The Potential of Computerized Court Case Management to Battle Judicial Corruption

The Potential of Computerized Court Case Management to Battle Judicial Corruption

James E. McMillan (National Center for State Courts, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-998-4.ch004
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Abstract

Automated court case management systems present opportunities to develop processes and procedures that can battle corruption. This chapter provides information on the development of such a system for the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and looks toward future potential developments in this area. Computerized court case management systems (CCMS) can be used to help the judiciary manage complete their daily work. These systems can also be used to prevent data corruption and allow data “mining,” that identifies potential corruption activities. This chapter briefly discusses the issue of judicial corruption and describes automated system functions that can be used to eliminate and potentially indicate corrupt practices.
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Background

Corruption in judicial systems is not a single country issue. While it is recognized as motivation for many international reform projects, corruption is an ancient worldwide issue without discrimination between developing and developed nations. The United Nations adopted the Convention against Corruption resolution 58/4 on October 31, 2003 that detailed both the concerns and actions for prevention, criminalization, international cooperation, and asset recovery that governments should enact.1 The United Nations also supports the Judicial Integrity Group that is “an association composed of Chief Justices and senior judges, in the development of standards and policies to strengthen judicial integrity and capacity.”2 This organization created the Bangalore Principles3 in 2002 that detail “standards of ethical conduct of judges.”

Presently, government corruption as an issue has risen to the level where an entire organization, Transparency International,4 is devoted to combating it. The Hon. Huguette Labelle, Chair, Transparency International, stated on release of the Global Corruption Report 2007 at the London School of Economics on May 24, 20075:

Justice with a price tag is no justice at all. Real justice is priceless.

Corrupt courts deny victims and the accused the basic human right to a fair and impartial trial, sometimes even to a trial at all. Those who cannot or will not pay are locked out. Legal instruments such as contracts—the fabric of business and commerce—are meaningless. Criminals go unpunished, destroying effective governance and democratic participation. Trade, investment and economic growth are diminished.

Four general areas identified for potential judicial corruption defined by the report6 are:

  • 1.

    Judicial appointments: Failure to appoint judges on merit can lead to the selection of pliant, corruptible judges.

  • 2.

    Terms and conditions: Poor salaries and insecure working conditions, including unfair processes for promotion and transfer, as well as a lack of continuous training for judges, lead to judges and other court personnel being vulnerable to bribery.

  • 3.

    Accountability and discipline: Unfair or ineffective processes for the discipline and removal of corrupt judges can often lead to the removal of independent judges for reasons of political expediency.

  • 4.

    Transparency: Opaque court processes that prevent the media and civil society from monitoring court activity and exposing judicial corruption.

This chapter attempts to partially address the third and fourth causes, accountability and discipline as well as transparency, via the application of a computerized court case management system in the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

The courts in BiH were fertile ground for developing and testing a new generation of court case management systems for several reasons. First, the 1992–1995 war resulted in destruction of the existing governmental institutions. As a result, completely new political boundaries and governmental organizations were created. In May 2004, the BiH Parliament passed a law creating the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council7 (HJPC) as an independent body to oversee the judiciary and prosecution. The law also prescribed removal of all seated judges and prosecutors in the country and creation of a screening process and re-appointment of those officials who passed examination. The HJPC is also charged with additional administrative and oversight duties in operating the courts. It is in this environment of rapid change and innovation in the BiH judicial system that the design, development, and implementation of the CCMS was created (described in the rest of this chapter). It allowed the designers and implementers to explore methods used in the past by a corrupt system. With the support of the BiH judiciary and the HJPC, it provides a way to address some of the problems.

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