Project of revising the methodology of evaluation of judges’ performance – changes in the judiciary require accountability

Slika /slike/vijesti naslovnica/2023/studeni/3 (3).jpeg

On Tuesday 14 November, Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica opened the final conference of the project “Revising the methodology of evaluation of judges’ performance”, worth about 400 thousand euros and funded by Norway Grants. 

In his opening speech, the Minister highlighted changes as being key to the development of the judiciary, and the methodology of evaluation as one of the instruments for better human resources management in the judiciary and a powerful tool for increasing accountability and strengthening trust in the judicial system. He reminded of the amendments to the State Judicial Council Act, which corrected certain discrepancies in the system, thus providing additional tools for more efficient work and strengthening the independence of judicial bodies. 

“Changes in the judiciary are key to strengthening citizens’ trust in the justice system. With a mosaic of changes, we want to improve and strengthen the judiciary to make it more modern, efficient and accessible to citizens. This mosaic of changes covers not only amendments to procedural and material legislation, but also changes that occur due to organisational and development processes. The project of revising the methodology of evaluation of judges’ performance is in fact part of this developmental aspect of the activities of the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, because a quality methodology and an objective system of evaluation of the performance of all judges also has an impact on the efficiency and promptness of the courts”, said the Minister. 

The Minister noted that despite the fact that the courts in Croatia resolve over one million cases per year, the efficiency of the judiciary is not at a satisfactory level, which is why it is necessary to assume more responsibility. 

“The judicial branch of government and the Ministry of Justice and the Administration, each within their respective scope, must make steps to increase the efficiency of the judiciary. The action plans we have been implementing since 2021 are not just an instrument for the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, but also an instrument for judges and court presidents to improve the functioning of courts”, Minister Malenica emphasised. 

Speaking about the development changes the Ministry is working on, the Minister mentioned the implementation of projects worth over 640 million euros, which exceeds several times over the amount of the previous investment cycle in which projects worth slightly less than 39 million euros were realised. 

“31 construction sites are open at the moment, including that of the Municipal Court building financed by Norway Grants.  Under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, we have secured funds for the realisation of the biggest judicial project - the Zagreb Justice Square. The long-awaited project is no longer just a plan and an idea but a reality, which is going to get the first outlines in the coming months with the beginning of construction", said the Minister, adding that the Ministry was not planning to stop there, but to start building court complexes in Rijeka and Velika Gorica in the future investment cycle and to provide new premises for courts in Novska, Bjelovar and Kutina. 

He reiterated that human resources management was part of the development changes implemented by the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, with regard to both training for judicial officials, civil servants and other staff and salary increases. He reminded that the basis for calculating judges’ salaries was recently increased by 13 percent, and the complexity coefficients for first-instance judges were increased to 4.21, raising the salary of first-instance judges by more than 500 euros. 

“This is the biggest increase in the salaries of judicial officials in the last decade and a reflection of the Ministry’s policy to provide quality funding for the independent work of judicial bodies through investments and budget increases”, he said and concluded: “Every mosaic of changes requires a vision, time and human resources. The Ministry of Justice and Public Administration has directed all its resources towards achieving the objectives we have jointly committed to. In the realisation of these goals we are guided by responsibility and autheniticity - forthe changes that are taking place to respond to the needs of citizens”. 

The project “Revising the methodology of evaluation of judges’ performance” was carried out in cooperation with the State Judicial Council and the Norwegian Courts Administration and lasted 18 months. The project included an analysis of the existing system of evaluation of judges’ performance, a comparative analysis of the evaluation of judges in three Member States: Austria, the Netherlands and Portugal, and recommendations for improving the methodology of evaluation. 

Apart from Minister Malenica, guests at the conference were welcomed by President of the State Judicial Council Darko Milković, Head of Supreme Court Civil Department Damir Kontrec and Project Coordinator of the Norwegian Courts Administration Nieke Van de Berg. 

Project activities were presented by judges engaged on the project as experts: Supreme Court Judge Đuro Sessa, Judge of the Hålogaland Court of Appeal Nils Asbjorn and judges Branka Ćiraković and Sabina Dugonjić.

The conference included a presentation of the results of implementation of action plans, project plans of the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration and an overview of investments in judicial and IT infrastructure.