USAID's JA, FCJP and HJPC on performance evaluation system in the judiciary

Round table on performance evaluation

Published on: December 15, 2015
A round table jointly organized by USAID’s Justice Activity and the Fund Centre for Public Law, with the support of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was held in Sarajevo on 15 December 2015 at the Hotel Bristol. The theme of the round table was "The latest considerations and regional experience in the area of evaluation of performance of judges and prosecutors, as well as their disciplinary responsibility". On behalf of the organizers, the round table was opened by Ms. Jasna Kilalić, Deputy Director at the Democracy Office in the USAID Mission to BiH. She was joined in the opening remarks by professor Edin Šarčević, President of the Centre for Public Law and Ms. Ružica Jukić, Vice President of the HJPC who addressed the participants on behalf of the HJPC BiH.

The round table came as a response to the great interest of the professional community for these topics, as well as in response to criticisms of the existing system of performance evaluation and the system of determining disciplinary responsibility. More than 30 members of the judicial community from all over BiH took part in the round table, including representatives of professional associations of judges, prosecutors and law clerks.

USAID’s Justice Activity conducted in 2015 a Perception Survey among members of the professional community, which showed that nearly 65% of judges and prosecutors feel that the current system of performance evaluation is not adequate, and states as the main reasons for such perceptions the fact that the evaluations are only statistical or quantitative indicators, not qualitative, and therefore are not based on substantive analysis of their work.

When it comes to the system of disciplinary responsibility, a survey of the broader community revealed that two out of three respondents do not believe that judicial institutions sufficiently punish unethical and unprofessional conduct in their own ranks. Respondents believe individual accountability of judges and prosecutors to be the most important factor in improving the quality of the judge’s and prosecutor’s work.

The current system of evaluation as applied by the HJPC was presented at the roundtable by Mr. Rusmir Šabeta, Head of Department of Judicial Administration in the HJPC Secretariat. A regional perspective of the issue was given by Ms. Gordana Krstić, who presented the Serbian model of performance evaluation, while Mr. Maurizio Salustro, a former judge and prosecutor from Italy, gave his assessment as an independent expert of the system of evaluation of prosecutors in BiH.

In the discussion that followed, it was pointed out that the evaluation system should aim to ensure, not only improvements in the efficiency, but also the preservation or improvement of the quality of judicial and prosecutorial capacity and the prevention of negative occurrences in the work of judges and prosecutors. Among other things, participants agreed on some suggestions for improvements such as giving more weight to the quality criteria over the quantity criteria through changes to the regulations on the criteria for the evaluation of judges and prosecutors. It was agreed that more importance should be placed on the assessment of a person’s expertise, taking into account the work on complex cases, their legal reasoning skills, evaluation of prosecutorial work on investigations, inspections, searches, assessment of person’s attitude to work, respect for professional ethics, among other areas. Also, there was a proposal to extend the time interval in which a periodic assessment of the work is conducted from one year to three years.

As for the system of determining disciplinary responsibility of judicial office holders, Disciplinary Counsel Mirza Hadžiomerović presented the findings of the Functional Analysis of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) and the results of consultations with the professional community with regard to disciplinary practices in BiH. The research was to determine the perception of judges and prosecutors of the system of disciplinary responsibility in the judiciary, with special emphasis on the fairness and impartiality of disciplinary proceedings, including the broader issues, such as institutional independence and competence of the ODC. Smilja Spasojevic, Head of Department for the Status of Judges in the High Judicial Council of the Republic of Serbia, talked about the disciplinary responsibility of judges in the Republic of Serbia from the legal and practical point of view.

Bearing in mind that the independence of the judicial office holders is not a privilege awarded to them for their own interests but in the interest of the rule of law and those persons seeking and expecting impartial justice, roundtable participants agreed that it is necessary to initiate changes and improvements of the existing system. The need was emphasized for creating a functional link between the disciplinary responsibility and performance appraisals and career development because most judges and prosecutors considered that the decisions of the disciplinary bodies should be a factor in deciding on career development of the candidates (through appointments to senior positions) depending on the seriousness of the findings on the disciplinary responsibility of the candidate.

As one of the biggest problems concerning the operation of the ODC participants highlighted a very high percentage of rejected complaints against holders of judicial office and agreed that there needs to be an appropriate system of control included in the process. Also, it was concluded that the ODC should improve the system of collection of statistical data on the work of the ODC and the way this data are analyzed.