Judicial misconduct breaks down the very fibre of what is necessary for a functional judiciary- citizens who believe their judges are fair and impartial. The judiciary cannot exist without the trust and confidence of the people. Judges must, therefore, be accountable to legal and ethical standards. In holding them accountable for their behaviour, judicial conduct review must be performed without invading the independence of judicial decision-making. This task can be daunting.
Mr. David J. Sachar, Executive Director of the Judicial Discipline and Disciplinary Commission in Arkansas, United States and Advisory Board Member of the National Center for State Courts, recently shared his views on judicial misconduct with UNODC, as part of the Organization's on-going work to exchange good practices in the investigation of misconduct.
For more than three decades, information and communications technology (ICT) advancements have burst into the operations of courts and prosecutors' offices promising transparency, efficiency and radical changes to working practices, such as paperless courts. Even if in most jurisdictions such promises have yet to be fulfilled, software programmes and algorithms are already executing growing chunks of judicial procedures. The impacts such technologies have on the functioning of justice systems and the values endorsed by the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct are mostly positive.
Confidence in the rule of law is a basic element of a culture of lawfulness, and the promotion of judicial independence, transparency and integrity is of utmost importance to UNODC's Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, which works with judiciaries around the world to this end. The Programme's Senior Officer, Marco Teixeira, was invited last month to Argentina to discuss the objectives of the Doha Declaration, at the Judicial Council of the City of Buenos Aires. Mr. Teixeira presented the four components of the Programme, and in particular the work of the Judicial Integrity pillar and the activities of the Global Judicial Integrity Network : "The Global Judicial Integrity Network is a unique platform that provides peer to peer learning and connects judges worldwide".
The concept of judicial independence, in its theoretical sense, may appear to be a banal and non-contentious issue. However, when it is put into practice in the discharge of one's duties as a judge it becomes a loaded issue which is critical in the delivery of real and substantial justice. The reality is that the institutional independence of the judiciary goes to the very root of the ethical and constitutional obligation owed by a judge in exercising their duty of care to those parties who appear before them. It is essential, however, that the judge feels unencumbered by the possibility of negative consequences which may flow from the decision which they may make.
There are many aspects to crime worldwide, many of which were discussed and considered by hundreds of experts during the 28 th Session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held this week in Vienna. Like the other components of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, the Judicial Integrity initiative was active in numerous discussions and held side events to consider specific aspects having great impact on justice, namely judicial independence and gender and diversity.
In all these aspects related to judicial integrity, the Global Judicial Integrity Network plays an important role in creating a space for discussion and for sharing experiences and resources.