Judges in the criminal justice system: A new study
What is the role of judges in the criminal justice system? Are there obstacles that judges face to providing fair, impartial, and human rights oriented justice? A new study on the role of judges in the criminal justice system collected the opinions of city court and court of appeals judges and lawyers in February-March 2019. The report was released on June 26th.
The study attempted to identify issues that judges and lawyers find important for the expansion of the role of judges, their evaluations of the role of judges, and any needed changes in a number of domains, including: administrative offenses, competitiveness in criminal law, closing cases at the pre-court hearing stage, plea bargaining, punishment policy, the role and status of victims, domestic violence, and drug crime. In addition, the report provides information on general issues such as the mechanism for appealing to the Constitutional Court.
Some of the findings include:
- Some judges and lawyers described a need to change the Code of Administrative Offences. The exact definition of different offenses was of particular focus in this regard;
- The absence of the burden of proof when discussing administrative offences was named as a challenge, especially if there is only testimony or the protocol of an administrative body representative in the case;
- When discussing the Criminal Procedure Code, judges and lawyers named two main domains for the expansion of the role of judges:
- Giving judges the right to ask questions without the consent of the parties and;
- The ability to demand expert testimony;
- Some judges and lawyers also find it necessary to equip judges with the right to change the terms of plea agreements;
When it comes to the role of victims:
- A large number of judges see no need for change.
- A smaller share noted that victims should have the right to present evidence and to appeal if the Prosecutor’s Office rejects their request;
With domestic violence cases:
- Judges name insufficient evidence and witnesses changing or rejecting testimony as the main challenges;
- Lawyers report it is important to investigate the reasons victims change their testimony or refuse to make it again and to take into consideration their social-economic background when discussing the case;
With drug-related crimes:
- Judges see no need to expand their rights to check the reliability of the sources of investigative information;
- According to a small number of judges, they should have some ability to check the reliability of the source of investigative information;
- In contrast, most lawyers think it is necessary that judges check the reliability of the source.
Overall, the study suggests the need for a number of legislative changes, the expansion of the role of judges in the criminal justice process, and their increased activity in terms of appeals to the Constitutional Court to overcome legislative shortcomings. The full study report with a detailed summary of the views of legal professionals for each topic is available in Georgian, and the executive summary is available in English.
Interview by Dustin Gilbreath
By: Dustin Gilbreath
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[Note: Social Science in the Caucasus is publishing the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015. This is the third blog post in the series. Click here to see the first and second blog posts in the series.]
[Note: Social Science in the Caucasus is publishing the work of six young researchers who entered CRRC-Georgia’s Junior Fellowship Program (JFP) in February 2015. This is the second blog post in the series. Click here to see the first blog post.]
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