Strasbourg, 16 December 2002
CCJE (2003) 30
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire on judges’ training: reply submitted by the delegation of Slovenia
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?
Introductory note: A state examination for lawyers is prerequisite for judicial office. This examination is common to all legal professions which are involved in the functioning of the courts, and is preceded by an extensive training programme. After this examination, a certain period of practice is required before applying for a judicial office. It is common for those who intend to pursue a judicial career to stay with a court during this period, assuming position of a "judicial adviser" (Courts Act, par. 53). Judicial advisers have the same access to training as judges and up to 1/3 of the audience at major training events is made up of them. According to Judicial Council, judicial advisers are almost exclusive source of prospective judges. After the election to a judicial office, a newly elected judge is expected to take part in an in-service training programme. Therefore, all the following answers apply to in-service training of the newly elected judges, unless specifically noted otherwise.
However, no specific training is provided between the State Examination for Lawyers and the election to a judicial office.
2. Is the right to or requirement to undergo training stipulated in any law or regulation?
If so, please specify.
"Judges shall have the right to participate in forms of education, in conferences and in other meetings of legal experts.
In the cases specified in the previous paragraph, judges shall have the right to be absent when participation is necessary, with the right to compensation in the amount of the wage and the reimbursement of costs pursuant to the provisions of the present Act.
Judges’ participation, on the basis of applications by judges, shall be ruled on by the president of the court, who must ensure that judges from specific legal fields are equally involved in the forms of education or conferences specified in the first paragraph of this article."
– Judicial Service Act, par. 64
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?
All the training for judges is free of charge (see 2. above). For the period of basic training (prior to State Examination), it is possible to apply for a specific post within the judicial administration (judicial trainee) which is paid. Also for others, this training is free. Judicial advisers (see definition under 1. above) have the same access to training as judges.
4. Is there a judges’ training institution?
If so, is it a permanent public body?
Yes, there is a Judicial Training Centre, which is a permanent body, but it does not perform initial training (prior to State Examination).
5. If there is such an institution, please describe briefly how it is organised, how it operates and who provides the training.
The Centre for Judicial Education was formed in 1998. This Centre presents a kind of a pool, in which human resources, knowledge and financial means of its members are concentrated, co-ordinated by the Centre's Programme Council and in turn all the results being made available to all members. The members of the Centre are the Supreme Court, the State Prosecutor's Office, the State Attorney's Office, the State Senate for Misdemeanours, the Ministry of Justice and the associations of judges and state prosecutors – in other words, all the institutions which are interested in education of judicial functionaries. Also benefiting from the activities of the Centre, as well as having a member in its Programme Council, is the Constitutional court. The Centre is governed by the Programme Council, in which all of its members are represented accordingly to the number of their personnel and their importance in the process of training. For the time being, the Centre is located at the Ministry of Justice, which also provides part-time administrative support.
Actual training for judges is mostly conceived and organised by the personnel of the Supreme court. Trainers are mostly experienced practitioners and occasionally also external experts from various legal and other fields.
6. What subjects does judges’ initial training cover?
The training for the newly elected judges (see explanation under 1.) is organised in the form of "Introductory Schools", which are in fact small study groups of judges with similar level of experience and fields of work. An experienced judge of a court of appeals is assigned as a mentor to every of these groups. Therefore, most of the work is done on a largely individual basis and it is impossible to talk about programmes or subjects.
7. Is there an end-of-training examination to assess ability to perform the duties of judge?
No. It is considered that a person who passed the State Examination and who meets other legal requirements for judicial office, and has also been positively evaluated in the selection process, has the ability and at least the minimal knowledge necessary to perform judicial duties. Additionally, the performance of the newly elected judges is monitored more frequently.
b) In-service training
1. Is there an in-service judges’ training scheme?
If so, how is it organised and what subjects are covered?
Perhaps the most important form of education at this moment are the so called "Judicial Schools". They are major events with the goal to gather all the judges specialising in the same major legal field. Therefore, they are typically attended by 50 – 100 participants, depending on the legal field and the number of judges specialising in it. Civil and Criminal schools, addressing the most numerous population, usually have to be repeated in order to keep the participants within the manageable numbers. Besides those, schools for judges working in the area of administrative, labour and social and commercial law are also organised. They usually last for 3 full days, meaning up to 10 working hours per day.
Regarding the program side, the schools are obviously aimed at the themes deemed interesting for every judge of a particular specialisation and at the same important enough to be presented to the complete population. A school usually begins with general themes, covering theoretical aspects of law and also some non-legal topics, such as use of language or general aspects of communication. The themes in this part are usually presented by academics. Later, usually during the second day, important novelties concerning the particular legal areas are presented, as well as common problems of application of law, as detected by the judges of appellate courts. Here, the themes are only exceptionally presented by academics. We rather try to persuade experienced practitioners to collect as much information as possible, also from the practice of their colleagues, and present their view of the problem and possible solutions. The conclusion of a school usually consists of considerations of particular problems from practice, some of it in the form of questions and answers, and some as a moderated debate. This part is invariably moderated by a Supreme Court judge. Also an inseparable and very important part of the schools is informal networking or exchange of experience. Most of the materials presented at the judicial schools are printed in a periodical publication published by the Ministry of Justice and can therefore serve as a kind of a handbook.
We are quite aware that the schools in their present form largely contradict the current paradigm of education, which seems to base on small numbers of participants and emphasised interactivity. However, as far as law and legal system is concerned, we still live in a time of intensive transition and adaptation to the standards of the EU. In practical terms, this means that the laws are being changed at a rate that can hardly be even imagined by the colleagues from the more stable legal systems; just as an example, practically all the core legislation concerning criminal procedures (and this also includes Police Act, Execution of Sanctions Act and several other acts) was changed within a timeframe of a single year. In these circumstances, we consider to be of the utmost importance to keep the judiciary up to date not only as far as legislation is concerned, but also regarding its practical application. The only practical way of doing this efficiently seem to be relatively large gatherings. The sheer quantity of participants also enables them to form rather relevant and uniform standing points on legal issues, what is an important element of legal security. This philosophy has also been supported by the participants themselves through the evaluation. Of course, this form of education has to be – and actually is – complemented by smaller, more specialised events.
A variety of the described judicial schools are also so-called "introductory schools". They are meant for the judges who have only been on the bench for a short time and are almost as a rule facing typical problems, more of methodological than of legal nature. These schools are organised by the Supreme Court, but performed by the judges of the respective court of appeals, who are well aware of the problems and shortcomings of the junior judges in their area. The strictly enforced rules of these schools are work in small groups and interactivity.
Individual topics are covered by specialised seminars, which are probably no different than anywhere else. Besides the classical legal topics, we also try to introduce information from additional, non-legal point of view whenever applicable. A good example is a recent seminar on family law, which – among others – featured also social workers and children psychologists.
The Centre also organises and finances a number of study visits abroad. To facilitate the organisation, the programmes of the major European educational organisations, such as ERA and ENM are made available to the judiciary along with an invitation for proposals for study visits. Any well founded proposal is usually accepted by the Council and a study visit organised and financed. Additionally, all the proposals forwarded to us from abroad are processed in the same way, meaning that they are published to the judiciary and the candidates chosen by the Council. This way, every year 30 – 40 judges can attend some form of education abroad.
A special chapter is education in EU law. We begun with systematic education in this area as much as 7 years ago, at that time mostly using foreign lecturers, partly obtained through TAIEX and partly through our own activities. Presently , a programme of systematic training is available in this area, plus a number of specialised seminars.
2. Is in-service training optional or compulsory?
It is entirely optional. The frequency of training, however, is one of the criteria in the process of promotion.
3. Who runs such training?
The training is co-ordinated and financed by the Judicial Training Centre. The vast majority of the events is actually conceived and organised by the personnel of the Supreme Court.
4. What approaches are adopted to impress upon judges the need to improve their professional skills?
In the environment of the rapidly and radically changing legal system there is no such need. Despite of the busy training schedule (up to 26 events organised by the Centre, plus the possibility to attend at least as many externally organised events and some international events as well), it is usually more than enough to announce an event in the internal bulletin. In many cases it is even necessary to decline some of the applicants. In the prevailing opinion among the judiciary, regular training is practically an obligation.
5. Is there a specific training scheme for judges at the beginning of their careers? If so, please describe it briefly.
Please see a-6 and b-1 above