Strasbourg, 15 May 2002
CCJE (2002) 29
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire on the conduct, ethics and responsibility of judges: reply submitted by the delegation of Croatia
Questionnaire on the conduct, ethics and responsibility of judges
1. What are statutory obligations by which judges are bound?
In Law on Courts in articles 58. to 63 regulates obligations of judges.
Obligations of judges according to the letter of the Law are:
-a) judge's behaviour must not be detrimental to his/hers dignity, or to the dignity of judicial power,
b) judge must not put in question his/hers professional impartiality and independence or he independence of judicial power,
c) judge must not disclose information concerning parties to dispute and has to keep the confidentiality of all information which was not disclosed during trail,
-d) judge must not be member of any political party or take part in activities thereof,
e) judge must not use his/hers judicial position or dignity in pursuance of his/hers rights,
-f) judge must not act as attorney or notary public, or be member of a board of directors or a board of auditors of a corporation or any other legal person,
g) judge must not perform any other service or a job which may impair his/hers autonomy, impartiality or independence or which is otherwise incompatible with judicial function,
h) judge must always develop professionally and participate in the programmes of professional education and development,
i) judge may publish expert and scientific papers, take part in the work of expert or scientific conferences and commissions and in drafting legislation.
2. Is there a judge's code of conduct?
The Code of Conduct is drafted and adopted by Association of Judges, and judges who are members of the Association are bound by this Code of Ethics.
In general Code of professional ethic follows Law on Courts and provisions stated in articles 58. to 63. and also regulates the relations between judges, between judges and the parties and between judges and other court staff.
If a judge-member of Association breaches the Code of Ethics he/she can be brought before Court of Honour of the Association.
Measures are stated in Statute of the Association and they can be from public notice to the expulsion from membership.
3. What incompatibilities are there between the duties of judge and other functions or professions?
Please see answer No.1. points d.,f. and g.
4. In what circumstances can the impartiality or apparent impartiality of judges be call into question in accordance with the law or case law.
According to criminal and civil procedural law judge can be excused from judging in particular case if there is substantial and reasonable doubt in his/hers impartiality, for example if one of a parties initiate some procedure against judge, or expert witness is in some kind of relation with a judge in any way, or judge is performing his duty in particular case in such way that reasonable doubt can be raised about his impartiality. Very often this institute is used to protect a judge and to provide normal procedure before a court.
In some cases it is compulsory when for example one of parties or its representative is member of a judge's family , if a judge was acting as a judge in lower court in particular case or is in other way associated with a party in a case.
5. Can judge incur criminal or civil liability for acts committed in the performance of their duties?
5.1 In what circumstances?
According to article 67. of Law on Courts Republic of Croatia shell be liable for damages caused to natural or legal persons, if those are caused bay judicial malpractice.
The State may recover the amount paid for damages from a judge, only if the damage was caused intentionally or as a result of gross negligence.
The claim to recover the amount paid for damages from a judge is limited to 6 months beginning from the day when damages were actually paid.
In Croatia now there is no such claim against judge, but Ministry of justice announced that State will initiate civil claims against judges who are judges in cases which are also subject of judgements of Court for Human Rights and in which Croatia is in obligation to pay reparations to the parties because the article 6.of Convention was breached.
In Criminal Code there are several criminal offences against official duties and authorities . Judge is in case law also seen as a official and he/she could also be charged with such criminal offence but so far in Croatia there is no pending cases against ,judges.
5.2 What is procedure involved?
In case of civil action there is no special proceedings involved except rules of Civil Proceedings Code.
Criminal action against a judge can not be started without permission from High Judicial Council because judges have immunities according to article 9 of Law on Courts.
If such permission is granted rules of Criminal procedural law are applied.
5.3 What is the competent institution or authority?
Courts of general authority.
5.4. What sanctions or compensatory measures can be applied?
All those which are proscribed by the law in case of criminal proceedings, and in case of civil liability sanction will be consisting in obligation to pay the amount State paid
to the damaged party ( See ad.5.1)
6. Can judges be subject to disciplinary proceedings? If so,
Yes, and this matter is regulated by Law on High Judicial Council (LHJC).
6.1 In what circumstances?
Judge can be subject to disciplinary proceedings if he/she commits disciplinary acts which are according to article 20 of LHJC:
a) abuse of position or professional authority,
b) failure to perform, without justified reason, judicial duties, or performing them negligently. In particular according to section 2. of article 20. disciplinary act shall be initiated:
- if a judge without justified reason, does not develop and does not deliver judicial decisions without the prescribed period of time,
- if judicial council has evaluated a judge's work negatively,
- if, without a justified reason, the number of decisions a judge has delivered in a year is under the Croatian average,
c) involvement in any service, task or activity conflicting with performance of judicial duties,
d) conduct which results in a failure of the operation o the court, significantly impending the performance of judicial authority ,
e) violation of official secret relating to the performance of judicial duties,
f) otherwise damaging the reputation of the court or judicial office
6.2 What is the procedure involved?
The proceedings against judge, if there is founded suspicion that the judge has committed a disciplinary act, can be initiated only bay president of the court where judge performs his/hers judicial duties, president of the higher court, president of the supreme court , judicial council and Minister of justice.
Proceeding is conducted before all eleven members of HJC. All rights which defender in criminal proceedings has, are guaranteed. Disciplinary proceedings is conducted in accordance with Criminal Procedure Act.
Firstly HJC is deciding to allow or not to allow initiation of disciplinary proceedings.
If HJC by majority vote decides to allow the proceedings then hearings are held and after all evidence brought by plaintiff and defender are examined, HJC delivers the decision.
Charges can be dismissed, or if HJC finds that disciplinary liability exist HJC is delivering decision finding the judge liable for disciplinary offence and some of disciplinary sanctions is imposed.
Against decision of HJC judge has a right to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
6.3 What is the competent institution or authority?
High Judicial council.
6.4 What disciplinary sanctions can be imposed?
According to article 21 of Law on HJC disciplinary sanctions are:
- a reprimand
-a fine, not exceeding one third of the salary received in the previous month, for a period not longer than six months,
-dismissal from the office.