This Second Webinar Series is part of the CEELI Institute’s program with the Central and East European Judicial Exchange Network. The Network, which has been going since 2012, is comprised of some of the best and brightest young judges from eighteen countries who gather regularly to share best practices on issues of judicial independence, integrity, accountability, and court management. As international in-person meetings are likely to be limited for some time to come, the Webinar Series ensures that the Network can continue to meet its mandate to improve judicial integrity and court efficiency in Central and Eastern Europe, despite the global lockdowns resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The topic – Access to Justice During and After the Pandemic – is particularly relevant to the judiciary in the current climate, but also touches on numerous access to justice issues that have on-going relevance beyond the current extraordinary circumstances. The first series, which explored Videoconferencing in support of Remote Access to Courts, took place bi-weekly between April 7 and May 19, 2020, and is available on-demand to all Network members through the CEELI Online platform. To request a login for CEELI Online to access content please email email@example.com. This second series aims to build on the first by looking beyond videoconferencing to broader justice issues raised by the pandemic.
EPISODE ONE: REMOTE JUDGING AND VIDEO CONFERENCING IN THE COURTS – THE EXPERIENCE OF JUDGE’S IN MOLDOVA, NORTH MACEDONIA AND GEORGIA
In this first session, a number of judges from the Judicial Network shared firsthand experience of running hearings by videoconference. In the Western Balkan region, there are several developments in the field of remote trials, and the presentation from North Macedonia featured the endeavors of the small courts which set the regional precedent by organizing and adopting the first remote trials. Speakers examined the protection of procedural rights of the defendants during these remote trials and the role of the Judicial Media Council of North Macedonia in safeguarding judicial transparency. Judge Bichia from Georgia outlined the types of cases that he deals with, the practical issues, and how he has adapted his approach as his experience of working remotely has progressed. Judge Victoria Sanduta from Moldova provided an overview of how Moldova has used videoconferencing in their court proceedings.
JUDGE VICTORIA SANDUTA, Chisinau Court, Republic of Moldova
JUDGE LAZAR NANEV, President of the Basic Court in Kavadarci, North Macedonia
JUDGE GJORGJI ANDONOV, President of the Basic Court in Stip, North Macedonia
ANDREJ BOZHINOVSKI, LLM, Legal Adviser at the Macedonian Judges Association, North Macedonia
JUDGE SHOTA BICHIA, Zugdidi District Court, Georgia
EPISODE TWO: EXIT STRATEGIES & COURT MANAGEMENT POST COVID-19
This session, in partnership with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), explored how the courts are preparing to function after pandemic conditions. ODIHR presented current research on the consequences of adopted emergency measures and invited judges to further share their experience. What will be the effect of the unprecedented rate of suspended and delayed cases? What new cases can the courts expect to emerge as a result of the pandemic and the measures taken to control it? Many courts were already struggling with delivering justice in a timely fashion – how should they be preparing for an even worse backlog? Can some of the measures that have been taken during the pandemic, such as the use of remote trials, be continued as a tool to expedite proceedings? What is the exit strategy? What lessons have we learned?
ANDREA HUBER, Deputy Chief, Rule of Law Unit, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
PROF. RACHEL MURRAY, Director, Human Rights Implementation Centre School of Law, University of Bristol – ODIHR consultant
EPISODE THREE: ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE AND DEALING WITH WITNESSES IN VIDEOCONFERENCE HEARINGS
This week’s session began with a summary from Mr. Stephen Mason about the development of electronic evidence, the available methods and tools, and a need for a conceptual change regarding judiciaries’ views and interpretations of e-evidence. Do the established rules for paper evidence still apply? What are the benefits and complications of electronic evidence? Magistrate Santiago Altamirano Escalante addressed the topic of criminal justice for adolescents and juveniles and his first-hand experiences with online justice during the COVID-19 crisis in the State of Yucatan Mexico. Judge Bichia closed out the conversation with his experience and tips on utilizing remote tools for witness questioning.
MR. STEPHEN MASON, Barrister, United Kingdom
MAGISTRATE SANTIAGO ALTAMIRANO ESCALANTE, Yucatan, Mexico
JUDGE SHOTA BICHIA, Zugdidi District Court, Georgia
EPISODE FOUR: AFTER THE CRISIS, WHAT WILL COURT OPERATIONS LOOK LIKE?
This session takes a look at some of the very practical considerations that will come into play at the courts re-open. How will court spaces need to be reoriented to keep staff and users safe? What special considerations come to play with into individuals in custody? How will courts manage an increased backlog of cases? In addition, what elements of remote judging will remain in play and what are the potential challenges and risks associated with the use of technology for certain hearings in terms of safeguarding rights and adhering to international standards.
JUDGE KATICA ARTUKOVIC, Vice President Judges Association Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
JACKIE BRYANT, Clerk of Court and Court Administrator for the Second Judicial District Court, Washoe County, Nevada
TIM MOLONEY QC, Doughty Street Chambers, London
Access to this closed password-protected group is provided for members of the CEE Judicial Network. Those that wish to secure access can email Freda.firstname.lastname@example.org.
A CEELI / ODIHR Joint Webinar Session