Judicial culture generally refers to the set of values, cognitive skills, and practical knowledge of members of the judiciary. In this chapter, we present a research project whose main object is to identify, organize, model, and use practical knowledge produced by judges in judicial settings. To do so, we describe the steps followed to develop Iuriservice, a Web-based system intended to provide the Spanish judiciary with a tool to facilitate knowledge management in daily judicial practice. Iuriservice is a Web-based application that retrieves answers to questions raised by incoming judges in the Spanish judicial domain. This system provides these newly recruited judges with access to frequently asked questions (FAQ) through a natural language interface. The impact and limits of the implementation of Iuriservice in the larger context of the court system will also be considered. Finally, we will conclude by situating the Iuriservice example in the context of recent trends in judicial reform.
The Spanish Judiciary: Recruitment, Training, And It Competences
To a large extent, the Spanish judiciary follows the same organizational model of judiciaries of civil law countries in continental Europe as regards recruitment and training of judges. Those countries having adopted the “bureaucratic model,” therefore, tend to recruit the members of their judiciaries among young law graduates with little or none previous professional experience by means of competitive written and/or oral exams intended to evaluate their general knowledge of various branches of the law. Successful candidates are then required to fill the vacancies existing at the first level of jurisdiction. This model of selection, as Di Federico (2005) states,
is based on the assumption that judges and prosecutors thus recruited will develop their professional competence and will be culturally socialized within the judiciary, where they are expected to remain for the rest of their working lives, moving along career ladders whose steps are based on successive evaluations which in various ways take into account seniority and professional merit (p. 8).
Candidates to access the Spanish judiciary have to be older than 18 years and hold both the Spanish nationality and a law degree. No previous professional experience is required and no psychological test or assessment is made. The selection process, which is made on annual or biannual basis, largely relies on the assessment of the learning by heart ability of candidates.1 Legal topics essentially cover the same contents offered by the law school curricula: civil, criminal, constitutional, administrative, commercial, and labor law. In sum, candidates will have spent a mean of roughly five years after graduation preparing the competitive examination, accessing the judiciary at the average age of 29 (Judicial School, 2006). Before taking office, nevertheless, they have to attend the Judicial School for a period of 18 months.