The ethical code of judical conduct

THE ETHICAL CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT


Mindful of the significance of the code of judicial ethical conduct for

• An increased public trust in judiciary,
• The protection of human rights and the enhancement of the idea of legal state,
• The prevention and control of corruption in the judiciary,

In performance of their duties and their avocational activities, judges have committed to the rules set out in the Ethical Code of Judicial Conduct.

As the supreme body of judicial administration in the Slovak Republic, the Judicial Council of the Slovak Republic adopted the Ethical Code of Judicial Conduct (hereafter referred to as the Code) and accepted the ultimate responsibility for application of these rules in judicial conduct.

PREAMBLE

The Code sets out moral responsibilities of judges whose role is implicit in democratic society as lifelong vocation.

SOURCES

The Code is in line with the Constitution of the Slovak Republic, status and institutional judicial laws, recommendations of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the status of judges, prosecutors and investigation organs, and all additional national and international legal regulations on judges, including international judicial organisations.

Article I
GENERAL PRINCIPLES

The general principles set out norms and a regulatory framework for judicial conduct in the performance of duties and avocational activities of judges.

Principle of independence

Independence is a commitment by a judge to the society.  In line with the Code, a judge is independent when, in performance of his duties, he is exclusively guided by his own conscience, the existing laws and the general ethical principles of the Code.  An independent judge is unswayed by force, pressure, manipulation, and direct or indirect influence exerted by other state organs that may or may not be part of the judiciary, by individuals and their groups.

Principle of impartiality

In accordance with the Code, a judge is impartial when his assessment of facts related to a particular case draws exclusively from an objective analysis of evidence, when he retains distance from litigants and their legal representatives, avoids improper conduct that might appear as preferential treatment, bias or prejudice based upon race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, religion, education, personal conviction, individual and socioeconomic status, sympathies and/or antipathy towards litigants or their legal representatives.

Principle of fairness and transparency

In line with the Code, judicial fairness implies taking into consideration the particulars of each case within the legal regulatory framework, and deciding in accordance with overarching human values and those of the democratic legal system.

Transparency of conduct and judicial conduct guarantees fairness in judicial decisions.

Principle of courtesy and tolerance

A judge is courteous when his conduct and performance show proper respect to colleagues, litigants and their legal representatives, and other parties to proceedings.

A judge is tolerant retaining openness and patience in hearing the other party and displaying willingness to hear new arguments, views and positions related to the subject of the hearing.  Tolerance is facilitated by resolute judicial refusal to tolerate statements by litigants that prove immaterial to the subject of the hearing.

Principle of incorruptibility and decorum

Judicial incorruptibility means refusing to accept any material or other benefits regardless of their nature, provided such benefit may put into question judicial independence.

Decorum implies that a judge refrains from any activities that violate the dignity of judicial office and prevent meeting the justified social expectations about judicial performance.

Principle of competence and qualification

When familiar with the Slovak legal system, informed about international and European law, and able to oversee its implementation in practice, a judge is competent and qualified to perform judicial duties.

Judicial competence and qualification are fundamental prerequisites of efficient performance of vocational duties.

Principle of confidentiality

A judge is subject to the requirement of confidentiality, thus having to remain discreet and maintain confidentiality about facts and information obtained in performance of his judicial duties.

Article II

RULES OF ETHICAL CONDUCT DERRIVED FROM THE
GENERAL PRINCIPLES

1. Rules of ethical conduct derived from the principle of
INDEPENDENCE

Independence is a precondition for diligent implementation of the ideas of legal state and guaranties protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, and constitutional values.

APPLICATION

1.1. A judge exercises his rights and decides solely in accordance with law and his conscience.
1.2. A judge does not tolerate and remains unswayed by any external force, pressure, threats, and direct or indirect influence intended to manipulate his performance regardless of their source, motif or cause.
1.3. In decision-making, a judge retains independence and remains unswayed by views of others, including his colleagues.  He never allows his conduct to challenge his independence.
1.4. A judge does not in any way engage in political and partisan activities, assume membership in political organisations or commercial interest groups.
1.5. Avocational performance and conduct of a judge must not be in conflict with his duty to protect and not to damage the appearance of independence of judicial power.  A judge conducts himself and acts in a manner that keeps him free of suspicion of influence by other state organs, individuals or their groups, and intra- and extrajudicial forces.
1.6. A judge has a right and obligation to inform relevant state organs and the public about any attempt to interfere with his independence.

2. Rules of ethical conduct derived from the principle of
IMPARTIALITY

A judge is expected to be impartial when applying material and procedural law and in relation to the rights of parties to judicial proceedings.

APPLICATION

2.1. A judge shows respect to the dignity of every individual both in performance of his judicial duties and outside the court, does not tolerate preferential treatment, bias or prejudice based upon race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, religious or political orientation, personal and socioeconomic status.

2.2. A judge gives and protects an appearance of impartiality in proceedings, when the public manifests strong positive or negative emotions in relation to parties to judicial proceedings that are subject to judge’s direction and control.  In such cases the judge decides solely on the basis of the examined material evidence and in accordance with law.

2.3 A judge abstains from making public statements or comments about proceedings in any way that would bind him to a concrete outcome of the proceedings or would give the public an impression of his partiality and a lack of objectivity.  Outside the proceeding, a judge does not engage in any discussion about the proceedings with the parties, even in their presence, with legal representatives of litigants, or third parties.

2.4. A judge manifests appropriate conduct and avoids situations that would directly or indirectly lead to his discharge from the proceeding.

2.5. A judge respects the right of all parties to the proceedings to express themselves, make a statement or to refrain from the right to claims.

2.6. A judge does not provide legal counsel on legal matters.

2.7. A judge disqualifies himself in a proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.  In such case or when in doubt whether matters of personal nature might lead to conflict of interest, a judge openly and clearly reports all facts material to the proceedings and disqualifies himself from the proceedings.

3. Rules of ethical conduct derived from the principle of
FAIRNESS AND TRANSPARENCY

The requirement for fairness arises from the fact that legal norms cannot cover and regulate all situations brought about by daily life.

The requirement for transparency is derived from the need to constantly reassure the public about the legality and fairness of proceedings and judicial conduct.

APPLICATION

3.1. A judge decides only when he is satisfied that the decisions are just and in accordance with law in relation to all parties to the proceedings.  A judge pays particular attention to matters concerning the freedom and good name of individuals.
3.2. If law allows a judge to decide a case according to his judgement, he is guided by the principle of justice.
3.3. In accordance with law, a judge informs the public about his decision (including procedural decisions) in a timely, comprehensible and appropriate manner.
3.4. A judge may use the media to explain his decisions only to a degree permitted by law, whilst he takes due care that his conduct/explanation in no way violates the rights and interests of parties to the proceedings.
3.5. A judge informs the public – either personally or through the media – about the reasons behind his conduct and decisions, and refrains from any conduct or activity that may give him an appearance of satisfying his personal needs or excessively seeking public approval.

4. Rules of ethical conduct derived from the principle of
COURTESY AND TOLERANCE

The requirements for courtesy and transparency arise from the presumption of judicial morality and professional erudition.  This enhances the performance of judicial duties and the functioning of judiciary.

APPLICATION

4.1. Judicial conduct in the society should be in line with the principles of good morals.  A judge manifests goodwill and consideration in communication with his colleagues and the public.

4.2. Judges are polite, courteous and considerate in performance of their duties, extrajudicial activities and private life.

4.3. A judge treats the public with esteem and respects its rights and freedoms.

4.4. In the office and in communication with the public, judges show respect to their colleagues, representatives of other institutions and the public.

Regardless of their status in the organisational structure, work relations among judges and employees in the judiciary are guided by the principles of mutual respect and tolerance.  Judges refrain from any conduct that would be detrimental to the reputation of the judiciary.  Courtesy and tolerance benefit from introspection within judicial ranks, provided such introspection is supported by objective arguments.

5. Rules of ethical conduct derived from the principle of
INCORRUPTIBILITY AND DECORUM

Incorruptibility and decorum are the prerequisites for respect and trust in judicial activity.

APPLICATION


5.1. A judge refrains from demanding and accepting any gifts, stimuli or benefits in whatever form and from whatever source offered to him or his relatives, particularly when those are offered with the intention to influence judicial decision.

5.2. A judge has to refrain from immoral conduct or from giving an appearance of immoral conduct.

5.3. In social life and lawful performance of avocational duties, a judge must not use his judicial status or authority for his own benefit.

5.4. With his moral and honest conduct and responsibility in judicial and avocational activities, a judge sets an example to other judiciary staff.

5.5. A judge has to refrain from any activity that may dishonour his performance of duty and discredit him in social life.

5.6. A judge has to build good name and impeccable reputation.

5.7. A judge has to be consistent and unwavering in adherence to ethical norms.

5.8. In pursuit of his career advancement, a judge refrains from using any contacts or means that harm his dignity.

6. Rules of ethical conduct derived from the principle of
COMPETENCE AND QUALIFICATION

The requirement for judicial competence and qualification is derived from the right of parties to judicial proceedings and the right of the public to legal services of utmost quality.

APPLICATION

6.1. A judge must abstain from avocational (legally permitted) activities that would prove detrimental to his performance of judicial duties.

6.2. A judge has to strive to improve his qualification and take steps to increase his knowledge, skills and personal qualities necessary for an appropriate performance of vocational duties.

6.3. A judge has to have a grasp of current developments in international law, including international treaties and other legal norms setting out human rights.

7. Rules of ethical conduct derived from the principle of
CONFIDENTIALITY

Confidentiality arises from the need to protect parties to judicial proceedings and their relatives against possible abuse of information obtained by a judge in his performance of vocational duties.

APPLICATION

7.1. In social and private life, a judge has to retain utmost confidentiality about facts and information obtained in performance of judicial duties.  He has to demand the same from his collages, assistants, higher court clerks, trainee judges, and judiciary personnel.

7.2. A judge shall not abuse information obtained in performance of his duty.

7.3. A judge has the right to discuss legal matters in general, but is required to keep confidentiality about concrete facts related to proceedings, and has no right to publicise any information about private life of the parties, or any other information that may violate the interests and reputation of the people concerned.

7.4. A judge has no right to provide preliminary public information on concrete proceedings.

7.5. A judge has a right to express his personal view in the media on any matter, unless otherwise stipulated by law.

Article III

CONRETE RULES OF CONDUCT OF JUDICIAL OFFICERS

(Presiding Judges and Deputy Presiding Judges)

1. A judicial officer treats judges and court employees with courtesy, respects their personal dignity and refrains from any appearance of nepotism or preferential treatment.
2. A judicial officer ignores intervention, pressure or other unlawful influence in appointments, transfers or career promotions of judges.  Transparency of conduct in this context guaranties justice, objectivity and optimal personnel choice.
3. A judicial officer is responsible for the organisation of court under his direction and administers it in order to achieve the best possible results.  He cooperates as much as possible with other judiciary organs and those of state and public administration, whilst respecting their specific powers.
4. A judicial officer has to be aware of the situation in the office under his direction in order to make managerial decisions and assume adequate responsibility.
5. A judicial officer oversees the work and conduct of his colleagues and that of administrative and other personnel, and interferes merely in case of need, particularly in order to prevent inappropriate conduct.
6. A judicial officer guaranties compliance with the principle of random selection and assignment of matters to judges and a set of judges, using technical and software means approved by relevant organs.

Article IV

GUARANTEES OF COMPLIANCE WITH THE RULES OF
ETHICAL CONDUCT SET OUT IN THIS CODE

1. The main guarantors of compliance with the rules of the Code are judges themselves who are convinced about their accuracy, and willingly subscribe to and apply this Code.
2. The Judicial Council of the Slovak Republic oversees the application of and compliance with the Code and regularly updates the principles contained therein.
3. The Ethics Commission formed within the Judicial Council is established by the law on judicial council.  The Judicial Council appoints the five-member Ethics Commission that consists of extra-judicial authorities by vote.

Article V

RESPONSIBILITY IN CASES OF BREACH OF THE CODE

Upon request by a judge, an individual and disciplinary senate, the Ethics Commission passes judgement on
• Compliance with and interpretation of the rules of the judicial ethical conduct;
• Public appeals and complaints against judicial conduct that is in conflict with the ethical principles; and,
• Forwards its judgement to disciplinary proceedings on matters of breach of the rules of ethical conduct against judges following an appeal or request for disciplinary proceedings against a judge by other subject than the Ethics Commission.

This Code has been adopted by the decree of the Judicial Council No xx on the xxth Day of xx 2010.

The draft Ethical Code is presented for discussion by an independent judicial initiative Towards Open Justice.

Prepared by, Elena Berthotyová, JD

In Bratislava 7 July 2010

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