On 9 February 2018, the Director of the Judicial Academy Nenad Vujić participated at the gathering organized by the Alumni Club of the Judicial Academy (the ACJA) and the Association of Judicial and Prosecutorial Assistants (the AJPA), in cooperation with the Foundation Centre of Public Law on the topic: „Election to judicial functions in the Republic of Serbia“.
On that occasion, the Director of the Judicial Academy expressed hope that such joint round tables of the AJPA and the ACJA will contribute to the establishing of the sustainable, credible system of selection of staff and then, election to judicial functions, all for the purpose of improvement of the judicial system as a whole.
The Director Vujić deems that the Draft Amendments of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia contribute to the establishing of clear, measurable, and objective criteria and standards on the occasion of the first election of judicial office holders in basic courts, misdemeanour courts, and basic prosecutor's offices. He reminded of the fact that the Venice Commission, way back in 2009, when giving its opinion on the criteria for election of judges and presidents of courts, stressed to us that the criteria for assessment of qualifications and competence on the occasion of the first election are unclear and leave space for a broad subjective interpretation; the opinion was adopted at the 79th session held from 12 to 13 June 2009.
The Director of the Judicial Academy pointed to the Amendment IV, the second paragraph, which clearly defines what persons may be elected to courts that have exclusively the first-instance jurisdiction and which follows the positions to which the Venice Commission pointed in its opinion from 2009.
„In the above specified opinion, the Venice Commission unequivocally indicated that we do not have clear criteria for selection of staff, that they are too unclear, and that they should be re-examined. This proposal creates preconditions for establishing clear, measurable, and objective criteria„ added the Director Vujić and emphasized that the draft Amendments IV and XVIII create a proper basis for enactment of a set of laws that will regulate those issues in detail, and which we will also have to send to the Venice Commission for evaluation. Thus each potential candidate for a judicial office holder will be enabled to know the criteria and standards in advance, i.e. the conditions under which the selection for special programmes will be made. At the same time, it will also be clear to the candidates themselves why one person has 'passed' the selection, and another person has not. „Not less important is that“, added the Director Vujić, „it will be clear to the public why someone, upon successfully finalized special training, has been elected as a judicial office holder.“
He underlined that this does not represent closing of the system to long-term assistants and advisors or to attorneys-at-law and other jurists who have passed the bar examination. „The reverse is the case,“ pointed out the Director Vujić. „This means opening of the system and uncontroversial election. The second paragraph of the Amendment IV is clear, same as the third paragraph of the Amendment XVIII“.
The Director Vujić additionally underlined that it says in the text of the Draft „… election shall be made from the ranks of persons who have finalized a special training programme“, and not the initial training programme, which exists today and which would then become just one of the special training programmes.
„The second paragraph of the Amendment IV and the third paragraph of the Amendment XVIII enable introduction of a number of methods of entry into the system and special training programmes, taking into consideration the years of previous experience of candidates and where the candidates have acquired such experience. At the same time this means that the institution in charge of training in the judiciary will enrol far more persons for annual special training programmes than it is the case today in the Judicial Academy, and in line with the realistic needs of the judiciary“ emphasized Vujić. He also mentioned that such a solution is fully in compliance with the standards and recommendations, as well as with the good practice of the majority of the EU member states.
The Director Vujić at the same time pointed out that, same as it is the case nowadays in the Judicial Academy, all the future boards as well, which will deal with the admittance of candidates, will be composed of judges, prosecutors, and deputy prosecutors, with as little participation of subjective opinions as possible. „This is actually one of the key requirements from the standards and recommendations of the Council of Europe“ reminded Vujić and said that, same as the valid Law on the Judicial Academy got a positive opinion from the experts of the Council of Europe, we are obliged to send all the laws to the Venice Commission. „In line with this fact, we are now obliged to send the law that will regulate the position of the institution in charge of training in the judiciary to the Venice Commission for the opinion“. The Director Vujić also reminded those present at this gathering that the Republic of Serbia is obliged to send, not only the Amendments of the Constitution to the Venice Commission but that the Republic of Serbia is also obliged to send draft bills of a set of judicial legislation, which it will send, only after obtaining the positive opinion from the Venice Commission, to the National Assembly for enactment.
The Director Vujić also said that he deems that, in the Draft, judicial and prosecutorial assistants and advisors have been unfairly omitted, who are integral parts of the judiciary and whose status has not been adequately resolved. „In order to resolve the position of advisors in the judiciary in an adequate way, consequently, the issues of their material status, promotion, and rights and obligations, the precondition is that advisors are within the powers of the High Judicial Council or of the State Prosecutorial Council. Introduction of advisors as a separate judicial profession is also the good practice in the majority of the EU member states“, Vujić pointed out. „In line with this, in the Amendment III paragraph 9, it would be necessary to insert that, in a trial, in addition to judges and lay judges, there shall also participate judicial advisors, i.e. in the Amendment XV paragraph 2, after the word: deputy public prosecutors, there should also be added that prosecutorial advisors shall be directly accountable to a public prosecutor.“
The Director Vujić also emphasized that the notion of advisor should be introduced at all the levels of the judiciary, instead of having dualism as today. At the same time, he also proposed that, in the Amendment VIII the second paragraph, the Chapter: High Judicial Council, after the words „and shall decide on other issues on the position of judges, presidents of courts, and lay judges“, judicial assistants are also added and, in the Amendment XX paragraph 2, after the words „public prosecutors and deputy public prosecutors“, prosecutorial advisors are added as well. In such a way, preconditions would be created for the resolution of the issues of the material status of advisors in the judiciary. The Director Vujić pointed out that, in such a way, advisors, who participate in procedural acts more than lay judges, would be in a position to select their career advancement as advisors, from lower towards higher levels in the judiciary, as well as have clear, measurable criteria as to how, in what way, and under what conditions they can attend special training programmes for judicial office holders, depending on the experience and quality of their work, which is to be monitored by the High Judicial Council or by the State Prosecutorial Council.
Also, the Director of the Judicial Academy Nenad Vujić stressed that untruths are being spread about the current position of the Judicial Academy. Namely, Vujić emphasized that the public is intentionally wrongly informed that the Academy is managed by the Ministry of Justice and the Government of the Republic of Serbia. Vujić underlined that the Academy, in line with the Law, is managed by the Managing Board, which consists of 9 members, out of whom four members are the judges who are nominated to the Managing Board (the MB) by the High Judicial Council (the HJC). Out of that number, the HJC nominates two members from the ranks of judges, at the proposal of the Judges' Association. Thus, a member of the Managing Board is, for the second term now, at the proposal of the Judges' Association of Serbia, the judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation Spomenka Zarić and, at the proposal of the Association of Misdemeanour Judges, Leonida Popović, a judge of the Misdemeanour Appellate Court. The State Prosecutorial Council nominates two members, out of whom one at the proposal of the Prosecutor Association. In the first term from 2010 to 2014, a member of the MB was the President of the Association of Prosecutors and Deputy Prosecutors of Serbia Goran Ilić, the Deputy Republic Public Prosecutor. Three members of the MB are nominated by the Government of the Republic of Serbia, out of which number one from the ranks of employees in the Academy. The Managing Board of the Judicial Academy, both in the first and in the second term took the decisions unanimously, without outvoting the members of the MB. The body in charge of drafting and monitoring of the training programmes is the Programme Council of the Judicial Academy. The Programme Council has 15 members in its complement out of whom 11 members are judges and deputy public prosecutors mostly from the courts and prosecutor's offices at the Republic level. Four members of the Programme Council of the Judicial Academy are the judges of the Supreme Court of Cassation.
„Therefore, complete untruth has been told to the public related to the operation of the Academy and its management, whereby the reputation of the Academy is completely ruined, but what is particularly disturbing the reputation of judges, prosecutors, and deputy prosecutors who are engaged in the managerial bodies of the Academy – the Managing Board and the Programme Council is tarnished, as well as the reputation of judges, prosecutors, and deputy prosecutors who, as lecturers and mentors, participate in the programmes of the Academy“, emphasized the Director Vujić and added that, for example, over 75% of the judges of the Supreme Court of Cassation are engaged in the work of the Academy, either in the bodies or in the commissions/boards of the Academy or as lecturers.
The Director Vujić pointed to the fact that, at the same time, the fact is deliberately neglected that the entrance and the final examinations at the Academy are public, that the presence of the public is enabled during the written part of an examination, that the presence of the public is also enabled during the oral part of each examination. „The Academy regularly invites both domestic and international institutions and the civil society organizations to attend both the entrance and the final examinations but a very small number respond to our invitation to attend them“, Vujić pointed out.
Therefore, at the end of his presentation, the Director Vujić raised the question as to what is the purpose of calling the members of the Entrance Examination Board, one judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation, two judges of the Appellate Court, the Prosecutor for Organized Crime, and the Appellate Prosecutor, „certain people over there“. „Is it a contribution to the enhancement of the credibility of the judicial system as a whole, to which we all refer and which, I believe, we all advocate“, the Director Vujić emphasized.