Judicial Reform Strategies

Conducting Expert Assessments of Judicial Reform Efforts

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative measures progress in judicial reform with its Judicial Reform Index (JRI), an assessment tool comprised of 30 objective factors against which a judicial system can be evaluated. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative is currently implementing second and third rounds of JRI assessments in selected countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, monitoring the degree to which deficiencies identified in the previous reports have been addressed. During 2005-2006, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative conducted second JRI reports for Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine, and a third volume of JRI assessments for Albania and Bulgaria, as well as an initial JRI for Georgia. Notably, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative conducted JRI assessments for the Philippines and Iraq. In addition, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative implemented judicial independence baseline assessments in Morocco and Algeria, which utilized the methodology of the JRI but served a narrower purpose of assisting the ABA Rule of Law Initiative in development of its judicial reform program in those countries.

Facilitating Dialogue on Judicial Reform and Independence

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative's global legal reform programs play a central role in bringing together key stakeholders to discuss ways to promote judicial independence and the rule of law and to utilize effectively the limited resources available for reform efforts. For example, to facilitate the sharing of common concerns and the exchange of ideas, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative is sponsoring a series of "judge-to-judge" dialogues in the Philippines. Under this project, judges from the United States and other countries meet with judges from the Philippine Supreme, appellate and trial courts to discuss a variety of issues and provide a comparative perspective on the role of the judiciary as an independent and co-equal branch within the Filipino system of government.

Additionally, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative and other implementers and donors supported the "International Conference & Showcase on Judicial Reform: Strengthening the Judiciaries of the 21st Century," a November 2005 program convened by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. The event brought together nearly 400 delegates from 45 countries worldwide and included a live video conference between participants in Manila and the U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Stephen Breyer. The program culminated in establishment of the Asia Pacific Judicial Reform Network and adoption of the Manila Declaration for 21st Century Independent Judiciary. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative also brought together high court judges from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Laos to discuss with the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Clifford Wallace common challenges to judicial independence and to share ideas for addressing these challenges.

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative is also supporting the Arab Council for Judicial and Legal Studies (ACJLS), a regional institution that addresses judicial development issues and facilitates interaction among judicial system actors in the Middle East and North Africa. The Council brings together top leaders from the regional Ministries of Justice, courts and other key stakeholders within the legal community and civil society with the goals of supporting the policy dialogue on independence of the judiciary, increasing training opportunities, promoting the development of codes of conduct and enhancing the transparency of judicial systems and procedures. The ACJLS held its inaugural conference on promoting the role of the judiciary in the region in June 2006 in Amman, Jordan, and has since then held two major training programs on court management and E-commerce attended by representatives from countries across the region.

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative and its domestic and international partners in Serbia hosted the "Independence and Accountability of Judges and Prosecutors in the New Constitution" conference in December 2005, featuring a keynote address by then-ABA President Michael Greco. More than 100 legal professionals, politicians and representatives of the international community gathered to discuss the status of judges and prosecutors under the existing Constitution and the proposed amendments, the international standards and constitutional models of judicial independence, and upcoming changes in the judicial responsibility rules. In the run-up to Armenia's constitutional referendum that took place in November 2005, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative worked extensively with judges, lawyers and members of civil society on facilitating the judiciary's participation in the drafting of constitutional amendments package and increasing the public awareness of the substantive issues. As Armenia now moves to review related statutes, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative is working with the Court of Cassation by sponsoring the exchange of ideas among judges on pending legislative changes, organizing trainings on emerging structural issues, and providing advice and commentary throughout the drafting process.

In Morocco, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative supported the development of a new independent association Adala ("Justice"), the first and only civil society organization of its kind. In light of legal restrictions on operation of a judges' association, this entity is expected to become a significant voice on the demand side of judicial reforms pressing the public and the government for greater judicial independence and integrity. In 2006, Adala convened a groundbreaking international conference on the independence of the judiciary in Morocco, which provided the first open forum for a broad range of Moroccan and international stakeholders to discuss the realities of judicial independence in Morocco. The event was attended by more than fifty participants and resulted in a set of recommendations focused on the statutory provisions addressing the dominant control of the executive branch over the judiciary.

In Algeria, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative works to support indigenous efforts to ensure judicial independence and has partnered with the Algerian Bar and Judges' Association to promote law reform and independence of the judiciary. Despite the extremely restrictive political environment, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative has developed working relationships with change agents within the bar and judicial associations, the judicial training institute, and faculties of several law schools, using a variety of legal issues of central concern to the government to highlight the importance of an independent and transparent judiciary.

Building the Capacity of Judicial Associations

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative actively promotes the establishment and development of national judicial associations, which serve as excellent vehicles for ensuring a more visible role of the judiciary in reform efforts. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative performs numerous programmatic activities in partnership with or through such associations. For example, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative is partnering with the Philippine Women Judges Association to build its organizational capacity and support its efforts in contributing to the Supreme Court's judicial reform plan. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative and its Ukrainian partner, the National Independent Judicial Association, held a series of regional roundtables as part of a civic forum on judicial reform, bringing together lawyers, judges, and politicians to discuss proposed changes to the laws on the judiciary and the status of judges. As a result of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative's efforts, the Association of Judges of the Republic of Armenia adopted a resolution endorsing the proposed constitutional amendments that significantly restricted the executive's authority over the judiciary and approved a revised Code of Judicial Conduct.

Promoting Education and Training of Judges

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative supports a regional network of judicial training centers, which conduct workshops on a host of topics, such as novel substantive legal issues, new procedural codes, judicial ethics, judicial skills, and transparency. Building on the success of its past programs in Ukraine and Moldova, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative continues its involvement in strengthening the capacity of judicial systems to resolve electoral disputes, sponsoring the production of election law benchbooks and organizing election law trainings for judges in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative cooperates with the existing judicial training schools in Algeria, Jordan, and Morocco to provide training opportunities for judges and court staff on a variety of substantive and skills issues. The goal of the partnership between the ABA Rule of Law Initiative and the National Institute for Judicial Studies (NIJS) and the Ministry of Justice in Morocco is to promote judicial independence through training and institution building, develop the skills of judicial trainers and NIJS staff, and expand the training curriculum. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative is also supporting an initiative by the NIJS to develop a judicial curriculum focusing on human rights and on the consistent implementation of Morocco's relatively new family code, enacted in 2004. The standardized curriculum will include substantive course materials, syllabi, and online learning tools, which will be adaptable for use in other countries in the region.

In Asia, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative is working with the Philippines Judicial Academy (PhilJA) to train judges and court personnel on their newly adopted Code of Judicial Conduct and their Code of Conduct for Court Personnel. In partnership with PhilJA, the Rule of Law Initiative sponsored trainings for over 2,200 judges and court personnel on the codes of conduct. As a logical extension of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative's strong support for judicial ethics, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative will provide technical assistance to court attorneys responsible for investigating complaints made against judges.

Improving Judicial Ethics and Accountability

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative is involved in numerous efforts to promote judicial ethics and increase the overall level of judicial accountability. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative strives to improve the awareness and understanding of judicial ethics among members of the judiciary through assistance with drafting and implementation of codes of conduct for judicial and court personnel, as well as ethics training for judges and court staff. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative also attempts to educate judiciaries about the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, the prime international standard on judicial integrity, and the Opinion of the Consultative Council of European Judges on the Principles and Rules Governing Judges' Professional Conduct. A number of countries, including Algeria, Armenia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Jordan, the Philippines, Romania and Serbia, have benefited from the Rule of Law Initiative's assistance in this area in recent years.

Strengthening Court Administration, Efficiency, and Transparency in Judicial Affairs

Promoting the efficiency and transparency of court proceedings has featured prominently on the ABA Rule of Law Initiative's agenda. For example, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative is working with the Philippine Sandiganbayan (Anti-Graft Court) to institute a continuous trial system that would help control its enormous delays and case backlogs. In Bahrain, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative is supporting Ministry of Justice efforts in a variety of areas, including computerizing case management systems and introducing digital audio reporting to supplant the existing system of manual trial recording.

In Iraq, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative conducted a needs assessment to determine the needs of three pilot courts in the areas of court administration and case management, and provided equipment, software, and training to support improvements in these areas. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative is also facilitating the integration of mediation and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms into the courts in Azerbaijan, Jordan, and Serbia. In 2006, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative sponsored a study tour for Azerbaijan judges and Ministry of Justice officials, which emphasized transparency and accountability in court administration. Finally, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative is cooperating with the Supreme Courts or judicial associations in a number of countries to improve consistency and transparency in judicial decision making by developing electronic databases of judicial decisions.

Public Outreach and the Judiciary

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative has conducted a series of surveys in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Jordan, and Morocco to determine the degree of public awareness and attitudes towards judicial independence, professionalism, corruption, ethics and accountability, urging the governments to consider survey findings in their judicial reform efforts. Building upon this initiative in Georgia, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative, in collaboration with the Supreme Court and the High Council of Justice, is implementing an awareness campaign to educate the public about ongoing judicial reforms and increase public confidence in the judiciary. Efforts to date have included providing in-depth information on the sweeping court reorganizations to journalists, NGOs and the public, and airing of public service announcements on key reform activities. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative also supported the Supreme Court's initiative to appoint judge-spokespersons in courts throughout Georgia and co-sponsored a series of trainings for the newly appointed spokespersons, which led to the drafting of principles for judiciary-media relations.