From: NT+ Diritto – Norme & Tributi Plus – May 22nd 2022
European Lay Judge Forum in Poznan
by Margherita Morelli*, Alessia Perolio**, Rosita Silvestre***
The Congress was held from 13 to 15, May 2022. On the Agenda, the „ENALJ Collaborative Research Network (CRN-LJE) on European Lay Judges” and „The Ethics of the Judge in the Face of Unjust Laws”.
The severe international crisis, two years after the last in-person assembly in Bonn in May 2019, did not preventdelegates from the European associations of lay and honoraryjudges that are part of the Network from meeting in the Senate Hall of the Adam Michiewicz University in Poznan. The conference was organised by ENALJ in cooperation withDIKASTAI, the Centre for Transdisciplinary Research on Lay and Honorary Judges of the University of Poznan, representedby Piotr Juchacz, Professor of Philosophy, in collaborationwith the Polish Association of the National Council of Honorary Judges and the Philosophical Commission of thePoznan Society for the Advancement of Friends and Sciences, chaired by Ewa Nowak, President of the Faculty of Philologyand Philosophy. Rafal Witkowiski, Rector for International Cooperation at the University of Poznan, opened theconference.
Launch of the Collaborative Research Network on Lay Judges in Europe, CNR-LJE
The Statute of ENALJ envisages, among its new activities, thepromotion of academic and systematic study and investigationinto the involvement and employment of citizens and non-professional judges in the administration of justice, theirnature, status and conditions, going beyond the exchange ofinformation between individual associations, thus enablingthem to cooperate and compare more fruitfully through thepromotion of academic and scientific study by means of theorganisation’s own research activities. The Collaborative Research Network will be joined by representatives of theEuropean scientific community identified among scholars in the social sciences, humanities and law by the individual associations wishing to be part of it, who will cooperate witheach other and with the community of associated lay and honorary judges, with a division of tasks, coordination and constant monitoring of the contributions made. The involvement of the various scientific fields with a multidisciplinary approach, will make it possible to analysethis figure through a comparative social, philosophical and legal research on its place in the judicial systems, for thepresentation of an ambitious joint project to the European Commission through the results achieved. For the realisationof the project, proposed by the Polish University, the newlyappointed President, Rainer Sedelmayer from Austria, will beflanked by a secretary general, the scientific contact person forresearch, who will be in charge of the scientific and coordination activities, and the contact person for training, who will be represented by Italy.
The Select Project and its evolution
A considerable impetus for the establishment of the newresearch network called CNR-LJE was given by theStrEnghten Lay and Honorary Judges European CompetenciesProject co-funded by the European Commission, aimed at training 300 European lay and honorary judges on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which has also receivedimportant support from the Scuola Superiore della Magistratura. The Select project, led by the Vanvitelli University of Campania Department of Law, was developedby FB Consulting in cooperation with the National Association of Justices of the Peace, the UEMC, Union Europeenne des Magistrats Statuant en Matiere Commerciale, the Concilium Schlichtung Berantung Workshop Austrian consultancy and arbitration institute and with the support ofENALJ, in the framework of the European Unions’ Right Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014.2020). The training activity ended, in presence, on 29 April 2022, at theAlfredo De Marsico Library in Castelcapuano, with thespeeches of Maria Eugenia Bartoloni project coordinator, lecturer in European Union Law at the Vanvitelli University, Francesco Bestagno lecturer in European Union Law at theCatholic University of Milan and legal advisor in theEuropean Union, Palmina Tanzanella National Contact Point at the EU for the Charter of Fundamental Rights, secretary tothe Minister of Justice, who also communicated her willingness to support the realisation of a similar project forthe training of lawyers and career magistrates.
There can be no doubt that the Select project now ranksamong the Best Practices and the interest aroused by theEuropean Commission’s representative in Poland, Filip Skawinski, as well as by the expert representative of theEuropean Union Commission and Evaluation of Research Projects Karolina .M Cern Vice Dean for Research and International Cooperation of the Faculty of Philosophy at theUniversity of Poznan, is further confirmation of this.
The Responsibility of Judges in the Face of Bad Law
Another important topic put on the agenda was Bartosz Woijciechowski President of the European Law Division ofthe Supreme Administrative Court of Poland, whoemphasised, for the courts the need to comply with thefundamental principles not only of the Constitutional Charter but also of the European Union and International Law, urging not to perceive the law as a rigid system of rules but tointerpret and apply it in accordance with said principles, as an irrepressible requirement, also of an ethical nature, of thejudge’s activity. These considerations, which are relevant, ifone bears in mind the conflicting events between the European Union and Poland on the issue of civil rights and theindependence of the judiciary, which have not been resolvedbut dormant, following the conflict in Ukraine, however, byreflection, refer to the issues relating to the conditions ofItalian honorary magistrates, brought before the European Court of Justice and decided with the judgment of 18.7.19, in case 658/18 and with the recent judgment of 7.4.22, in case236/20. The decisions of the European Court, concerning theprotections not afforded to honorary judges and the abusive reiteration of fixed-term contracts, for which no effective and dissuasive sanction is provided, have been disregarded by therecent legislative resolution introduced with paragraphs 629 to633 of Article 1 of Budget Law No. 234/21, which interveneto amend Articles 29 to 32 of Legislative Decree 116/17. The new provisions which, in fact, do not bring any appreciableimprovement to the conditions and status of serving honoraryjudges, are considered by several parties to be unfair and appear to be aimed at the exhaustion of serving magistratesand at curbing the pending infringement proceedings ratherthan at the just and equitable recognition of inalienable rights. Moreover, the indications of the European Judge, to date, arealso slavishly disregarded by the jurisprudence of legitimacyor only timidly applied by the judge of merit.
The cooperation between lay and honorary judges through theNetwork of Associations and the establishment of the newCNR -LJE, favouring the constant exchange of information, will also make it possible to acquire information on theorganisational structures in which they are employed as an expression of civilisation and democracy, such as lay judgeswho are experts in particular subjects or to support the work ofprofessional judges or even those with specific skills. Constant monitoring of their employment and conditions proves to beparticularly important and valuable also as an indicator forassessing the health of the rule of law in the Member States when their participation in the judicial system is best allowed, in compliance with the principles of freedom, independenceand impartiality that constitute common values. There is nodoubt that cooperation activities, by also allowing for an irreplaceable intercultural exchange, can contribute toenhancing the common European identity and foster theintegration process.
Further information on international activities and the Select project can be found at: www.associazionenazionalegiudicidipace.com
* Vice-President for Training and Education of the European Network of Associations of Lay Judges (ENALJ)
*** PhD Student in EU Law