|dc.description.abstract||The paper analyses the experience of nine European countries in developing ways of evaluating judicial activity within the context of courts and responsible authorities, whether ministries or judicial councils. Recognising that the judicial and executive branches bring very different traditions and expectations to evaluation, a theoretical base is developed by elaborating the notions of authority and accountability. These are not the exclusive domains of judges and managers respectively, since each can be seen to be authoritative and accountable in different ways. Both are authorised by and accountable to a sovereign people, and yet these people are conceived in multiple and often contradictory guises, as taxpayers, citizens and parties before the court.
Practices in each of the countries under discussion revealed some common problems and uncommon successes. Conflict results when managers apply quantitative output measures, and in response judges insist on legal principles such as judicial independence as a shield against a misconceived accountability. Attempts to refine the measures without reconceptualising the task lead to ritualism that fails to achieve any improvements in either performance or understanding. Complaints mechanisms, opinion polls and ombudsman schemes give some insights into common perceptions of poor judicial performance, including delay and impartiality compromised by close relations between judges and lawyers representing particular parties. However, such methods offer limited scope for improving performance.
Initiatives that demonstrated such improvements were characterised by successful collaboration between judges, managers and the public. Court users, parliaments or groups representing popular or outside interests had, on occasion, been able to act as circuit breakers in the zero-sum games between judges and managers. Open communication between key players in the courts and justice systems contributed to innovative approaches to evaluation. The study draws attention to effective responses to concerns expressed by a court monitoring group over judicial impartiality in the Netherlands. Gains were made in collaboration at national and district levels in Demark, when parliamentary guidelines gave direction to judges, auditors and executive managers to identify improved ways of operating for particular district courts. In a Finnish local initiative judges took the lead to work with lawyers and managers to identify areas for improvement in important areas including consistency in sentencing and better written judgments.
In each of these cases, far from monitoring and evaluating for their own sake, successful initiatives identify and improve crucial areas of judicial activity||en