Strasbourg, 22 January 2002
CCJE (2003) 1
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire on judges’ training: reply submitted by the delegation of Estonia
Questionnaire on judges' training
a) Initial training for prospective judges
1. Are prospective judges given any initial training? If so, how long does this last?
When preparing for a judicial office a person who meets the qualification requirements can participate in preparatory service. For the professional preparation of persons who have not worked as judges there is the institute of the applicant for judicial office by the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appoints a supervisor for the applicant for judicial office from among the judges, approves the programme of professional preparation and checks the fulfilment thereof. Duration of the preparatory service is up to two years and is concluded by taking a judge's examination. As a rule, initial training takes place in the courts of first instance.
2. Is the right or requirement to undergo training stipulated in any law or regulation? If so, please specify.
Professional preparation of applicants for judicial office is regulated by the Status of Judges Act and the rules of the Supreme Court.
Pursuant to law there is the institute of the applicant for judicial office by the Supreme Court for professional preparation of persons who have not worked as judges. The programme for professional preparation of an applicant for judicial position is approved and adherence thereto is checked by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Professional preparation of an applicant for judicial office takes place under the supervision of a judge of a first instance court, appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, it lasts for up to two years and is completed by taking a judge's examination. In case he or she fails, the working relationship with the applicant is terminated or he or she shall continue the professional preparation on the basis of a resolution of the judge's examination committee.
3. Is training run and financed by the state or by other means? Is it free of charge for prospective judges and are the latter paid?
Professional preparation of applicants for judicial office takes place at the expense of the state. It is free of charge for prospective judges and during the period of professional preparation they are paid a salary equalling to at least half of the salary of an administrative judge.
4. Is there a judges' training institution? If so, is it a permanent public body?
There is no institution engaged in the training of judges only. Up to now the Ministry of Justice has subscribed for the training of judges from the Estonian Law Centre Foundation, which is engaged in training judges alongside with other lawyers.
5. If there is such an institution, please describe briefly how it is organised, how it operates and who provides the training?
The Estonian Law centre Foundation was established on 2 June 1995 by the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court and Tartu University. The main fields of activity of the Foundation are to offer legal in-service programmes for Estonian legal profession, especially to those working in public sector; to improve dissemination of information and develop contacts among Estonian legal profession; to contribute to the co-operation between Estonian layers; to finance legal research and training programmes.
The Estonian Law Centre Foundation is financed from various sources. Estonian Law Centre Foundation has contractual relations with the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court, through whom the in-service training programmes for judges and prosecutors are financed. So far the Ministry of Justice has not recognised Estonian Law Centre Foundation as a central training organisation for judges. In addition, Estonian Law Centre Foundation has received significant contribution in the form of grants from international organisations such as US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, USA Democracy Commission, USA Baltic Partnership Foundation, Open Estonia Foundation and from CIME (Center for International Management Education). The Law Centre also co-operates with European institutions who finance projects (SIDA, Phare).
6. What subjects does judges' initial training cover?
During the preparation service an applicant for the judicial office studies the court system, conducting of business, procedural norms, as well as the procedure for registering and processing of court files.
An applicant for judicial office, while in court, also fulfils practical duties: receives statements of claim and complaints, proceeds those, issues summons, prepares draft judgements, analyses court statistics, prepares cases for hearing and participates in court sessions. The law does not entitle an applicant for judicial office to administer justice.
7. Is there an end-of-training examination to assess ability to perform the duties of judge?
The preparation period of up to two years is completed by taking a judge's examination. In case he or she fails, the working relationship with the applicant is terminated or he or she shall continue the professional preparation on the basis of a resolution of the judge's examination committee.
b) In-service training
1. Is there an in-service judges' training scheme? If so, how is it organised and what subjects are covered?
The Ministry of Justice prepared a "Strategy for Training Judges and Prosecutors for the years 2001-2004", which was adopted by the Government of the Republic on 20 February 2001. The subjects include substantive law, procedural law, European Community law. In addition such subjects are dealt with that offer knowledge and skills related to the role of judge, management knowledge and skills for chairmen of courts and other extra-legal knowledge, such as book-keeping, economy, environment, etc. Also, language training is considered to be necessary.
According to the training strategy there are the following types of in-service training: "post-training", supplementary training, training necessary for accession to European Union, position training and special training.
The main objective of post-training is to teach modern legal theory. Post-training is divided into two phases. The objective of the first phase is to train trainers who, after completing their studies, will act as lecturers during the second phase of the training. The objective of the second phase of post-training is to ensure to all first and second instance judges and prosecutors knowledge of modern legal theory necessary for quality work. Thus, the target group of the second phase of post-training is all judges and prosecutors who did not undergo training in the first phase. By the end of the second phase all prosecutors and judges of first and second instance have undergone post-training.
The objective of supplementary training is to keep judges and prosecutors informed of the constant amendments to legal order. At the supplementary training sessions topical law amendments, existing pertinent court-practice and the trends thereof are dealt with. The target group of supplementary training is formed of all judges and prosecutors. The seminars of supplementary training can be divided into different spheres: private law, penal law, public law and general subjects. Every judge and prosecutor can choose which lectures he or she considers necessary to attend.
In order to be prepared for European Union accession two types of training are necessary: on European Community law and language training. European Community law training is divided into two: basic training and horizontal training.
The majority of judges working today did not have the possibility during their university studies to gain an overview of the European Union and EC law. Thus, all judges and prosecutors have to undergo the basic training. Horizontal training concerns different spheres of European Community law. Participants choose, according to their specialisation or their wish, which lectures to attend, as it is practically impossible to attend all. In respect of language training each judge and prosecutor can choose, according to his or her acquired language skills, which foreign language skills they want to improve.
Position training embraces improving knowledge and skills related to the role of judges and prosecutors, management training and pedagogical education. The objective of position training is to facilitate the daily work of judges and prosecutors, to assist them in solving critical situations and avoid burning out. The target group of training on knowledge and skills related to the role of judges and prosecutors consists of all judges and prosecutors; chairmen of courts and senior prosecutors are the target group of training on improving and developing management knowledge and skills, and the target group of training on pedagogical knowledge consists of judges and prosecutors who act as lecturers.
Special training includes training on substantive and procedural law, not covered by post-training or supplementary training and training on extra-legal spheres. The target group consists of judges and prosecutors according to their specialisation or special competence.
So far the strategy has not been realised due to the lack of systematic and long-term planning.
2. Is in-service training optional or compulsory?
In-service training is optional. In the new draft Courts Act which is in the legislative proceeding of the Parliament the Ministry of Justice is seeking to tie the salary increase and remaining in office with participation in post-training.
3. Who runs such training?
So far the Estonian Law Centre Foundation, established in 1995 with the objective of training judges and prosecutors, has been the most important partner of the Ministry of Justice in the field. If a training is financed as foreign aid the organisers have been foreign partners alone or in co-operation with the Ministry of Justice. Specific training and training the cost of which is less than 50,000 kroons is organised by the Ministry of Justice in co-operation with qualified trainers.
4. What approaches are adopted to impress upon judges the need to improve their professional skills?
There is the so called three-year rule. During the first three years after appointment to office the activities of a judge at the beginning of his or her career are under special scrutiny. The law provides that a judge may be dismissed from office if he or she is determined unfit for duty within three years after his or her appointment. It is the judge's examination committee who shall give its opinion on the dismissal of a judge from office on the grounds of the judge being unsuitable for office within 3 years of the judge's appointment to office.
Also, upon promotion to a higher court the fact whether the judge has improved his or her professional knowledge and skills is taken into consideration.
5. Is there a specific training scheme for judges at the beginning of their careers? If so, please describe it briefly.
There is no separate specific training for judges at the beginning of their careers.