Discussion forum in Bitola in cooperation with the Association of Judges of the Republic of Macedonia

On March 23, 2017, the Association of Judges of the Republic of Macedonia in cooperation with the Center for Legal Research and Analysis held a forum

 for discussion on Judicial Practice in the Republic of Macedonia and the Matrix for measuring the performance of the judiciary.

On March 23, 2017, at the Hotel Epinal in Bitola, the Association of Judges of the Republic of Macedonia within the project Days of Justice 2017, supported by the OSCE Mission, the British Embassy Skopje, and the Center for Legal Research and Analysis held a discussion forum on Judicial practice in the Republic of Macedonia and Matrix for measuring the performance of the judiciary for the Appellate Region Bitola. The event was attended by 24 judges from the appellate region of​​Bitola, representatives of the Center for Legal Research and Analysis, a representative of the British Embassy, and other participants.

The working part of the forum began with the introductory speech of the President of ASWM Dr. Xhemali Saiti, who introduced the attendees to the whole complex of activities that were implemented and the other activities provided under the project Days of Justice 2017. 

In addition, Zarko Hadzi Zafirov, Head of the Program “Improving the Quality of Justice in the Republic of Macedonia” addressed the forum, emphasizing the good cooperation of the Center for Legal Research and Analysis with the Association of Judges. He briefly explained the Center’s program supported by the British Embassy Skopje, elaborating on the three components. The program is based on strengthening the capacity of the judiciary in order to establish a uniform application of the law in Macedonia, i.e. application of the law of the European Court of Human Rights which is already provided by several legal solutions, as well as the applicationof the law of the Supreme Court The Republic of Macedonia, i.e. following its general positions and legal opinions. Furthermore, Hadzi-Zafirov spoke about the importance of establishing and implementing a Matrix that will measure the progress and achievements in the judicial system of the country through already established EU standards. This measurement will give a clear picture of which areas in the judiciary have made some progress and in which areas will need to be worked on in the future to get a complete picture. The measurement and the Matrix, which is prepared by the Center in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Council of the Republic of Macedonia, will serve as a tool in the creation of future strategies for the judiciary by the Ministry of Justice.Also, Hadzi-Zafirov explained the third component of the program which deals with research and finding a methodology for measuring the average value of a dispute in court, starting with minor value disputes, in order to get a picture of how much each dispute costs the state, the court but also the citizen as a party.

In the first panel discussion “Development and promotion of judicial practice in the Republic of Macedonia”, Dr. Gordana Lazetikj Buzharovska, professor of Criminal Procedure Law at the Faculty of Law “Iustinianus Primus, had a presentation.She referred to the importance of the case law, as well as the fact that the legal system, which is quite dynamic in terms of legal changes, requires the necessary follow-up of the case law. Hence, the main emphasis is on legal certainty, it is necessary to cite decisions not only of the European Court of Human Rights but also of higher domestic courts. Additionally, she stressed that the importance of structuring decisions should be taken into account.

In the discussion and questions section after the first panel, several participants took part, and in terms of structuring the decisions, they believed that this would not mean limiting the judge in his work, on the contrary, it would be perceived as a kind of guide, a framework that would facilitate their work. Sometimes, the problem with the structuring of decisions is in the way of expressing, in the part of the explanation of the decision. Participants agreed that judgments should be structured and case law should be used in the reasoning.

In the second discussion panel “Presentation of the Matrix for measuring performance in the judiciary” Nikola Jovanovski, Manager of the Program “Improving the Quality of Justice in the Republic of Macedonia”, Aleksandar Godzo, legal expert, and Katerina Shapkova Kocevska, an expert in methodology and statistics had their speeches and presented the process of preparing the matrix.They emphasized that the creation of the matrix and the methodology for it is a long and inclusive process that has been actively taking place in the past 3 years. International and national experts, lawyers, methodologists, and statisticians were involved in the preparation of the Matrix. Also, representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Council attended the working meetings for the preparation of the Matrix indicators and the methodology for its implementation, which contributed to the completion of the Matrix with their constructive remarks and comments.

In the first phase of the project, a draft matrix was prepared which contained 171 indicators, which were further reduced to the current 75. They are divided into 5 areas:

1.  Efficiency,

2.  Transparency and accountability,

3.  Quality of judicial justice,

4.  Independence and impartiality,

5.  Professional development and appropriate representation.

The questions /indicators will be answered by representatives of the judiciary, as well as litigants. The target groups are divided into: judges, court associates, court administration, lawyers, public prosecutors, ombudsman, litigants (individuals and legal entities), media (reporting on the judiciary), NGOs (working in the field of justice), the academic community, and the Academy for Judges and Prosecutors.

For the sample of the research to be representative, the methodologists developed the methodology for each which target group what is the minimum number of respondents who should answer the questionnaire. Since the media and NGOs working in this field are in small numbers, they will answer the questionnaire through an in-depth interview. The same goes for the Academy for Judges and Prosecutors due to its specific structure.

The Methodologists have developed two approaches to answering the questionnaire, i.e. data collection. One is by sending the questionnaire in an anonymous already addressed envelope or by sending the same, online which would again be anonymous and protected by a specific code for each respondent separately.

The collected data will be categorized by geographical and appellate region.

In the discussion section of this panel, participants discussed and exchanged views on whether the questionnaires need to be upgraded in some sections and what is the most appropriate way for judges to answer the questionnaires.

Towards the end, participants reiterated the importance of using case law as a means of reasoning decisions.

Gorica Nadjinska