Strasbourg, 19 February 2007
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire for 2007 CCJE opinion concerning the councils for the judiciary : Reply submitted by the delegation of Hungary
Part I – General context concerning the judiciary
The legislative power – the Parliament – has no authority to intervene in the judicial work / administration of justice.
No, the Parliament does not have such power.
No, the Government as an executive power has no authority to intervene in the judicial work / administration of justice.
The judicial staff is working under the authority of the president of the court.
The president of the court
evaluates the activity of the judge under the rules set up by law and the National Council of Justice (NCJ).
has no duties concerning the distribution of the cases among the judges except for local courts with small staff.
is not entitled to act as a disciplinary authority except for issuing a warning. The president can only initiate a disciplinary proceeding at a disciplinary court that consists of members elected by the judges. This court has a two-level proceeding. The warning issued by the president can be appealed at this disciplinary court.
invites applications for vacant judge-posts and selects the candidates, except for posts falling in the competencs of the NCJ and for the first nomination of judges.
is responsible for the implementation of the court’s budget as approved by the NCJ and for ensuring the conditions concerning the functioning of the court.
monitors the compliance of the court’s work with the internal management rules especially the procedural deadlines and determines the working order.
convenes the annual meeting of the judges and ensures the proper functioning of the judicial chambers.
organises the training under its authority.
Part II – About the Councils for the Judiciary in general
Yes, there is a Council in Hungary.
National Council of Justice (NCJ).
The Constitution and the Law No. 66 of 1997 promulgated by the Parliament with a two-third majority.
The NCJ was established in 1997 in the framework of the judicial reform in order to ensure the total independence of the courts by distracting the courts’ administration from the government and entrusting the NCJ with it. The Minister of Justice is a member of the NCJ.
Part III – Composition
The NCJ has 15 members. Those are
the President of the Supreme Court, elected exclusively from the judges by the Parliament for a six-year-term,
the Minister of Justice,
the Chief Public Prosecutor,
the President of the National Bar Association,
two members of the Parliament appointed by the Constitutional and Judicial Commission, as well as by the Budget and Financial Commission,
nine judges elected by the judges’ conferences via delegates. Any judge with at least 5 years of judicial practice is eligible to be a member of the NCJ.
The president of the Council is ex officio the President of the Supreme Court. The vice-president is elected by the NCJ from among its members.
See point 12.
The judge-members of the NCJ are elected for a six-year term.
A judge-member of the NCJ can not be removed from office against his/her will; the duty can only be terminated by resignation or as a result of a disciplinary procedure.
Part IV – Resources
The Parliament approves the budget of the courts as a part of the state budget upon the proposal of the NCJ.
Yes, the NCJ has its own staff, the Office of the National Council of Justice.
The staff of the Office consists of 180 employees including the staff of the Hungarian Judicial Academy / School of Judges.
The Head of the Office – a judge – is appointed by the NCJ as a result of an application procedure. With their consent judges can be also assigned to the Office for a definite and indefinite term as well. Leading employees are mostly judges.
See point 20.
The Office prepares the meetings and the decisions of the NCJ. It is responsible for the register of the judges and the judicial statistics. The Office can make enquires ordered by or in order to inform the NCJ. It is also responsible for maintaining the Hungarian Judicial Academy. The Office publishes the Court Bulletin and organises the international contacts of the courts.
Part V – Tasks
The position of a judge can be attained by application. The president of the court invites applications for vacant judge-posts. The judge must pass an eligibility test. After passing this test the president of the court makes a proposal for the first appointment of a judge towards the NCJ in view of the opinion of the judges of the court. This proposal is not binding upon the NCJ. Upon the proposal of the NCJ the President of the Republic appoints the judges for the first time for a three-year term, then – after a detailed audit – for lifetime.
The appointment of court presidents and other leaders of the courts are made by the NCJ in view of the judicial bodies concerned.
There are no administrative directors at courts.
The number of judges is determined by the Parliament. A court can be established or dissolved by the Parliament in view of the opinion of the NCJ.
The president of a county court is entitled to transfer judges between local courts under the authority of his/her county court or between a local court and the county court. The NCJ is responsible for all other transfers of judges. This also applies for the so called temporary transfer when the judge is working on a temporary basis at a court that deviates from his/her place of service.
The NCJ is responsible for the central training of the whole judiciary, respectively for the training of trainee judges and court secretaries. The Hungarian Judicial Academy (HJA) was established and began its functioning on 1 September 2006 with respect to the above mentioned purpose. The HJA provides theoretical and practical 3-5 day trainings. The HJA provides accommodation for 70 participants at one time and serves as an information and documentation centre as well.
The NCJ is not only responsible for the central collection of statistical data, but examines particularly the duration of the cases, which is an important indicator of the level of court service. The NCJ publishes the experiences leading to the too long duration of the cases. The NCJ keeps tabs on the work of the divisions at the courts via the annual reports of the court presidents.
The judge is audited in the first 15 years of his/her career. It is the evaluation after the first three years which determines whether the judge is eligible for a life-long appointment. After that there are two more audits after six-six years. The procedure and the aspects of the evaluation is determined by an NCJ-regulation.
A regulation of the NCJ is dealing with the obligation of the appeal chambers to make notes on experiences from their appeal work. In case of finding an especially good or bad decision, they have to record it, at the same time informing the judge concerned. The overall experiences of these actions must be presented to all judges.
The NCJ can initiate a disciplinary procedure at the disciplinary court if the judge or the leader concerned was appointed by the NCJ.
The NCJ makes its budgetary proposal and hands it in to the Parliament. (The President of the NCJ and the minister of finance negotiate in several rounds.) The NCJ makes decision on the distribution of the budget between the courts.
An important activity of the NCJ is the central management of the IT-development of the courts.
The NCJ has the power to initiate legislation concerning the duties of the courts and to make opinion on legal instruments prepared by the legislative branch which are dealing with the judiciary. The interests of the courts are represented in the government by the minister of justice, in the Parliament by the two MPs who are members of the NCJ as well.
The NCJ governs and inspects the administrative duties of the court presidents. The only exception is the President of the Supreme Court, who is not appointed by the NCJ but is elected by the Parliament. Once a year the court presidents inform all judges under their responsibility about their activities. This report must exist in written form as well. These reports are discussed and evaluated by the NCJ which determines the tasks for the coming year at the same time.
The NCJ issues for the courts obligatory regulations in the framework of relevant laws. Furthermore it makes recommendations and decisions and evaluates their compliance. It determines the basic principles of the organisational and procedural code of the county courts and approves them.
Act 66 of 1997 on the Organizational and Administrative Structure of Courts
Act 67 of 1997 on the Legal Status and Remuneration of Judges
Organisational and Procedural Code of the NCJ
The above mentioned acts were approved by the Parliament with a two-third majority, therefore the same rules should be applied for their amendments as well.
In Hungary the Code of Ethics for Judges was approved in 2005. According to the NCJ this was an important task which was worth for support. The judges’ associations set up the Ethical Committee and determined its procedural rules. The decisions of the Ethical Committee are published in the Court Bulletin of the NCJ.
Two departments of the Office of the NCJ are dealing with international affairs, the Department for International Affairs and the Department for Press and Media. Last year the Department for Press and Media upon the decision of the NCJ carried out a three-step poll on the social acceptance of the courts, the NCJ and its Office 1. in the whole society, 2. among those, who are working on a daily basis with the courts (public prosecutors, lawyers, police) and 3. among judges.
The regulations, recommendations and most decisions of the courts are published in the monthly official journal of the NCJ, the Court Bulletin. The invitations for vacancy applications and other news are also published here, e. g. information concerning EC law. This Bulletin is free of charge for every judge. It is also accessible for the whole society. The website of the NCJ, http://www.birosag.hu/ is also open to the public, which provides also some information on the Hungarian court system and the NCJ in English, German and French.
Part VI – Assessment of the self-governance and the independence of the judiciary
The legislative and executive powers have influence on the work of the NCJ only via those members of the NCJ who are members of the above mentioned powers (two and one persons, respectively).
The NCJ is totally independent from any other state institutions. Only the Hungarian Court of Auditors can check its management, the same way as at other institutions.
As mentioned before, the minister of justice is an ordinary member of the NCJ without extra powers. On the other hand, it means that the minister of justice is the person who can represent the priorities and reservations of the NCJ in the government. The NCJ initiates the creation and amendment of acts concerning the courts via the minister of justice, and the minister of justice is the person who submits these bills to the NCJ before the Parliament discusses them.
The powers of the NCJ concerning the Supreme Court are limited, because it does not supervise the administrative work of the President of the Supreme Court.
The NCJ itself.
The individual courts and the judges are entitled to put a question to the President of the NCJ, or to the Head of the Office of the NCJ, or to the members of the NCJ. These addressees can initiate to place the question on the agenda.
In addition to it the presidents of the courts can draw up in their annual report the themes that require central measure of the NCJ.
If the other branches of power make comments that endanger even indirectly the independence of judges the NCJ will comment it in every cases. The press conferences after the NCJ session and the press releases of the President of the NCJ can be used for such indications.
In addition to it the NCJ making efforts now to find a solution to institutionalize specific criminal and civil legal protection for the judges and hereby the courts in cases of offences against them.
In addition the claim came up to limit the direct litigation of the judge if the reason is the official activity of the judge. First of all it does not serve the direct defence and comfort of the judge but to prevent the parties to avoid the authorized judge, violating the constitutional right to the authorized judge and to make the proceedings longer.
Part VII – Future trends of Councils for the Judiciary
The NCJ makes an effort that the Office supports its work more efficiently in a clearer organisational structure. Therefore, the modification of the Organizational and Procedural Code is on the agenda which mainly hits the structure of the departments.
The NCJ has close contact with judges’ associations. The oldest and biggest of them is the Hungarian Association of Judges which stands for the overall interests of the judges. Parallel to this there are professional bodies of administrative judges, judges dealing with labour cases, with traffic cases, company registers and the national trainer judges. The NCJ gives financial support to programmes of these associations. On the other hand these bodies assist the NCJ in making opinion about act proposals by their professional contribution.
The NCJ is a member of the ENCJ, its representatives work in several working groups. This gives the opportunity to be able to make comparative analysis with countries having such councils, to get acquainted with topics (measuring the work of the judges, efficiency and social acceptance) and how to handle them. A poll is currently under way to get information about the staff (its number and qualification) that directly assists a judge.
The ENCJ-membership gives the opportunity to present the organisation and the administrative structure of the Hungarian judiciary. In the framework of this task took place a meeting of the Working Group ‘Mission and Vision’ in Budapest in April 2006 where we presented our six-year action plan and the goals already achieved. In 2008 Hungary will host the next General Assembly of the ENCJ.
44. The special responsibility that belongs to the activity of the judge, the high level ethical expectation, the compensation of the limitation of other gainful employment (income, resting time, special health care, special pension system that differs from the enterprise sphere etc.) The protection in order to avoid the physical attack on the judges and specially on the court buildings belongs to the scope of states’s duties.