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First Round of Advance Training for Judicial Assistants Held

10 06 2019

First Round of Advance Training for Judicial Assistants Held

Judicial assistants – for the uninitiated, it is more than 1500 people responsible for everyday efficient operations of the Serbian courts. They are highly educated, have passed the bar, and provide help to judges by drafting judicial decisions, while also often handling certain cases themselves, for example the probate cases.

Although they bear a large share of responsibility for the efficiency and quality of the judiciary, they are not in a particularly good position. According to the law, they are public servants, while in practice their positions differs greatly due to a wide variety of duties they are assigned with, the rank and jurisdiction of the court they work in, and unequal opportunities for career development, which all results in underutilizing their potential.

To add to this, judicial assistants do not have proper opportunities for continuous professional education which is of utmost importance as laws and regulations change constantly. Training specifically targeting judicial assistants is infrequent and rarely tailored to their needs. For the most part, they participate in training sessions intended for judges.

One of the goals of our Project concerns particularly the improvement of the position of the judicial assistants. Apart from the draft platform for advancing their status and career path, which we developed through a comprehensive process of consultations with the profession, the Project delivered training for the judicial assistants.

During 2018, we delivered 10 training sessions for over 200 judicial assistants from all four appellate jurisdictions in Serbia. These were organized around the topic of drafting first instance decisions in civil procedure, with an overview of the representative decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and quoting them in first instance decisions. After this, during April, May, and June this year, in cooperation with the Judicial Academy and our partners from ‘Alterfakt’ we started with the advanced level course for this same training. This advanced round involves more practical engagement from the participants and interaction with lecturers on concrete issues.

Prior to a training sessions, the participants would receive ‘homework’ – one case with all elements required for deciding on the matter (suite, response to the suit, hearing records, statements from parties to the case and witnesses). One the basis of this, the training participants were to prepare properly justified first-instance judicial decisions and submit them to the lecturers to be discussed and reviewed during the training.

Our lecturers - judges Nebojša Đuričić, Jelena Stevanović and Irena Garčević – presented best practices related to all elements of a judicial decision, a properly worded explanation with all the facts of the case, as well as the assessment of evidence and statements of the parties to the case.

According to the lecturers, and they were unanimous in that, training participants were motivated and satisfied with this type of training. Even though the trainers had some initial doubts whether judicial assistants will find it in themselves to complete course homework in addition to their daily work, these were soon dissipated as all course participants deliver their tasks and were very interested in gaining feedback from the trainers.

According to judge Jelena Stevović, ‘It is necessary to continue with this training and in the direction it is set in because it was so well received. In my opinion, training for judicial assistants on the subject of human rights and case law of the European Court of Human Rights, especially regarding to the right to fair and speedy trial, protection of property rights, and freedom of speech, as well as the rights of whistleblowers. This is further supported by the fact that it is the judicial assistants drafting decisions in cases of breach of the right to trial within reasonable time’.  

Judge Irena Gračević believes that practical training has been useful for the participants, that they have been interested and motivated, and that they have come out from the training sessions with useful new knowledge. On another note, judge Nebojša Đuričić says: ‘Training judicial assistants is necessary. The only question is what are we training them for – to be professional assistants or future judges?’ This is a question that our Project is seeking answers to as well.

The second round of advanced training is to continue in the fall.

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