The independence of the judiciary has reached an important milestone, according to the conclusions of the parliamentary report on the achievements of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary.
The highest authority in charge of the judicial field will have to confirm its status during this exceptional period. The assessment of the High Council of the Judiciary, which has been examined by the deputies of the First Chamber, reveals, at this stage, a strong focus on the normal functioning of the courts, while insisting on the prerogatives of the Council before the Ministry of Justice or the Presidency of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. “The health situation required the intervention of the High Council, while insisting on the fact that the Ministry of Justice did not take the decision to introduce remote hearings,” says the report of the Legislation Committee in the House of Representatives, to mark the limits drawn by the government for the prerogatives of the Council. During the year 2020, the High Council has carried out 11 diagnoses relating to the courts of first instance, as well as 5 others targeting the courts of appeal. The aim is to be able to detect the dysfunctions that may mar the holding of hearings during the pandemic crisis. A total of 44 investigation files were opened during the first six months of the year, at which time 45 files were the subject of reports that were submitted to the Council. In addition to this strong audit activity, the High Council of the Judicial Authority also focused on the complaints addressed to it this year, handling 1,687 of the 1,748 complaints addressed to it. It should be noted that the opinions that were issued focused on the draft laws on the use of information technology in judicial proceedings and on the draft law on the organisation of the judiciary. The Council was also consulted before the decree establishing the law on the introduction of the state of health emergency was issued.
workstreamStrengthening ethics will be at the top of the list of measures in the action plan for the coming year. To this end, the High Council of the Judiciary will have to issue a code of ethics capable of strengthening the anti-corruption system. The Council will also have to finalise a strategy for basic and ongoing training, with a view to drawing up reference standards for the career of magistrates. The report by the First Chamber also cites the introduction of several measures designed to “manage in a transparent and objective manner the performance assessment missions of magistrates and judicial officials”, as highlighted in the assessment carried out by the deputies. It should be said that the measures recommended to maintain the normal pace of court operations form the backbone of the council’s action plan, bearing in mind that the guide to the administrative management of the courts requires plans for the normal resumption of hearings. Following the reorganisation of the distribution of civil servants in the various departments, internal committees were set up at the level of each court to supervise the application of preventive measures and ensure the continuity of services rendered. The main priorities for 2021 revolve around coordination between the administrative tasks performed by the Department of Justice and those entrusted to the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. The joint body responsible for coordination in the field of judicial administration will therefore have to carry out its functions with a view to strengthening the independence of the judiciary. This body, consisting of 14 members, will have to carry out all diagnostic studies relating to the administration of justice, “according to the data and statistics provided by the courts, in accordance with its needs in terms of human and material resources to enable it to carry out its tasks”. For their part, the country’s courts will have to rely on the body’s missions to produce their performance reports and prepare training programmes for judicial officials.
The recommendations of the MPs
The latest report of the Legislation Committee of the House of Representatives outlines the major actions planned by the deputies to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. “The independence of the judiciary is a red line that should not even be approached,” says the parliamentary report on the new redistribution of competences between the ministry, the presidency of the public prosecutor’s office and the High Council of the Judicial Authority. “There is a determination to capitalise on this positive spirit and go as far as possible in terms of cooperation”, according to the vision of the parliamentary groups. For its part, the year 2020 saw the entry into force of the decree on the judicial map, with in particular an adaptation to regional division. Priority is still being given to simplifying procedures, digitising services, providing reasons for judgements and speeding up their execution.