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Who judges the judges?
Posted by:European Law Firm

Randomly from memory: personal handshake, damages against Feral, syncope, a Zadar policeman driving 110 km/h over the limit, and now these unlabeled clothes… There would be more, for sure. Every time such a judgment happens, one feels shame and nausea.

Stupidity or corruption? Let’s assume stupidity, incompetence . It’s a safer bet. Paradoxically, it is also a more favorable option.

I note that in this text the subject is not the one who was tried for theft, but the one who tried. The assumption is the following: if it was correctly tried for theft, there would be no further dilemmas. Still, it’s hard not to wonder how someone thinks they can steal and still be a judge, as if nothing happened. It would be hard to imagine that even one who is heavily distracted by his private life and has not gone on sick leave can be a judge – any future judgment of his will be suspect.

No, the subject is the one who judged such behavior, but did not recognize it, and did not condemn it.

It will not help that the freak decision will (one day) be overturned by the higher court. The damage has already been done. People remember the first verdict, and they are right: no matter what the final result of a case will be, there is someone sitting in court somewhere who does not know his job, and he will do evil for years, until retirement. Until the 70s. When someone, by accident, finds himself in front of that judge, how will he believe him? How will they trust any judge? The ignorant do not remember names, one judge a fool – all judges are fools. And trust in the court is the root, the foundation of the judiciary as a government, and one of the foundations of a democratic society.

The job of a judge is not just a job, it must be a calling. Only part of the salary is received in money. The second part should be paid in the social reputation of the profession, and the third in the chance to do something good and right every day. As time goes by, that second part of the salary, it seems to me, is getting smaller and smaller. Every irrational judgment of anyone takes away from me what should belong to me, steals from me. Verbatim.

Judges are evaluated every year by the quantity of work. In terms of quality, only if they are looking for promotion. For many, this means never, if, for example, going to a higher court is not convenient for them due to a change of residence or the like. This means that someone can judge between people for 40 years, and even more, without anyone even trying to officially evaluate the quality of his work.

In our country, the choice for a judge is usually the choice of a young and relatively inexperienced lawyer, so a cat in a bag. Not a single choice hits 100%, through each one (unintentionally or intentionally) someone slips through who does not deserve it, someone who is under-capacitated , and who will not be able to do the job satisfactorily. And then comes 40 years of… everything. Bad and diligent is an extremely weak combination.

the Constitution , the judiciary is autonomous and independent. And it should be like that. But it must not be arbitrary or arbitrary. As Dr. Triva , Dr. Belajec and Dr. Dika taught us, “Freedom in evaluation refers only to freedom from formal, legal rules of evidence. The judge is not free from the general laws of logic, psychology, science, experience in general. Freedom and arbitrariness they are not the same.” Self-reliance and independence also imply responsibility. We must be able to clear our field of weeds ourselves. If we don’t have (enough) tools for this, we must clearly and loudly ask for it to be given to us. It is not enough to clean from the lazy, one must also clean from the completely incompetent.

It should be known that there is no such education that can cure stupidity. Every exemplary bad judgment should trigger the mechanism of evaluation of the professional quality of the one who signed it, and open the question of his (further) ability to perform the work entrusted to him.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I am not referring here to simple errors of judgment. They happen to everyone, to err is human, that’s why there are decisions in multiple instances. Without the possibility to make mistakes, a young judge cannot develop into a real judge, because he will be tormented by the fear of making decisions and a lack of self-awareness (which are the second and third cancers of our judiciary). I mean the cardinal mistakes, the ones that should not be done, and I cannot tolerate them. Even an NKV employee can be dismissed due to personal reasons due to negative permanent characteristics or due to (in)ability, it would be paradoxical if this is not possible for specialists who are usually expected to have much greater and more varied abilities.

We started from the presumption of stupidity, which is also the presumption of innocence – because the other possibility is a crime. But there is a catch: if it is either stupidity or corruption, and corruption is punishable by law, it will always be necessary to investigate what is causing it in each individual case. And each of those two possibilities, when it is established which one it is, should be appropriately sanctioned.

Judicial self-government can and must do this, and then it will not be a violation of the independence of the judiciary. The one who can look a criminal in the eye and send him to prison, or the one who can decide on someone’s livelihood or savings, must be able to decide that an extremely below average colleague has no place in the judicial ranks. In any case, that must be decided by the best among us. Whether it will be DSV, or some ad hoc or permanent commission made up of the most respected judges, is less important, and in any case depends on future changes in the legal framework.

Seeking to adopt such a framework should be, in my opinion, one of the first and most important tasks of the association of judges. The Association of Judges is not, and must not be, a trade union. The association must primarily ensure that the judicial authority is – the authority, as determined by the Constitution. Neither the first nor the main job of the Association is bargaining. The main job of the Association must be to ensure independence, dignity, working conditions (which certainly includes the position of administrative staff in the court!). However, to be able to claim it, one must be spotless, and ready to clean up one’s yard. There is no independence without it, nor will its emphasis be taken seriously without it.

The opinion that the judiciary is the worst part of society has already taken hold among the public. This is already considered an axiom, something that does not need to be proven. We have to be aware of that, and think about it. I’m sure it’s not a completely accurate picture, but the mirror isn’t entirely to blame either. It is up to us to do our part to change such an image, to repair and clean up the composition of the judicial corps, and not just the media image of us.

Regardless of what he said about himself, the truth is that the emperor is naked. And that nakedness cannot be covered by ignoring it, and especially not with stolen clothes.

Article written by Andrej Abramović judge of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia

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