CRPE Policy Report, November 2015 – Identifying top performers in the Romanian judicial system – Perception of the magistrates and reform proposals concerning the performance assessment system Authors: Bianca Toma, Cristian Ghinea, Survey/research: Oana Ganea
The starting question: Does the Romanian judiciary have an individual and institutional performance assessment system to allow it to know, at any given point, what are the best prosecutors for recruitment for the National Anticorruption Directorate, the DIICOT or the General Prosecutor’s Office? Can it identify the best performers and managers to head the prosecutors’ offices and the courts of law in Romania, and, in their turn, to conduct objective and merit-based assessments of their subordinates?
In theory and according to the legislation, the answer is yes – using regulations and procedures designed, applied and verified by the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM) – it has the tools required to conduct individual performance assessments of the magistrates, and, recently, it has even developed a very complex statistical analysis system for institutional performance assessment. The professional assessment of magistrates, which should measure individual competence and performance, is, nevertheless, flawed by formalistic practices leading to results that are irrelevant for the system – both in terms of recruitment and in terms of promotion.
The report – Identifying top performers in the Romanian judicial system – Perception of the magistrates and reform proposals concerning the performance assessment system – analyses how the current individual performance assessment procedure in the judiciary is applied, what are its limitations and vulnerabilities and the degree of acceptance of reform proposals within the judicial system.
The professional assessment of magistrates is a key instrument for transparent, merit-based promotions in the system. Both the management of the judicial system and the civil society are concerned with increasing the efficiency of these procedures so as to allow top performers and/ or, as applicable, those with satisfactory results. The Superior Council of Magistracy brought a series of concrete proposals to reform the current assessment procedure, to ensure relevant results in the future to help the system make the best decisions.
The Romanian Centre for European Policies joined in on these efforts and concerns through:
(1) Two research reports for the evaluation of the current methodology and of other practices concerning the assessment of individual performance and of judicial systems in other EU Member States.
(2) A qualitative research (in depth interviews with managers in the judiciary: the National Anti-Corruption Directorate, the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Justice and Cassation, the Ministry of Justice, the Bucharest Tribunal, members of the Superior Council of the Magistracy, experts and representatives of the civil society).
Following these consultations, a questionnaire was put together for the second phase of the research, and it was distributed in the judicial system. (3) A quantitative research covering the entire judicial system: a survey among prosecutors and judges in Romania from courts of law and prosecutor’s offices of any ranking, including specialized directorates – the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Justice and Cassation, the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), the Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT).
The purpose of the research was to measure:
– The degree of satisfaction with the current professional assessment procedure of the magistrates (including attitude towards the latest assessment of the respondents and the latest assessment of their peers).
– The relevance of each of the current individual professional assessment criteria (efficiency, quality, integrity, professional education)
– The degree of acceptance/ rejection of changes – reform proposals. The research was also aimed at collecting ideas concerning any potential amendments to the current assessment system which would lead to relevant and useful results for the management of the judiciary.
Research tool: a standardized questionnaire, with 13 closed questions, two semi-closed questions, and one open question. The invitation letter indicated the anonymity of the participation to the survey, as researchers did not have the technical means to track the responses nominally.
Period of data collection: 24 September – 12 October 2015
Number of respondents: 373 prosecutors and 177 judges
Data collection method: the questionnaire was available online, on a platform owned by the CRPE and it was filled out by magistrates following an invitation which was sent to their official e-mail addresses, as described above.
The limitations of the survey stem from the innovative nature of the approach. We noted that several magistrates were not using their e-mails. Nevertheless, we received a significant number of responses, by comparison to the overall population. All correlations and analysis must be carried out in relation to the self-selected sample.
Data about the respondents
Out of the 373 prosecutors participating in the survey 34% were holding management positions and most had a tenure in the judicial system of over 15 years (the average seniority of the respondents was of 13 years).
Out of the 177 judges participating in the survey 43% were holding management positions. A significant percentage of 43% a tenure in the judicial system of over 15 years (the average seniority of the respondents was of 12 years).
The quantitative and qualitative analysis are available, in English, here.