Empowering Judges through Continuing Education, Peer Exchanges, and Support of Independent Judiciaries.
The Conference of Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts of Central & Eastern Europe
In 2007, the CEELI Institute helped launch the Conference of Chief Justices of Central & Eastern Europe, which annually brings together the senior judges from the region’s highest courts to share and develop strategies and best practices to promote judicial integrity and accountability, to improve court management, and to combat corruption in the courts. The CEELI Institute’s efforts have supported the work of the Conference since its inception.
The Conference was launched in Prague, at the Institute, with the personal involvement and commitment of United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The Conference continues to be a self-sustaining body that meets annually in one of the participating countries. Conferences over the past several years have been hosted by the Chief Justices of Albania (2012), Montenegro (2013), Georgia (2014), Croatia (2015), Serbia (2016), Hungary (2017), Lithuania (2018) and Slovakia (2019). The 2020 Conference was held online, hosted by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan.
The CEELI Institute continues to provide guidance and expertise to the Conference, led by the efforts of CEELI Institute Board member, Judge John M. Walker, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Walker is joined in this effort by Judge Clifford J. Wallace, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, whose extensive experience includes establishing a similar conference for the countries of Asia and the Pacific.
Among the notable achievements of the Conference was the signing, in 2015, of a Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary (known now as the Brijuni Statement after the name of the seaside Croatian town where it was drafted). The Brijuni Statement represents a reaffirmation of a long-held and shared belief amongst its signatories in judicial independence as critical to upholding the rule of law. Nineteen Supreme Courts have now signed the Statement, and it has been translated into six languages. The Statement is an important affirmation of judicial independence in a region where that principle continues to be undermined and challenged.
Central & Eastern European Judicial Exchange Network
200 judges from 18 countries of the region
Since 2012, the CEELI Institute has fostered and supported its Central and East European Judicial Exchange Network, comprised of some of the best and brightest rising judges from eighteen countries in the region who regularly come together to share best practices on issues of judicial independence, transparency, accountability, efficiency, and ethics.
The Network facilitates career growth and development for the judges, fosters peer engagement and produces concrete tools to better assist the judges in performing their duties. Network judges often undertake innovative projects in their own countries, and the CEELI Institute supports them in their efforts.
You can find detailed information about the network on this page.
Judicial Training on EU Law and Treaties: Partnering with the Association of Croatian Judges
The CEELI Institute is continuing its partnership with the Association of Croatian Judges to deliver a series of legal education programs for judges from Central and Eastern European Union member states on relevant EU instruments and directives governing the application of both civil and criminal law—norms which are often not fully applied in national courts.
The project is designed to promote greater understanding among CEE judges on the appropriate application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as selected EU directives in both civil and criminal law. Simultaneous interpretation into Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, and Romanian will make the program broadly accessible for non-English speaking judges from across the region.
Funded by the European Commission, this project reflects our well-established partnership with the Association of Croatian Judges, which has included a successful collaboration on an ongoing series of international judicial conferences in Croatia and the Czech Republic.
Online Programs to Explore and Support Remote Access to the Court During Periods of Lockdown
From the outset of the pandemic, the CEELI Institute has supported judges who are struggling to continue court functions. From the start this involved exploration of the use of technologies that enable “remote” judging. Technology is a two-edged sword, enabling more efficient, timely and accessible justice, but also risking interference with the fundamental legal rights and protections of the parties, including rights guaranteed under the European Convention of Human Rights.
To this end, CEELI brought together judges, scholars, and practitioners in the earliest days of the pandemic with several series of webinars. The first, entitled Videoconferencing in Support of Remote Access to Courts, ran during April and May 2020, and the second, Access to Justice During and After the Pandemic, took place during June and July 2020.
India: Judicial Exchanges and Curriculum Development
The CEELI Institute continues our multi-year partnership with the National Judicial Academy (NJA) of India and the U.S. Federal Judicial Center (FJC), to promote exchanges between U.S. and Indian judges, and to develop a practical curriculum focused on issues related to adjudication of cases involving complex transnational crimes. Previous outcomes of this partnership included development and roll-out of first India-specific counterterrorism curriculum to be used at the NJA, designed for Indian trial court judges on the frontline in handling terrorism cases. That curriculum reflects Indian national legislation and judicial practice, while at the same time incorporating a modern pedagogical approach in lieu of more traditional lecture-based teaching methodology. Eight Indian high court justices worked with experts from the FJC and with US judges to design and refine the curriculum.
In 2019, the Institute helped the NJA successfully launch the curriculum, with three separate sessions of the course being delivered at the NJA in Bhopal, India, for a total of 80 trial court judges. Over the next two years, we plan to expand on this successful groundwork, enlarging the scope of relevant course curricula, and engaging with additional members of the Indian judiciary from across the subcontinent.
CEELI’s work in India has been so successful that it was highlighted at a panel at the 2019 biannual conference of the International Organization of Judicial Training’s (IOJT), held in Cape Town, South Africa. The panel, “Adjudicating Terrorism-Related Cases: A Curriculum Development Model,” highlighted CEELI’s multi-year project working with the NJA and the FJC. The unique project model, which coupled training on modern pedagogy for judges with the creation of a national counterterrorism curriculum, drew wide praise from representatives from judicial training institutions from around the world, many of which struggle to incorporate modern teaching techniques into their systems.
Providing Lifelines for Syrian Judges in Exile
CEELI has convened a number of programs for Syrian judges in Gaziantep, Turkey and in Prague, focusing on housing, land, and property (HLP) issues, which continue to be priority concerns for the judges. The programs included study of examples from other post-conflict environments where this issue was relevant, such as Bosnia, Colombia, and Kosovo. The sessions not only delivered expertise, but also served to facilitate coordination among Syrian legal professionals currently based in various countries, helped the judges monitor the situation on the ground in Syria, and helped them formulate recommendations on how to address housing land and property issues in the post-conflict phase. The programs also served to connect the judges with international organizations active in the housing, land and property field. This iteration of the project concluded with a session focusing on the problem of informal settlements and remedies that could be employed to establish or return legal property rights to citizens who dwell in or have lost such housing. The project was funded by the Swedish International Development Administration (SIDA).
Myanmar: “Judging in a Democratic Society”
The program addressed several key issues common to judiciaries everywhere, especially in countries aspiring for a more democratic order. Topics addressed included judicial independence, relations with other branches of government, relations of the judiciary with the public and the media, judicial ethics, the role of judicial organizations, case management, and court administration. There was a particular emphasis on human rights law, both domestic and international. The course design was one of facilitated discussion, rather than lectures. Participants explored a number of hypothetical situations and were called upon to work through the application of international standards and to explore practical ways to address problems that they encounter. The Myanmar sessions were held over a multi-week period in Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay, with over 100 judges participating.
Supporting Judicial Integrity in Tunisia
This course was primarily led by the CEELI Institute’s Senior Advisor for Judicial Affairs, Joel Martin, together with other rotating faculties. Program faculty teams pair “western“ judges (American or Western European) with judges from Central and Eastern Europe, who themselves had to negotiate similar transitions and reinterpret their judicial roles as their societies went from communism to democracy in short order.
In 2016-2017, the Institute began using a follow-up curriculum, developed in coordination with Tunisian judges and other stakeholders, and focusing on efforts to build and promote public trust in the judiciary. These ‘advanced’ sessions brought together smaller groups of highly experienced Tunisian judges who have previously worked with CEELI on other judicial projects. The judges addressed problems created for judges in Tunisia by the continuing lack of public trust in state institutions, a lingering legacy left of the Ben Ali era. The program aimed to encourage the judges to develop tools to effectively communicate and interact, focusing especially on their relationship with the media, communication with schools and universities, and enhancing courthouse user-friendliness for the citizens.
The faculty has included judges from the United States, the Czech Republic, France, Norway, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovakia, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania.
Bolstering Counterterrorism Adjudication in the Balkans and Beyond
In light of the increased terrorism across Europe, the vast transit of refugees to Europe from Syria, the continuing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the particular burdens this puts on both the Balkan countries and countries throughout MENA, the issues encompassed by the GCTF Good Practice documents are more important than ever. Judges across the region will benefit from greater training and preparation on how to handle cases involving both domestic terrorism and the new phenomenon presented by foreign fighters.