Training of Judicial Staff [Archives:1997/50/Law & Diplomacy]

December 15 1997

Mr. James G. Apple is the Chief of the Interjudicial Affairs Office of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington. It is responsible for education and training of judges and does research on matters of court administration. During his recent visit to Yemen, Mr. Apple participated at the judicial training conference that was organized by the Ministry of Justice. About 20 practicing judges from Sana’a courts took part. Yemen Times talked to him.
Q: What did you talk about at the conference? A: I talked about issues of court management and the independence of the judiciary. We also discussed legal systems in general, what makes a good court system, and a good legal system. We covered both court administration issues, about judging and also some of the ways judges in the US go about their work.
Q: How was the participants’ response to your presentation? A: I told them something about how trials are conducted. The judges were interested, for instance, in how to prepare a budget for the court. I discussed the stricture in the US of how a court should be managed at the national, regional and local levels. They were also interested in what kind of assistance judges have, etc.
Q: What are the requirements for building good legal and court systems? A: I explained to the judges that we have a strong education program for judges throughout their legal career. That is an important ingredient in building a good legal system. They need to have a continuing education program. One of the suggestions that we had in the US was to get the lawyers and judges occasionally to talk about common problems. We do that in the bar association in the US. We created something called a bench-bar committee. The bench refers to the judges and the bar meaning the lawyers.
Q: Each case here takes a lot of time. Do you think it is logical to introduce an article in the law that specifies a time limit on giving a verdict? A: We have that problem in the US and in the federal court system. The congress is particularly concerned with the length of time some criminal cases are taking. So they passed a law called the “speedy trial act” which now requires federal judges to conduct a trial in a criminal case within 70 days of the date of the indictment which, is the statement of formal charges against the accused. In civil, non-criminal cases, it is not a requirement, but judges should try to complete the case at the trial level from the filing of the first papers till judgment within 18 months. That would be a desirable goal for the judges. In the US, criminal cases get priority and some of the civil cases are put on the “back burner”. The judges and lawyers in the US meet to see how that can be accomplished. It has the effect, in some cases, of improving the process.
Q: Some of our judges are corrupt. What is done in other countries with similar problems? A: There are certain ways to ensure that a judicial system is fair. One of these ways is that we pay our judges well. The federal judges and even the state judges receive very good salaries. Another tool is monitoring and supervision of judges.