Part 2 of the 'Access to Justice' sector of the Criminal Justice Assessment Toolkit, produced by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime in close co-operaiton with the Strategic Police Matters Unit of the OSCE Secretariat.
This tool guides the assessment of the judiciary, with a focus on integrity, independence, and impartiality, and their impact on access to justice. In conducting assessments of the judiciary, the assessor should use this tool in conjunction with Access to Justice: The Courts.
In all countries, judiciaries play an important role in stabilizing the balance of power within government, and their performance can enhance public confidence in the integrity of government. Historically, common law and civil law systems differed in their conceptualisation of the institution of the judiciary. In recent decades, however, these system have evolved and been influenced toward increased commonality. It is therefore important not only to understand the historical background to a country’s judiciary, but also to recognize and acknowledge the changes that have been made in recent years.
In systems with roots in the common law, the judiciary has traditionally enjoyed significant power and independence. The separation of powers model has always viewed the judiciary as a separate and independent arm of government. Common law system judges typically have security of tenure, and considerable autonomy over their budgets and internal governance. A disadvantage associated with such systems however can be that the judicial appointments procedure in some countries is political--in some jurisdictions judges may be popularly elected-, rather than merit-based, and may lack transparency.
In some civil law systems, the judiciary has not been necessarily viewed as a separate arm of government, but rather placed under the governance of a “judicial council”, including the Head of State and the Minister of Justice. However, in many countries with a civil law tradition, the appointment of judges is based on a career and promotion track, rather than an appointment process.