There is a proliferation of European organisations representing judges. Do we need them all?

Judges – who needs them, eh? Well, apparently they need each other compulsively, at any rate at European level. The European organisations representing judges proliferate like proverbial rabbits. Of course, it is understandable that there should be one such body – yes, we understand that they want to talk to each other – but at the last count there were at least seven. Seven!

The number was brought to my attention recently by a European Commission official who moaned about how difficult it is to communicate with judges because of the profusion of their organisations. At European level, there is one representative body for lawyers – my own, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) – and one for notaries.

But there are at least seven for judges. I believe that this is the first time in human history that this remarkable number has been brought to public attention, with obvious conclusions drawn… for instance, about how judges feel that they should talk only to judges of the same kind, and not to judges outside their own category.

So, here goes (with our local UK member in brackets after each name, so that you can more easily identify its function, and a brief description afterwards – often in Euro-speak I am sorry to say, since I found it difficult to translate their descriptions into ordinary language):

(1) the European Network of Presidents of Supreme Courts (the Supreme Court) – the name tells you who they are, and their website says that they provide a forum through which European institutions are given an opportunity to request opinions from supreme courts, and to bring them closer by encouraging discussion and the exchange of ideas; furthermore, ‘the members gather for colloquiums’ – tut, tut, judges of the supreme courts gathering for an incorrect plural – ‘to discuss matters of common interest’.

(2) the Association of the Councils of State (since we have no separate administrative jurisdiction, the Supreme Court again) – this is composed of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Councils of State or the supreme administrative jurisdictions of each of the members of the EU; its website doesn’t say why it exists, but I can guess.

(3) the European Association of Administrative Judges (because of our structure, there is no institutional member, but there are individual UK members) – its membership comprises both national associations, representing administrative judges from member states of the EU and the Council of Europe, and individual members, who are administrative judges in those countries where such associations do not exist (such as the UK).

(4) the European Judges and Prosecutors Association (no UK institutional member, maybe because of the curious combination of groups in the title, but there are individual UK members) – the EJPA aims to improve the mutual knowledge of European judiciary systems, in order to make cooperation between European countries come true on a daily basis.

(5) the European Network of the Councils for the Judiciary (Judges’ Council of England and Wales) – the ENCJ unites the national institutions in the member states responsible for the support of the judiciary in the delivery of justice.

(6) the Consultative Council of European Judges (Lord Justice Richard Aikens of the Court of Appeal) – this is a body of the Council of Europe, concerning itself with independence, impartiality and the competence of judges; the CCJE is the first body in an international organisation composed exclusively of judges.

(7) the European Judicial Training Network (the Judicial College and its equivalents in Scotland and Northern Ireland) – the EJTN is the principal platform and promoter for the development, training and exchange of knowledge and competence of the EU judiciary.

You will not be surprised to learn that there are more: the European Association of Judges, which is a regional grouping of an international association, bringing together effectively the trade unions representing judges (surprise, surprise – no UK member); plus groupings of European judges for mediation, labour courts or just lay judges (the Magistrates Association).

I actually began this piece with a different end in mind – to bring to your attention a document being prepared by group number (6), the CCJE, in preparation for its Opinion No. 17 on the evaluation mechanisms for judges – but I became lost in thickets of representative organisations, and thought that a much more entertaining topic.

Jonathan Goldsmith is secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, which represents around a million European lawyers through its member bars and law societies. He blogs weekly for the Gazette on European affairs