Expressing one's opinion as a judge in the public space is a form of manifesting his or her freedom of speech, freedom that also implies a corresponding responsibility due to the function of administering justice that (s)he exercises. The public does not (always) distinguish between the judge and the (wo)man behind the robe. Inappropriate manifestations can have consequences not only for the professional reputation of the judge, but also for the public image of the judiciary and for trust in the act of justice. Therefore, before choosing as judges to express an opinion addressed to the general public or which can become public, we should answer a few questions.
Every day, judges across the world listen to evidence and make life altering decisions affecting their fellow citizens. Being a judge also carries with it the responsibility of becoming a community leader and living by a set of values that manifest through honesty, fairness and being just. As judges, we need to recognize that we must maintain our health in order to sustain our integrity as human beings. A judge who is healthy physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually enhances their ability to access the wisdom necessary to render fairness and justice.
Trauma is inherent to the work of the judicial system; vicarious trauma and stress are natural by-products. Vicarious trauma has been defined as the cumulative inner transformative effect of bearing witness to abuse, violence and trauma in the lives of people who we care about, are open to and are committed to helping. Although vicarious trauma can be a natural and normal occurrence for workers who provide care to others, failure to address the causes and symptoms can lead to negative outcomes in one's life.
The ongoing efforts in the Bolivian judiciary on gender mainstreaming aim to contribute to the effective administration of justice in accordance with the existing ethical standards and judicial integrity. To this end, the Gender Committee of the Judiciary and the Plurinational Constitutional Court have been advocating and continue to promote substantive equality between men and women and the implementation of measures to combat inequalities in the administration of justice. We are already seeing the positive impact of the measures taken, and through this opinion piece we would like to share with you some of the good practices identified.
The first fundamental step towards gender equality in the justice system was the establishment of the Gender Committee within and for the Judiciary in 2013. The Gender Committee is composed of female magistrates from the highest courts of Bolivia, including the Judicial Council. Since its creation, the Gender Committee has become a consultative body in Bolivia for the articulation and promotion of positive actions to safeguard women's rights. A concrete example of its work and one of its main achievements has been the creation of the Institutional Policy on Gender Equality for the Judiciary of Bolivia, which is based on the experiences of other Latin American countries and promotes gender equality in the administration of justice.
Based on the freedom of expression and the right to information, social networks, open databases of court decisions and their algorithmic processing allow to find a lot of personal data of judges. However, French law sets limits to the publicity of judgments, in order to guarantee the security and privacy of judges. " When its disclosure is likely to undermine the security or privacy of these persons or their entourage, any element that could identify the parties, third parties, judges and members of the court registry is also concealed."
French law considers that the limits also result from the rules of ethics for magistrates. In particular, the code of ethics imposes on magistrates an obligation of prudence in the use of social networks (even if they use a pseudonym), which makes it possible to limit the information on their personal life, to preserve the image of justice and the image of impartiality. The High Council for the Judiciary has already issued disciplinary sanctions against magistrates who used social networks in an inappropriate manner. Also, the French Ministry of Justice published an information sheet indicating good practices on the subject.
Corruption seems to be everywhere, in politics, in economics, in the health system, in education and in the justice system as well. It seems to be in the DNA of humankind, and it is especially problematic, when it affects the justice system, because: "who guards the guardians"?
Once I spoke with a colleague judge from a country known for widespread corruption, and I asked him how much money he would need as a salary in order not to be susceptible to corruption. He answered: "if they come and tell me that I have to decide in a certain way and that, if I do not do it, my wife will die, I can take money from them as well, do I not?"
This is an important aspect of corruption. We all despise a corrupt judiciary, but do we ever ask ourselves why judges are corrupt? Is it not also because they are threatened, like my fellow judge? Do we expect judges to behave like heroes who risk their own life or that of their family? Happy is the country that does not need heroes as judges!