How to promote collaboration between judges and lawyers
Mutual understanding between lawyers and judges is one of the basis for the proper functioning of the judicial system. It ensures that citizens receive adequate protection and have confidence in the impartiality of the justice institutions. Their professional relationship and communication should be based on mutual respect which in return would contribute to a fair and properly functioning justice system.
The way the interactions between lawyers and courts are structured and work in practice also ensures respect for the procedural safeguards prevention of abuses and miscarriages, and finally offers an adequate environment to adjudicate cases. The trial is also seen as the public staging of justice in action, and thus the image of the citizens and their trust in the justice system will be strongly influenced by the way lawyers and judges interact in court.
The key European standards that both professionals should consider are identified in Consultative Council of Judges (CCJE) opinion No 16 stipulating the main principles of interaction between judges and lawyers in courts:
- relations between lawyers and judges must always seek mutual understanding
- preservation of the court’s impartiality and image of impartiality is essential
- both judges and lawyers enjoy the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR; this right can be subject to limits to maintain the authority and impartiality of the judiciary
- it is necessary to establish proper communication between courts and lawyers to ensure the speed and efficiency of proceedings
- states should introduce systems facilitating computer communication between the courts and lawyers, to improve the service for lawyers and to enable them to easily consult the procedural status of cases
A comparative review has been prepared to address the mentioned issues within the framework of the regional project on "Strengthening the profession of lawyer in line with European standards in the Eastern Partnership countries", which is implemented under the “European Union/Council of Europe Partnership for Good Governance” Phase II (PGGII) programme.
The evaluation of domestic legislation and the practice of the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine) involved in the cross-country review allowed to identify the main problems of interaction existing in the region and come up with recommendations on the improvement of relations between the two professions.
The five recommended ways of levelling up of the relations are:
- Improvement of the programmes in the law schools on the role of a judge, its limits, and functions in a democratic society under the rule of law
- Introduction of procedural reforms that prevent abusive procrastination of the proceedings
- Continuous fight against corruption. Fostering the introduction of efficient systems of whistleblowing
- Exploration of the possibility of elaborating a “Code of Ethics” for all players of the legal profession in the sense of “finding what unites” instead of what separates
- Continuous development of joint programmes, also on topics such as judicial and professional ethics.
By securing the implementation of these recommendations, the legal community would significantly contribute to improving the quality of the justice system, increasing trust in legal institutions, and protecting human rights.
The material is prepared based on the findings of Cross Country Review Professional Standards of Interaction of Lawyers and Judges in Courts, available at the link.