Jordanian King stresses judicial independence, competence, efficiency

Jordan’s King Abdullah has endorsed the recommendations of the Royal Committee for Developing the Judiciary and Enhancing the Rule of Law.

The King outlined the priorities of the council; namely, accelerating litigation and the execution of court rulings, establishing specialised courtrooms and better harnessing technology to serve the set goals of judicial reform.

His Majesty stressed that the economic and investment environment cannot be improved without an effective and independent judiciary.

He underlined the importance of supporting judges and improving their competence with continuous training.

Other Arab countries have similarly recognized in recent years that a stable and competent judicial system is critical to economic growth.  But it is one thing to support judicial independence and the rule of law in principle, and quite another to maintain those values in a challenging political climate.

Ontario judge reprimanded for repeatedly failing to give reasons for her decisions

The Ontario Court of Appeal has formally reprimanded a trial judge for repeatedly failing to give reasons for her decisions in a timely manner.  The reprimand came after an appeal for a new trial in a domestic violence case filed in 2014.  The judge acquitted the defendant, stating from the bench that she had been left with reasonable doubt as to his guilt.  But the judge never provided written reasons for her decision–as was required–even after being asked repeatedly for them as late as September 2016.  Citing several previous violations of the same judicial responsibility, the Court of Appeals concluded that “[t]he trial judge’s failure to give reasons, despite her repeated promises to do so, has frustrated the proper administration of justice.”

Whereas juries need not provide any justification for their decisions, it is part and parcel of the judicial role.  The legitimacy of a judicial decision rests less on its ultimate accuracy and more on its ability to state principled reasons for the result in a clear and comprehensible way.

Behold, the British law clerk

At the Faculty Lounge, Steve Lubet has a highly entertaining post about the world of the British law clerk — “a combination major domo, operations manager, and bill collector, whose function bears no resemblance to legal or judicial clerks in the United States.”  The post, and the longer article to which it links, are both well worth the read.

Calcutta High Court to combat docket backlog with special summer sittings

The problems surrounding the backlog sound rather extreme to American ears. First, the summer session is designed to address cases prior to January 1, 2000 — seventeen-and-a-half years ago. By contrast, federal civil cases in the U.S. are flagged after being in the system for three years. Second, the backlog has been exacerbated by the Calcutta court’s vacancy crisis — only 35 judges are sitting, although 72 are authorized.

The bar association has opposed the summer session, on the grounds that “lawyers also need some respite during the grueling summer.”  No word on the opinion of the litigants who cases have been pending for nearly two decades.

United States imposes sanctions on Venezuelan Supreme Court Justices

The Trump Administration has imposed economic sanctions on eight individual members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court.  Members of the Court, who are loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, issued a ruling annulling the opposition-led National Assembly in March.  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, “The Venezuelan people are suffering from a collapsing economy brought about by their government’s mismanagement and corruption. Members of the country’s Supreme Court of Justice have exacerbated the situation by consistently interfering with the legislative branch’s authority.”

Canada weighs sexual assault training for judges

From the story:

The Canadian Judicial Council is pushing back against the idea of having sexual assault survivors and support organizations help develop training for aspiring and sitting judges, fearing it could interfere with the independence of those on the bench.

The requirement was a recent change to proposed legislation introduced by Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose, whose Bill C-337 calls for would-be federally appointed judges to first undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law.

Once enacted, the legislation would also require the council to report on continuing education courses on sexual assault law, including telling the government how many sexual assault cases were heard each year by judges who lack the training.

The Canadian Judicial Council issued a statement Tuesday saying it still believes the bill, which was sent to the Senate with all-party support Monday, goes too far.

“While the council has been clear from the beginning that it finds the objectives of the bill laudable, we continue to have some concerns about the constitutionality of some aspects of the proposed law which may infringe on judicial independence,” spokeswoman Johanna Laporte wrote in an email.

“Specifically, reporting the number of sexual assault cases heard by judges who have never participated in seminars and opening the door for special interest groups dictating the kinds of education judges should adopt.”

I’m curious what readers of this blog think.  Similar issues arise in other contexts, such as the placement of allegedly defense-oriented or plaintiff-oriented attorneys on rules committees. Courts want to strike the proper balance between informing judges and indoctrinating them, but sometimes that general principle is hard to put into practice.

Court administrator nominated to Supreme Court of Philippines

The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) has nominated court administrator Jose Midas Marquez to an open seat on that country’s Supreme Court.  Marquez has also served as a law clerk and a public information officer.  In announcing the nomination, the PJA noted that Marquez  “brought significant innovations and reforms in the dispensation of justice in the first and second level courts.”

There have been instances of American judges going straight from administrative positions to judgeships, but rarely is familiarity with the court’s internal procedures a selling point to Congress and state nominating commissions.  Perhaps it should be.