Since 2012, the CEELI Institute has been supporting the Central and East European Judicial Exchange Network, comprised of some of the best and brightest young judges from eighteen countries in the region who have come together to share best practices on issues of judicial independence, transparency, accountability, efficiency, and ethics. The judges are increasingly concerned about coping with the external pressures—political, societal, media—that work to undermine judicial independence in the region. To date, the Network has brought together over 100 young, reform-minded judges from across the region on an ongoing basis to pursue projects designed to promote judicial independence and institutional reform.
Among the specific topics addressed within the Network are judicial ethics; management of conflicts of interests and outside activities; comparative procedures for discipline and dismissal of individual judges accused of corruption or malfeasance; appropriate communication with the press and public; the impact of social media on the judiciary; the degree to which judges as public officials must sacrifice some degree of privacy in the interest or transparency; the implications for judges of asset disclosure requirements; the manner and degree to which judges should be required to disclose their personal information; the standards and conditions for lustration procedures.
The CEELI Institute was proud to coordinate the production of a ground-breaking publication undertaken by judges from the Central and East European Judicial Exchange Network: “Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice: A Thematic Compilation of International Standards, Policies and Best Practices”. The Manual represents a systematic effort to survey relevant international standards applicable to the judiciary. The judges undertook a comprehensive review of 130 relevant international documents, and then organized relevant standards according to thematic areas.
The Manual constitutes an easy-to-use reference tool to facilitate the day-to-day work of judges both in the region and worldwide. It is particularly useful in societies still undergoing transitions, and where the judiciaries are still struggling to assert and establish their full independence. The Manual provides easily accessible, substantive legal support for issues related to the status, work, rights, and responsibilities of judges. It has proved useful to judges who are pushing back against governmental infringements on their functions. For example, Section II of the Manual assembles all relevant international standards which establish and clarify the principle of judicial independence in the administration of justice. Judges needing to justify their role in the administration can quickly access the necessary underlying legal support. The Manual represents an extraordinary commitment of time and effort by the Network judges who participated in this project. They undertook extensive independent research and editing, coming together periodically at the Institute to coordinate and collaborate on their work. We are deeply indebted to them for their commitment, skill, and insight both in the conceptualization and actualization of this project.
An additional document “Addendum on Independence, Impartiality, and Integrity of the Judiciary: A Thematic Compilation of International and National Jurisprudence” was published in September 2017. This document shows the way in which relevant international standards have been used by different adjudicative authorities, and provides a useful supplementary tool for widespread promotion of underlying international standards on judicial independence, transparency, and accountability. Similar to the Manual, the supplement document is an up-to-date reference that all legal professionals can use.