DAJ/DOC (98) 23
the statute for judges
Activities for the development and consolidation
of democratic stability
Project n° 3
the statute for judges
Strasbourg, 8 - 10 July 1998
The activities carried out in the Council of Europe for many years now, on the organisation of Justice in a democratic State governed by the rule of law, have allowed the various aspects of the issue of the status of judges to be addressed on numerous occasions. These meetings over the past years have been devoted to the recruitment, training, career and responsibilities of judges, as well as the disciplinary system governing them. The number of these meetings has increased since the end of the eighties due to the profound changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe.
In 1997, the idea developed to maximise the results of the work and discussions in order to give this work better ‘visibility’ and above all to give a new impulse to the continuing effort to improve legal institutions as an essential element of the rule of law.
The need to draft a European charter on the statute for judges was confirmed in July 1997, following a first multilateral meeting in Strasbourg devoted to the Status of Judges in Europe. The participants at this meeting came from 13 Western, Central and Eastern European countries, as well as from the Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature of France (ENM), the European Association of Judges (EAJ) and the European Association of Judges for Democracy and Freedom (MEDEL). The participants expressed a wish for the Council of Europe to give the necessary framework and support to the elaboration of the Charter.
On the basis of these conclusions, the Directorate of Legal Affairs entrusted three experts from France, Poland and United Kingdom with the realisation of a draft charter.
This draft, created in Spring 1998, was laid before the participants of a second multilateral meeting, also held in Strasbourg, on 8-10 July 1998. At the end of the three days of discussion, the text, after having been improved by a certain number of amendments, was unanimously adopted.
The value of this Charter is not a result of a formal status, which, in fact, it does not have, but of the relevance and strength that its authors intended to give to its contents. A thorough knowledge of its contents and a wide distribution of the Charter are essential for its goals to be realised . The Charter is aimed at judges, lawyers, politicians and more generally to every person who has an interest in the rule of law and democracy.
EUROPEAN CHARTER ON THE STATUTE FOR JUDGES
The participants at the multilateral meeting on the statute for judges in Europe, organized by the Council of Europe, between 8-10 July 1998,
Having regard to Article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which provides that "everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law" ;
Having regard to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in November 1985;
Having referred to Recommendation No R (94) 12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the independence, efficiency and role of judges, and having made their own, the objectives which it expresses ;
Being concerned to see the promotion of judicial independence, necessary for the strengthening of the pre-eminence of law and for the protection of individual liberties within democratic states, made more effective ;
Conscious of the necessity that provisions calculated to ensure the best guarantees of the competence, independence and impartiality of judges should be specified in a formal document intended for all European States ;
Desiring to see the judges' statutes of the different European States take into account these provisions in order to ensure in concrete terms the best level of guarantees;
Have adopted the present European Charter on the statute for judges.
1. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
1.1. The statute for judges aims at ensuring the competence, independence and impartiality which every individual legitimately expects from the courts of law and from every judge to whom is entrusted the protection of his or her rights. It excludes every provision and every procedure liable to impair confidence in such competence, such independence and such impartiality. The present Charter is composed hereafter of the provisions which are best able to guarantee the achievement of those objectives. Its provisions aim at raising the level of guarantees in the various European States. They cannot justify modifications in national statutes tending to decrease the level of guarantees already achieved in the countries concerned.
1.2. In each European State, the fundamental principles of the statute for judges are set out in internal norms at the highest level, and its rules in norms at least at the legislative level.
1.3. In respect of every decision affecting the selection, recruitment, appointment, career progress or termination of office of a judge, the statute envisages the intervention of an authority independent of the executive and legislative powers within which at least one half of those who sit are judges elected by their peers following methods guaranteeing the widest representation of the judiciary.
1.4. The statute gives to every judge who considers that his or her rights under the statute, or more generally his or her independence, or that of the legal process, are threatened or ignored in any way whatsoever, the possibility of making a reference to such an independent authority, with effective means available to it of remedying or proposing a remedy.
1.5. Judges must show, in discharging their duties, availability, respect for individuals, and vigilance in maintaining the high level of competence which the decision of cases requires on every occasion - decisions on which depend the guarantee of individual rights and in preserving the secrecy of information which is entrusted to them in the course of proceedings.
1.6. The State has the duty of ensuring that judges have the means necessary to accomplish their tasks properly, and in particular to deal with cases within a reasonable period.
1.7. Professional organizations set up by judges, and to which all judges may freely adhere, contribute notably to the defence of those rights which are conferred on them by their statute, in particular in relation to authorities and bodies which are involved in decisions regarding them.
1.8. Judges are associated through their representatives and their professional organizations in decisions relating to the administration of the courts and as to the determination of their means, and their allocation at a national and local level. They are consulted in the same manner over plans to modify their statute, and over the determination of the terms of their remuneration and of their social welfare.
2. SELECTION, RECRUITMENT, INITIAL TRAINING
2.1. The rules of the statute relating to the selection and recruitment of judges by an independent body or panel, base the choice of candidates on their ability to assess freely and impartially the legal matters which will be referred to them, and to apply the law to them with respect for individual dignity. The statute excludes any candidate being ruled out by reason only of their sex, or ethnic or social origin, or by reason of their philosophical and political opinions or religious convictions.
2.2. The statute makes provision for the conditions which guarantee, by requirements linked to educational qualifications or previous experience, the ability specifically to discharge judicial duties.
2.3. The statute ensures by means of appropriate training at the expense of the State, the preparation of the chosen candidates for the effective exercise of judicial duties. The authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 hereof, ensures the appropriateness of training programmes and of the organization which implements them, in the light of the requirements of open-mindedness, competence and impartiality which are bound up with the exercise of judicial duties.
3. APPOINTMENT AND IRREMOVABILITY
3.1. The decision to appoint a selected candidate as a judge, and to assign him or her to a tribunal, are taken by the independent authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 hereof or on its proposal, or its recommendation or with its agreement or following its opinion.
3.2. The statute establishes the circumstances in which a candidate's previous activities, or those engaged in by his or her close relations, may, by reason of the legitimate and objective doubts to which they give rise as to the impartiality and independence of the candidate concerned, constitute an impediment to his or her appointment to a court.
3.3. Where the recruitment procedure provides for a trial period, necessarily short, after nomination to the position of judge but before confirmation on a permanent basis, or where recruitment is made for a limited period capable of renewal, the decision not to make a permanent appointment or not to renew, may only be taken by the independent authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 hereof, or on its proposal, or its recommendation or with its agreement or following its opinion. The provisions at point 1.4 hereof are also applicable to an individual subject to a trial period.
3.4. A judge holding office at a court may not in principle be appointed to another judicial office or assigned elsewhere, even by way of promotion, without having freely consented thereto. An exception to this principle is permitted only in the case where transfer is provided for and has been pronounced by way of a disciplinary sanction, in the case of a lawful alteration of the court system, and in the case of a temporary assignment to reinforce a neighbouring court, the maximum duration of such assignment being strictly limited by the statute, without prejudice to the application of the provisions at paragraph 1.4 hereof.
4. CAREER DEVELOPMENT
4.1. When it is not based on seniority, a system of promotion is based exclusively on the qualities and merits observed in the performance of duties entrusted to the judge, by means of objective appraisals performed by one or several judges and discussed with the judge concerned. Decisions as to promotion are then pronounced by the authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 hereof or on its proposal, or with its agreement. Judges who are not proposed with a view to promotion must be entitled to lodge a complaint before this authority.
4.2. Judges freely carry out activities outside their judicial mandate including those which are the embodiment of their rights as citizens. This freedom may not be limited except in so far as such outside activities are incompatible with confidence in, or the impartiality or the independence of a judge, or his or her required availability to deal attentively and within a reasonable period with the matters put before him or her. The exercise of an outside activity, other than literary or artistic, giving rise to remuneration, must be the object of a prior authorization on conditions laiddown by the statute.
4.3. Judges must refrain from any behaviour, action or expression of a kind effectively to affect confidence in their impartiality and their independence.
4.4. The statute guarantees to judges the maintenance and broadening of their knowledge, technical as well as social and cultural, needed to perform their duties, through regular access to training which the State pays for, and ensures its organization whilst respecting the conditions set out at paragraph 2.3 hereof.
5.1. The dereliction by a judge of one of the duties expressly defined by the statute, may only give rise to a sanction upon the decision, following the proposal, the recommendation, or with the agreement of a tribunal or authority composed at least as to one half of elected judges, within the framework of proceedings of a character involving the full hearing of the parties, in which the judge proceeded against must be entitled to representation. The scale of sanctions which may be imposed is set out in the statute, and their imposition is subject to the principle of proportionality. The decision of an executive authority, of a tribunal, or of an authority pronouncing a sanction, as envisaged herein, is open to an appeal to a higher judicial authority.
5.2. Compensation for harm wrongfully suffered as a result of the decision or the behaviour of a judge in the exercise of his or her duties is guaranteed by the State. The statute may provide that the State has the possibility of applying, within a fixed limit, for reimbursement from the judge by way of legal proceedings in the case of a gross and inexcusable breach of the rules governing the performance of judicial duties. The submission of the claim to the competent court must form the subject of prior agreement with the authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 hereof.
5.3. Each individual must have the possibility of submitting without specific formality a complaint relating to the miscarriage of justice in a given case to an independent body. This body has the power, if a careful and close examination makes a dereliction on the part of a judge indisputably appear, such as envisaged at paragraph 5.1 hereof, to refer the matter to the disciplinary authority, or at the very least to recommend such referral to an authority normally competent in accordance with the statute, to make such a reference.
6. REMUNERATION AND SOCIAL WELFARE
6.1. Judges exercising judicial functions in a professional capacity are entitled to remuneration, the level of which is fixed so as to shield them from pressures aimed at influencing their decisions and more generally their behaviour within their jurisdiction, thereby impairing their independence and impartiality.
6.2. Remuneration may vary depending on length of service, the nature of the duties which judges are assigned to discharge in a professional capacity, and the importance of the tasks which are imposed on them, assessed under transparent conditions.
6.3. The statute provides a guarantee for judges acting in a professional capacity against social risks linked with illness, maternity, invalidity, old age and death.
6.4. In particular the statute ensures that judges who have reached the legal age of judicial retirement, having performed their judicial duties for a fixed period, are paid a retirement pension, the level of which must be as close as possible to the level of their final salary as a judge.
7. TERMINATION OF OFFICE
7.1. A judge permanently ceases to exercise office through resignation, medical certification of physical unfitness, reaching the age limit, the expiry of a fixed legal term, or dismissal pronounced within the framework of a procedure such as envisaged at paragraph 5.1 hereof.
7.2. The occurence of one of the causes envisaged at paragraph 7.1 hereof, other than reaching the age limit or the expiry of a fixed term of office, must be verified by the authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 hereof.
THE EUROPEAN CHARTER
ON THE STATUTE FOR JUDGES
1. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
The provisions of the European Charter cover not only professional but also non-professional judges, because it is important that all judges should enjoy certain safeguards relating to their recruitment, incompatibilities, conduct outside, and the termination of their office.
However, the Charter also lays down specific provisions on professional judges, and in fact this specificity is inherent in certain concepts such as careers.
The provisions of the Charter concern the statute for judges of all jurisdictions to which people are called to submit their case or which are called upon to decide their case, be it a civil, criminal, administrative or other jurisdiction.
1.1 The Charter endeavours to define the content of the statute for judges on the basis of the objectives to be attained: ensuring the competence, independence and impartiality which all members of the public are entitled to expect of the courts and judges entrusted with protecting their rights. The Charter is therefore not an end in itself but rather a means of guaranteeing that the individuals whose rights are to be protected by the courts and judges have the requisite safeguards on the effectiveness of such protection.
These safeguards on individuals’ rights are ensured by judicial competence, in the sense of ability, independence and impartiality. These are positive references because the judge's statute must strive to guarantee them; however, they are also negative because the statute must not include any element which might adversely affect public confidence in such competence, independence and impartiality.
The question arose whether the provisions of the Charter should be mandatory, ie whether it should be made compulsory to include them in national statutes regulating the judiciary, or whether they should have the force of recommendations, so that different provisions deemed capable of ensuring equivalent guarantees could be implemented instead.
The latter approach could be justified by a reluctance to criticise national systems in which a long-standing, well-established practice has ensured effective guarantees on statutory protection of the judiciary, even if the system barely mentions such protection.
However, it has also been argued that in a fair number of countries, including new Council of Europe member States, which do not regulate the exercise by political authorities of powers in the area of appointing, assigning, promoting or terminating the office of judges, the safeguards on competence, independence and impartiality are ineffective.
This is why, even though the Charter’s provisions are not actually mandatory, they are presented as being the optimum means of ensuring that the aforementioned objectives are attained.
Many of the Charter’s provisions are inapplicable in systems where judges are directly elected by the citizens. It would have been impossible to draw up a Charter exclusively comprising provisions compatible with such elective systems, as this would have reduced the text to the lowest common denominator. Nor is the Charter aimed at “invalidating” elective systems, because where they do exist they may be regarded by nationals of the countries concerned as “quintessentially democratic”. We might consider that the provisions apply as far as possible to systems in which the judiciary is elected. For instance, the provisions set out in paragraphs 2.2 and 2.3 (first sentence) are certainly applicable to such systems, for which they provide highly appropriate safeguards.
The provisions of the Charter aim to raise the level of guarantees in the various European States. The importance of such raising will depend on the level already achieved in a country. But the provisions of the Charter must not in any way serve as the basis for modifying national statutes so as on the contrary to decrease the level of guarantees already achieved in any one country.
1.2 The fundamental principles constituting a statute for judges, determining the safeguard on the competence, independence and impartiality of the judges and courts, must be enacted in the normative rules at the highest level, that is to say in the Constitution, in the case of European States which have established such a basic text. The rules included in the statute will normally be enacted at the legislative level, which is also the highest level in States with flexible constitutions.
The requirement to enshrine the fundamental principles and rules in legislation or the Constitution protects the latter from being amended under a cursory procedure unsuited to the issues at stake. In particular, where the fundamental principles are enshrined in the Constitution, it prevents the enactment of legislation aimed at or having the effect of infringing them.
In stipulating that these principles must be included in domestic legal systems, the Charter is not prejudging the respect that is due under such systems for protective provisions set out in international instruments binding upon the European States. This is especially true because the Charter takes the foremost among these provisions as a source of inspiration, as stated in the preamble.
1.3 The Charter provides for the intervention of a body independent from the executive and the legislature where a decision is required on the selection, recruitment or appointment of judges, the development of their careers or the termination of their office.
The wording of this provision is intended to cover a variety of situations, ranging from the mere provision of advice for an executive or legislative body to actual decisions by the independent body.
Account had to be taken here of certain differences in the national systems. Some countries would find it difficult to accept an independent body replacing the political body responsible for appointments. However, the requirement in such cases to obtain at least the recommendation or the opinion of an independent body is bound to be a great incentive, if not an actual obligation, for the official appointments body. In the spirit of the Charter, recommendations and opinions of the independent body do not constitute guarantees that they will in a general way be followed in practice. The political or administrative authority which does not follow such recommendation or opinion should at the very least be obliged to make known its reasons for its refusal so to do.
The wording of this provision of the Charter also enables the independent body to intervene either with a straightforward opinion, an official opinion, a recommendation, a proposal or an actual decision.
The question arose of the membership of the independent body. The Charter at this point stipulates that at least one half of the body’s members should be judges elected by their peers, which means that it wants neither to allow judges to be in a minority in the independent body nor to require them to be in the majority. In view of the variety of philosophical conceptions and debates in European States, a reference to a minimum of 50% judges emerged as capable of ensuring a fairly high level of safeguards while respecting any other considerations of principle prevailing in different national systems.
The Charter states that judges who are members of the independent body should be elected by their peers, on the grounds that the requisite independence of this body precludes the election or appointment of its members by a political authority belonging to the executive or the legislature.
There would be a risk of party-political bias in the appointment and role of judges under such a procedure. Judges sitting on the independent body are expected, precisely, to refrain from seeking the favour of political parties or bodies that are themselves appointed or elected by or through such parties.
Finally, without insisting on any particular voting system, the Charter indicates that the method of electing judges to this body must guarantee the widest representation of judges.
1.4 The Charter enshrines the “right of appeal” of any judge who considers that his or her rights under the statute or more generally independence, or that of the legal process, is threatened or infringed in any way, so that he or she can refer the matter to an independent body as described above.
This means that judges are not left defenceless against an infringement of their independence. The right of appeal is a necessary safeguard because it is mere wishful thinking to set out principles to protect the judiciary unless they are consistently backed with mechanisms to guarantee their effective implementation. The intervention of the independent body before any decision is taken on the judge’s individual status does not necessarily cover all possible situations in which his or her independence is affected, and it is vital to ensure that judges can apply to this body on their own initiative.
The Charter stipulates that the body thus applied to must have the power to remedy the situation affecting the judge’s independence of its own accord, or to propose that the competent authority remedy it. This formula takes account of the diversity of national systems, and even a straightforward recommendation from an independent body on a given situation provides a considerable incentive for the authority in question to remedy the situation complained of.
1.5 The Charter sets out the judge’s main duties in the exercise of his or her functions. “Availability” refers both to the time required to judge cases properly and to the attention and alertness that are obviously required for such important duties, since it is the judge’s decision that safeguards individual rights. Respect for individuals is particularly vital in positions of power such as that occupied by the judge, especially since individuals often feel very vulnerable when confronted with the judicial system. This paragraph also mentions the judge’s obligation to respect the confidentiality of information which comes to his or her attention in the course of proceedings. It ends by pointing out that judges must ensure that they maintain the high level of competence that the hearing of cases demands. This means that the high level of competence and of ability is a constant requirement for the judge in examining and adjudicating on cases, and also that he or she must maintain this high level, if necessary through further training. As is pointed out later in the text, judges must be granted access to training facilities.
1.6 The Charter makes it clear that the State has the duty of ensuring that judges have the means necessary to accomplish their tasks properly, and in particular to deal with cases within a reasonable period.
Without explicit indication of this obligation which is the responsibility of the State, the justifications of the propositions related to the responsibility of the judges would be deteriorated.
1.7 The Charter recognises the role of professional associations formed by judges, to which all judges are freely entitled to adhere, which precludes any form of legal discrimination vis-à-vis the right to join them. It also points out that such associations contribute in particular to the defence of judges’ statutory rights before such authorities and bodies as may be involved in decisions affecting them. Judges may therefore not be prohibited from forming or adhering to professional associations.
Although the Charter does not assign these associations exclusive responsibility for defending judges’ statutory rights, it does indicate that their contribution to such defence before the authorities and bodies involved in decisions affecting judges must be recognised and respected. This applies, inter alia, to the independent authority referred to in paragraph 1.3.
1.8 The Charter provides that judges should be associated through their representatives, particularly those that are members of the authority referred to in paragraph 1.3, and through their professional associations, with any decisions taken on the administration of the courts, the determination of the courts’ budgetary resources and the implementation of such decisions at the local and national levels.
Without advocating any specific legal form or degree of constraint, this provision lays down that judges should be associated in the determination of the overall judicial budget and the resources earmarked for individual courts, which implies establishing consultation or representation procedures at the national and local levels. This also applies more broadly to the administration of justice and of the courts. The Charter does not stipulate that judges should be responsible for such administration, but it does require them not to be left out of administrative decisions.
Consultation of judges by their representatives or professional associations on any proposed change in their statute or any change proposed as to the basis on which they are remunerated, or as to their social welfare, including their retirement pension, should ensure that judges are not left out of the decision-making process in these fields. Nevertheless, the Charter does not authorise encroachment on the decision-making powers vested in the national bodies responsible for such matters under the Constitution.
2. SELECTION, RECRUITMENT AND INITIAL TRAINING
2.1 Judicial candidates must be selected and recruited by an independent body or panel. The Charter does not require that the latter be the independent authority referred to in paragraph 1.3, which means, for instance, that examination or selection panels can be used, provided they are independent. In practice, the selection procedure is often separate from the actual appointment procedure. It is important to specify the particular safeguards accompanying the selection procedure.
The choice made by the selection body must be based on criteria relevant to the nature of the duties to be discharged.
The main aim must be to evaluate the candidate’s ability to assess independently cases heard by judges, which implies independent thinking. The ability to show impartiality in the exercise of judicial functions is also an essential element. The ability to apply the law refers both to knowledge of the law and the capacity to put it into practice, which are two different things. The selection body must also ensure that the candidate’s conduct as a judge will be based on respect for human dignity, which is vital in encounters between persons in positions of power and the litigants, who are often people in great difficulties.
Lastly, selection must not be based on discriminatory criteria relating to gender, ethnic or social origin, philosophical or political opinions or religious convictions.
2.2 In order to ensure the ability to carry out the duties involved in judicial office, the rules on selection and recruitment must set out requirements as to qualifications and previous experience. This applies, for instance, to systems in which recruitment is conditional upon a set number of years’ legal or judicial experience.
2.3 The nature of judicial office, which requires the judge to intervene in complex situations that are often difficult in terms of respect for human dignity, is such that “abstract” verification of aptitude for such office is not enough.
Candidates selected to discharge judicial duties must therefore be prepared for the task by means of appropriate training, which must be financed by the State.
Certain precautions must be taken in preparing judges for the giving of independent and impartial decisions, whereby competence, impartiality and the requisite open-mindedness are guaranteed in both the content of the training programmes and the functioning of the bodies implementing them. This is why the Charter provides that the authority referred to in paragraph 1.3 must ensure the appropriateness of training programmes and of the organization which implements them, in the light of the requirements of open-mindedness, competence and impartiality which are bound up with the exercise of judicial duties. The said authority must have the resources so to ensure. Accordingly, the rules set out in the the statute must specify the procedure for supervision by this body in relation to the requirements in question concerning the programmes and their implementation by the training bodies.
3. APPOINTMENT AND IRREMOVABILITY
3.1 National systems may draw a distinction between the actual selection procedure and the procedures of appointing a judge and assigning him or her to a specific court. It should be noted that decisions to appoint or assign judges are taken by the independent authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 hereof or are reached upon its proposal or recommendation or with its agreement or following its opinion.
3.2 The Charter deals with the question of incompatibilities. It discarded the hypothesis of absolute incompatibilities as this would hamper judicial appointments on the grounds of candidates’ or their relatives’ previous activities. On the other hand, it considers that when a judge is to be assigned to a specific court, regard must be had to the above-mentioned circumstances where they give rise to legitimate and objective doubts as to his or her impartiality and independence.
For example, a lawyer who has previously practised in a given town cannot possibly be immediately assigned as a judge to a court in the same town. It is also difficult to imagine a judge being assigned to a court in a town in which his or her spouse, father or mother, for instance, is mayor or member of parliament. Therefore, where judges are to be assigned to a given court, the relevant statute must take account of situations liable to give rise to legitimate and objective doubts as to their independence and impartiality.
3.3 The recruitment procedure in some national systems provides for a probationary period before a permanent judicial appointment is made, and others recruit judges on fixed-term renewable contracts.
In such cases the decision not to make a permanent appointment or not to renew an appointment can only be taken by the independent authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 hereof or upon its proposal, recommendation or following its opinion. Clearly, the existence of probationary periods or renewal requirements presents difficulties if not dangers from the angle of the independence and impartiality of the judge in question, who is hoping to be established in post or to have his or her contract renewed. Safeguards must therefore be provided through the intervention of the independent authority. In so far as the quality as a judge of an individual who is the subject of a trial period may be under discussion, the Charter lays down that the right to make a reference to an independent authority, as referred to in paragraph 1.4, is applicable to such an individual.
3.4 The Charter enshrines the irremovability of judges, which means that a judge cannot be assigned to another court or have his or her duties changed without his or her free consent. However, exceptions must be allowed where transfer is provided for within a disciplinary framework, when a lawful re-organization of the court system takes place involving for example the closing down of a court or a temporary transfer is required to assist a neighbouring court. In the latter case, the duration of the temporary transfer must be limited by the relevant statute. Nevertheless, since the problem of transferring a judge without his or her consent is highly sensitive, it is recalled that under the terms of paragraph 1.4 he or she has a general right of appeal before an independent authority, which can investigate the legitimacy of the transfer. In fact, this right of appeal can also remedy situations which have not been specifically catered for in the provisions of the Charter where a judge has such an excessive workload as to be unable in practice to carry out his or her responsibilities normally.
4. CAREER DEVELOPMENT
4.1 Apart from cases where judges are promoted strictly on the basis of length of service, a system which the Charter did not in any way exclude because it is deemed to provide very effective protection for independence, but which presupposes that high-quality recruitment will be absolutely guaranted in the countries concerned, it is important to ensure that the judge’s independence and impartiality are not infringed in the area of promotion. It must be specified that there are two potential issues here: judges illegitimately barred from promotion, and judges unduly promoted.
This is why the Charter defines the criteria for promotion exclusively as the qualities and merits observed in the performance of judicial duties by means of objective assessments carried out by one or more judges and discussed with the judge assessed.
Decisions concerning promotion are then taken on the basis of these assessments in the light of the proposal by the independent authority referred to in paragraph 1.3 or upon its recommendation or with its agreement or following its opinion. It is expressly stipulated that a judge who is proposed with a view to promotion submitted for examination by the independent authority must be entitled to present his or her case before the said authority.
The provisions of paragraph 4.1 are obviously not intended to apply to systems in which judges are not promoted, and there is no judicial hierarchy, systems which are also in this regard highly protective of judicial independence.
4.2 The Charter deals here with activities conducted alongside judicial functions. It provides that judges may freely exercise activities outside their judicial mandate, including those which are the embodiment of their rights as citizens. This freedom, which constitutes the principle, may not know of limitation except only in so far as judges engage in outside activities incompatible either with public confidence in their impartiality and independence or with the availability required to consider the cases submitted to them with due care and within a reasonable time. The Charter does not specify any particular type of activity. The negative effects of outside activities on the conditions under which judicial duties are discharged must be pragmatically assessed. The Charter stipulates that judges should request authorisation to engage in activities other than literary or artistic when they are renumerated.
4.3 The Charter addresses the question of what is sometimes called “judicial discretion”. It adopts a position which derives from Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights thereupon, laying down that judges must refrain from any behaviour, action or expression likely to affect public confidence in their impartiality and independence. The reference to the risk of such confidence being undermined obviates any excessive rigidity which would result in the judge becoming a social and civic outcast.
4.4 The Charter lays down “the judge’s right to in-house training”: he or she must have regular access to training courses organized at public expense, aimed at ensuring that judges can maintain and improve their technical, social and cultural skills. The State must ensure that such training programmes are so organised as to respect the conditions set out in paragraph 2.3, which relate to the role of the independent authority referred to in paragraph 1.3, in order to guarantee appropriateness in the content of training courses and in the functioning of the bodies implementing such courses, to the requirements of open-mindedness, competence and impartiality.
The definition of these guarantees set out in paragraphs 2.3 and 4.4 on training is very flexible, enabling them to be tailored to the various national training systems: training colleges administered by the Ministry of Justice, institutes operating under the higher council of judges, private law foundations, etc.
5.1 The Charter deals here with the judge’s disciplinary liability. It begins with a reference to the principle of the legality of disciplinary sanctions, stipulating that the only valid reason for imposing sanctions is the failure to perform one of the duties explicitly defined in the Judges' Statute and that the scale of applicable sanctions must be set out in the judges' statute. Moreover, the Charter lays down guarantees on disciplinary hearings: disciplinary sanctions can only be imposed on the basis of a decision taken following a proposal or recommendation or with the agreement of a tribunal or authority, at least one half of whose members must be elected judges. The judge must be given a full hearing and be entitled to representation. If the sanction is actually imposed, it must be chosen from the scale of sanctions, having due regard to the principle of proportionality. Lastly, the Charter provides for a right of appeal to a higher judicial authority against any decision to impose a sanction taken by an executive authority, tribunal or body, at least half of whose membership are elected judges.
The current wording of this provision does not require the availability of such a right of appeal against a sanction imposed by Parliament.
5.2 Here the Charter relates to judges’ civil and pecuniary liability. It posits the principle that State compensation shall be paid for damage sustained as a result of a judge’s wrongful conduct or unlawful exercise of his or her functions whilst acting as a judge. This means that it is the State which is in every case the guarantor of compensation to the victim for such damage.
In specifying that such a State guarantee applies to damage sustained as a result of a judge’s wrongful conduct or unlawful exercise of his or her functions, the Charter does not necessarily refer to the wrongful or unlawful nature of the conduct or of the exercise of functions, but rather emphasises the damage sustained as a result of that “wrongful” or “unlawful” nature. This is fully compatible with liability based not upon misconduct by the judge, but upon the abnormal, special and serious nature of the damage resulting from his or her wrongful conduct or unlawful exercise of functions. This is important in the light of concerns that judges’ judicial independence should not be affected through a civil liability system.
The Charter also provides that, when the damage which the State had to guarantee is the result of a gross and inexcusable breach of the rules governing the performance of judicial duties, the statute may confer on the State the possibility of bringing legal proceedings with a view to requiring the judge to reimburse it for the compensation paid within a limit fixed by the statute. The requirement for gross and inexcusable negligence and the legal nature of the proceedings to obtain reimbursement must constitute significant guarantees that the procedure is not abused. An additional guarantee is provided by way of the prior agreement which the authority referred to at paragraph 1.3 must give before a claim may be submitted to the competent court.
5.3 Here the Charter looks at the issue of complaints by members of the public about miscarriages of justice.
States have organised their complaints procedures to varying degrees, and it is not always very well organised.
This is why the Charter provides for the possibility to be open to an individual to make a complaint of miscarriage of justice in a given case to an independent body, without having to observe specific formalities. Were full and careful consideration by such a body to reveal a clear prima facie disciplinary breach by a judge, the body concerned would have the power to refer the matter to the disciplinary authority having jurisdiction over judges, or at least to a body competent, under the rules of the national statute, to make such referral. Neither this body nor this authority will be constrained to adopt the same opinion as the body to which the complaint was made. In the outcome there are genuine guarantees against the risks of the complaints procedure being led astray by those to be tried, desiring in reality to bring pressure to bear on the justice system.
The independent body concerned would not necessarily be designed specifically to verify whether judges have committed breaches. Judges have no monopoly on miscarriages of justice. It would therefore be conceivable for this same independent body similarly to refer matters, when it considers such referral justified, to the disciplinary authority having jurisdiction over, or to the body responsible for taking proceedings against lawyers, court officials, bailiffs, etc.
The Charter, however, relating to the judges' statute, has to cover in greater detail only the matter of referral relating to judges.
6. REMUNERATION AND SOCIAL WELFARE
The provisions under this heading relate only to professional judges.
6.1 The Charter provides that the level of the remuneration to which judges are entitled for performing their professional judicial duties must be set so as to shield them from pressures intended to influence their decisions or judicial conduct in general, impairing their independence and impartiality.
It seemed preferable to state that the level of the remuneration paid had to be such as to shield judges from pressures, rather than to provide for this level to be set by reference to the remuneration paid to holders of senior posts in the legislature or the executive, as the holders of such posts are far from being treated on a comparable basis in the different national systems.
6.2 The level of remuneration of one judge as compared to another may be subject to variations depending on length of service, the nature of the duties which they are assigned to discharge and the importance of the tasks which are imposed on them, such as weekend duties. However, such tasks justifying higher remuneration must be assessed on the basis of transparent criteria, so as to avoid differences in treatment unconnected with considerations relating to the work done or the availability required.
6.3 The Charter provides for judges to benefit from social security, ie protection against the usual social risks, namely illness, maternity, invalidity, old age and death.
6.4 It specifies in this context that judges who have reached the age of judicial retirement after the requisite time spent as judges must benefit from payment of a retirement pension, the level of which must be as close as possible to the level of their final salary as a judge.
7. TERMINATION OF OFFICE
7.1 Vigilance is necessary about the conditions in which judges’ employment comes to be terminated. It is important to lay down an exhaustive list of the reasons for termination of employment. These are when a judge resigns, is medically certified as physically unfit for further judicial office, reaches the age limit, comes to the end of a fixed term of office or is dismissed in the context of disciplinary liability.
7.2 On occurrence of the events which are grounds for termination of employment other than the ones - ie the reaching of the age limit or the coming to an end of a fixed term of office - which may be ascertained without difficulty, they must be verified by the authority referred to in paragraph 1.3. This condition is easily realised when the termination of office results from a dismissal decided precisely by this authority, or on its proposal or recommendation, or with its agreement.