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Court Administration Reform
 
Presentation to No 2 Dimplomatic Club
March 7, 2001
Center for the Study of Democracy


Court Administration: Problems and Future

Presentation by Ms. Kapka Kostova, Chair of Sofia Regional Court

 Within the framework of the ongoing judicial reform in Bulgaria the issue of the necessary changes in Court administration is unjustifiably passed by. In our capacity of judges we are aware of the significance of this part of the Court structures and of the extent their good or poor performance is predetermining our own work. Even the most perfect judge is absolutely helpless without a well-organized and effective Court administration.

After all this is not just a simple system for initiating and processing of cases. This is a system of structures working under explicit rules and performing a large scope of activities. Its main purpose is to assist judges in their work, to maintain contacts with persons that address the Court as well as the contacts with other institutions, to provide timely, correct and complete information supporting the making of proper managerial decisions.

This system has its political and social basis as it directly impacts the public attitude and reaction towards the judicial institution. It is an important part of the Court’s image and a mechanism for defending Court’s independence being a part of its self-management, as a really independent judicial institution is the self-governing one. Historically the Court administration system has been initially introduced with the idea to guarantee such self-governance and independence of the judiciary – political, social, structural and financial. Another very important motive for its establishment was the existing misbalance in the work of the separate Courts. Courts have not operated with equal effectiveness, which is unfair for citizens and society. And last, but not least – Court’s initial financial dependence of the executive power has caused the necessity of establishment of this orderly system for self-governance of the judiciary.

Bulgarian Courts administration has barely changed through the years and this has both positive and negative aspects. The reason for this slow change was due to the Court system conservatism. The latter protects the system but it also retains its adequate development as related to the development of the social relations.

At present Court registration offices are operating under hopelessly obsolete rules, which impede the development of the judicial proceedings, the information flow, Courts in-house administrative relations as well as relations with outer institutions.

The employees perform in poor conditions and there is no one responsible for their preliminary and current training. A number of books and registries are maintained but mainly manually.

There is no modern secondary legislation on the structure and functioning of Court administration and no uniform regulation of the Courts operations, the public prosecution offices and the investigation services.

Currently the organization of the work of judicial officials and the administrative control and management over them is regulated inadequately and imperfectly with few provisions in the Law on Judiciary and by an obsolete secondary legislation act.

The negative impact of all that appears in several directions:

1.       A large staff performs the administrative activities in the Courts. The correlation between staff and judges is approximately 2,5:1. The main problem is that this activity is organized in an extensive manner, which impacts manpower, financial resources, technical and intellectual potential on one hand and to poor results on the other hand.

2.       Meanwhile judges are responsible for a number of administrative and technical activities along with their direct legal work, which results in waste of their time, knowledge and energy.

3.       Those, occupying managerial positions, are overloaded with lots of untypical administrative, financial and daily responsibilities, which make them insufficiently effective both in this field and in their main responsibilities to organize and manage the judicial activities. Even the wealthiest countries cannot afford their experienced judges to perform such activities, but they have established the Court administration system to serve judges.

Unfortunately during the recent years in Bulgaria, in an indisputably complicated situation and in great dynamics in the Courts operation, lesser attention was paid to the work of Court administration.

Judges themselves initiated all these achievements under projects with outer donors. Despite of their success these activities as a whole have the characteristics of a certain state of chaos and unclear vision for the pursued final result.

The problem is complicated and versatile one and it comes down to a qualitatively new vision on the way of organization of Court administration and the rules governing it, on the type and number of the necessary staff, on the management of the administrative processes, on the functions and role of the Court chairman, and on the relations and contacts with other institutions.

Therefore it is necessary an entirely new concept for the organization of the performance of Court administration to be elaborated.

A serious discussion on this issue should be carried out with the assistance of internal and external experts and the visions on significant changes in Court administration activities should be formulated.

The main principle of these changes could be:

·         creation of a system for intensive work performance;

·         clear rules for the operation of administration, including hierarchy and subordination;

·         clear recruitment and control mechanisms;

·         internal mechanism for liability realization;

·         building of external offices serving directly the judicial activities (defense covered by public funds, experts’ reports, security, Court papers delivery, etc.).

The visions of judges on the substance and parameters of these changes have been clarified to a great extent in the course of a couple of working meetings and seminars as well as in the course of our work on several projects with outer donors.

However a lot of work is still forthcoming and we are aware this as we have the will to complete it.

 
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