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Report: “Judge’s assistants and court personnel as an important link in the judicial decision-making process”

The requirements for candidates for judge’s assistants and court personnel do not match the reality. Furthermore, it follows from the HFHR report entitled “Judge’s assistants and court personnel as an important link in the judicial decision-making process” that the remuneration system for judge’s assistants and court personnel is unclear and inadequate, and is coupled with unsatisfactory perspectives for promotion and professional development.
The report is composed of two parts. The first part analyses the legal status of judge’s assistants since the introduction of the profession to the Ordinary Courts Act in 2001.

“Initially, judge’s assistants were only meant to be a body of highly qualified law graduates to assist judges”, says Artur Pietryka, a report’s collaborating author. “However, the 2009 reform introduced the requirement for judge’s assistants to complete general initial training at the Polish National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution which triggered a decrease in the number of candidates willing to do the job”, adds Mr Pietryka.

This, in turn, has led to the objectionable practice of contract-based employment or employment through temporary work agencies to satisfy the demand for assistive work in courts. The report’s authors emphasise that a discouraging factor for potential candidates for judge’s assistants is the lawmakers failure to draw any career path for this profession. What is more, statistical data show that for every three judges there is only one assistant.

The second part of the report reviews the practical implementation of the Court and Prosecution Service Personnel Act.

“The results of the study show that court personnel and its mode of work have been neglected in the recent years”, says Michał Szwast, one of the report’s collaborating authors.  “This area of neglect has been coincided with an increasing scope of responsibility and growing expectations towards the group of court employees. It is difficult to talk about a professional model, adequate requirements for civil servants or career paths in this context. Moreover, the remuneration system is not very transparent”, adds Mr Szwast.

The report indicates that a decision must be made whether court employment will follow the civil servant model or the regulations of general employment law.  According to the report, the profession of judge’s assistant at an ordinary court should be a target job accessible to law graduates. It should also be adequately remunerated and ought to offer prospects for professional development.

The report’s authors also recommend that the consequences of court reorganisation on January 1, 2013 for judge’s assistants and court personnel be evaluated.

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