or she has supported as one of its members.
A referendary shall be responsible for a decision made upon his or her presentation, unless he or she has filed an objection to the decision.
If the action is considered to be within the scope of the judge’s power of discretion there is no liability, even if the decision might be contrary to previous case-law.
1.2 (What is the procedure involved?)
Liability of the judge can incur only after due legal proceedings at a court. According to the Constitution everyone whose rights have been violated or who sustained loss through an unlawful act or omission by a civil servant or other person performing a public task shall have a right to request that the civil servant or other person in charge of a public task be sentenced to a punishment and that the public organisation, official or other person in charge of a public task be held liable for damages, as provided in more detail by an Act. However, there is no such right to bring charges, if, under the Constitution, the charges are to be heard by the High Court of Impeachment.
The proceedings may be initiated by anyone, whose rights have been offended by the judge’s act. The Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman shall ensure that the courts of law, the other authorities and the civil servants, public employees and other persons, when performing a public task, obey the law and fulfil their obligations. In the performance of his or her duties, they monitor the implementation of fundamental rights and liberties and human rights A decision to bring charges against a judge for unlawful conduct in office is made by the Chancellor of Justice or the Ombudsman.
1.3. (What is the competent institution or authority?)
Proceedings against a judge are as a rule initiated at a court superior to his or her own; a case involving a judge of first instance is heard in the Court of Appeal etc. The High Court of Impeachment deals with charges brought against the justices of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court.
1.4. (What sanctions or compensatory measures can be applied?)
A judge who is found guilty of unlawful conduct may be sentenced to imprisonment, or may be fined or discharged or given a warning. The offended party has a right to full compensation for his or her loss. The government is primarily responsible for the payment of the compensation but the judge may in serious cases be ordered to indemnify the government for this, or a part of it.
6. (Can judges be subject to disciplinary proceedings? )
No. The matter has been discussed, but in view of the system described above no urgent need for any separate disciplinary proceedings have been seen.