Communication on the medium term institutional strategy of the Curia of Hungary

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The medium term institutional strategy of the Curia was adopted in September 2013 within the framework and with the financial support of project no. 1.1.19 2012 2012 0002 of the State Reform Operational Programme

Main aim of the strategy:

The strategy was inspired by the leaders of the Curia who recognised the necessity of assessing the Curia’s personnel, as well as its legal and infrastructural background in 2013 in the light of the performance of its constitutional task, namely the unification of judicial practice. During the elaboration phase, the strategy planning working group took into consideration not only the traditions of the Curia and the Supreme Court, but also the principles, ideas and solutions of the supreme judicial bodies of other European countries regarding their organisational and personnel issues.

Structure of the strategy:

The strategy consists of the following prime elements: introduction, status quo analysis, objectives and proposals. The most important parts of the strategy include the basic principles enumerated in the introduction, the status quo analysis and the medium term proposals.

Members of the strategy planning working group:

The substantive sections of the strategy have been elaborated by Curia judges. The working group was composed of judges with diverse professional experience: court leaders, senior judges and judges who had gained valuable experience from their service at lower instance courts or at the Constitutional Court, from their work in public administration or from their international study visits; their knowledge has undoubtedly enriched the content of the strategic document.

The working method of the working group was based on the principle of majority decision making, meaning that the inclusion of statements, conclusions and proposals in the strategy required a simple majority vote from the group members.

The court leaders of the Curia had all given their opinion on the draft version of the institutional strategy which was ultimately approved by the President of the Curia.

1.

In the process of elaborating the strategy, the working group took into account the basic principles that should influence the adjudicating activity of the supreme judicial body.

The Curia attaches primary importance to the democratic and constitutional structure of the Hungarian State, in particular to the principles of the rule of law and legal certainty. Under the doctrine of the separation of powers, the Curia is the highest instance body of the independent and neutral judicial branch which is mostly characterised by its consistent, stable and continuous case law. The Curia strives to deliver its court decisions in a unified, predictable and fair manner. It considers important to ensure transparency both in its adjudicating activity and in respect of its organisational structure, while it nurtures dialogue with other state institutions.

The Curia regards continuity a value, therefore, in the elaboration phase it gave particular attention to prior findings and successful operational solutions, as well as to previously revealed dysfunctional practices and expressed criticisms. As a result, the institutional strategy incorporates certain elements from the 2012 strategy of the National Office for the Judiciary, the 2005 2009 action programme of the Supreme Court, the 2010 decision of the National Council of Justice and the 2007 studies of three different research centres, commissioned by the National Council of Justice.

Furthermore, the strategy considers it important to observe the indicators of the EU Justice Scoreboard as defined in the document “COM(2013) 160 final” of the European Commission.

2.

With an emphasis on the most significant topics, the status quo analysis describes and occasionally analyses the Curia’s organisational, personnel and infrastructural issues, its economic situation, moreover, its public and international relations.

The status quo analysis contains important findings related to the unification of judicial practice.

After the end of World War II, the Curia was forced to change direction in its adjudicating activity. Due to the complete transformation of the Hungarian legal system, the Curia could no longer continue the unification of judicial practice based on its case law, a method rooted in European legal traditions. The Supreme Court was given the tasks to ensure the uniform interpretation of law and, as a measure of legislative policy, to provide theoretical guidance for lower instance courts. The 1997 judicial reforms resulted in a change in priorities, hence, theoretical guidance lost momentum for the benefit of the unification of judicial practice.

In our days, the Curia belongs to the relatively populous group of European supreme courts. The Curia’s renewed position, however, couples with the principle of providing to the fullest possible extent the opportunity for the parties to proceedings to use extraordinary remedies. It should also be noted that in 1992 the Constitutional Court abolished the legal instrument of veto in the interest of legality. As a result of these circumstances and an increase in workload, the Supreme Court became an appellate court, and its unbeneficial status could not be altered – due to the decision of the Constitutional Court rendered in 2004 – even by the successive, favourable modifications of procedural rules. In addition, the Curia has long established organisational traditions and heavily specialised judicial panels.

The comparison of European models shows that there are co ordination mechanisms capable of harmonising the activities and practices of different departments and organisational entities, as well as creating a uniform theoretical basis on areas of common interest (e.g. the role of fundamental rights in the adjudication of cases, the drafting of court decisions, the use of language in court documents, legitimate legal argumentation and interpretation methods, etc.). The organisational structures of standard European supreme courts take into account the existence of such co ordination mechanisms.

The strategy takes into account and examines those legal instruments that serve the uniformity of judicial practice. It announces the results of a representative survey that was carried out by the working group, in which almost eight hundred judges were asked to give their opinion on the role of the Curia in the unification of judicial practice and on the information flow between the Curia and lower instance courts. The answers disclose moderate satisfaction. The strategy examined the experiences of jurisprudence analysis, a new legal institution, up until now. Besides numerous good initiatives and local solutions, it identified problems as regards the dialogue between the various court levels from the aspect of both legislation and practice.

The strategy drew up the tasks demanding pro activity on the part of the Curia. It established that Hungarian judges actively and successfully meet the responsibilities conferred on them by EU legislation. The introduction of the constitutional complaint and the development of multi level fundamental rights protection constitute new challenges for judges. They make it necessary to re think and re structure the method of preparing cases concerning both form and content.

The strategy examined the relationship of the Curia with other institutions. It noted that its relationship with the National Office for the Judiciary is important and active in practice, and due to the President’s membership in the National Council of Judges the Curia takes an active part in that body too. Besides, the Curia has satisfactory relationship with institutions of justice taken in a wider sense and it has created the opportunity for professional dialogue with the institutions of legal science and other fields of science.

The status quo analysis also touches on the restricted role of the Curia in the preparation of legislation. It noted that this modified role does not affect the primary role of Curia judges in the application of law.

3.

The comprehensive aim of the strategy is to ensure that the Curia functions transparently and effectively, especially in the field of the unification of judicial practice. To attain this goal the following have to be fulfilled: a) developing the system of jurisprudence analysis, b) developing an intensive relationship with lower instance courts, c) publishing regularly documents that promote the unification of judicial practice.

The strategy envisions to achieve the aims in two dimensions. Within the scope of the social dimensions it plans to function in a way that makes it capable to fulfil its tasks within the system of the separations of powers, to dispose of cases in a professional and up to date manner, to ensure the unified application of law in cases involving serious interests and fundamental rights.

The Curia has to attain these goals primarily in the frame of existing legal and economic conditions. The strategy indicates it at each proposal whether it can be implemented within the existing framework or it is beyond the competence of the Curia either from the aspect of legal provisions or from the aspect of budgetary means.

4.

In order to achieve the indicated goals, the strategy points out the following fields where intervention is needed:
a) developing the structure of grand chambers;
b) ensuring transparency in announcing positions at the Curia;
c) developing the framework for collecting and analysing data on caseload;
d) reviewing the work, qualification and remuneration of judicial employees at the Curia;
e) developing the career of legal secretaries, drawing legal secretaries into preparing cases to be reviewed by the Curia;
f) reviewing the IT network of the Curia from the aspect to what extent it supports the work of the judges, the contact with parties, connecting the IT network of the Curia to the IT network of the judiciary;
g) developing guarantees that ensure that budgetary resources are continuously at disposal;
h) developing the channels of internal communication;
i) creating a well recognisable image of the Curia in the media, developing channels of communication that pave the way to a better understanding of the decisions of the Curia made in important cases;
j) consciously applying the means for the unification of judicial practice;
k) continually reviewing the timeliness of the means for the unification of judicial practice;
l) enforcing the theses summarised in the strategy on jurisprudence analysis;
m) strengthening the formal connections built up until now with lower instance courts, instituting new means of contact;
n) publishing more intensively documents promoting unified judicial practice;
o) developing a coherent and value based judicial practice, providing professional but understandable and transparent reasoning;
p) providing structural means to ensure the preparation of cases;
q) finding ways to ensure a more intensive participation in the drafting of legal rules.

While retaining and relying on the results achieved until now, the realisation of the aims of the strategy can significantly contribute to enabling the Curia to fulfil its role conferred on it by the Fundamental Law.

Budapest, the 26th of September 2013