Special inquiry FAQ

Who carries out a special inquiry?

What investigative powers does the High Council of Justice (HCJ) have?

What are the possible consequences of the outcome of such an inquiry?

What are the limits of the inquiry?

 

Who carries out a special inquiry?

In principle, the Joint Advisory and Investigation Committee (JAIC) must entrust the special inquiry to the chief of jurisdiction or the competent hierarchical level.

However, the JAIC may decide to conduct the inquiry itself, if at least two-thirds of its members approve the decision, following a request from the Justice Minister or when, due to the subject of the investigation, it is not considered appropriate to entrust it to the chief of jurisdiction or the competent hierarchical level.

In practice, it is the last method which is used the most frequently.

In such a case, the inquiry is systematically led by a member judge of the JAIC.

What investigative powers does the High Council of Justice (HCJ) have?

The Joint Advisory and Investigation Committee (JAIC) has limited powers when conducting an inquiry: interviewing the interested parties (judges are not necessarily bound by the duty of professional secrecy), on-site inspections (although the JAIC does not have real search powers) and consulting the court records (provided that the case is completely closed).

What are the possible consequences of the outcome of such an inquiry?

All special inquiries must be closed with a report which must first be approved by a majority of two-thirds of the Joint Advisory and Investigation Committee (JAIC) and then by the General Assembly of the CSJ. Relevant recommendations for the competent bodies are included in the report’s conclusions.

The inquiry report may contain recommendations and/or general policy proposals. The CSJ cannot really impose measures; it can however inform the competent disciplinary body of a lack of cooperation. This disciplinary authority remains free to decide what conclusions it reaches but it must, in all cases, inform the CSJ of the outcome of cases referred to it.

The competent disciplinary authorities may, for example, open a disciplinary inquiry on the basis of the information contained in the report.

What are the limits of the inquiry?

It is important to underscore that the difficulties listed below could also apply to any type of independent inquiry concerning the operation of the judiciary, irrespective of the body which carries out the special inquiry.

Thus, in the framework of a special inquiry:

1) The CSJ has neither disciplinary nor criminal competences

However, if the conclusions of the special inquiry result in the opening of disciplinary proceedings, the CSJ should then have the legal means to refer the case to the competent body with a view to instituting disciplinary proceedings.

2) The CSJ does not have access to ongoing court cases

However, in order to determine structural or staff operational problems and put forward recommendations, the CSJ should be able to act in a timely manner, even in the course of judicial proceedings.

The possible consequences of an inquiry into an ongoing case, the related proceedings and, in particular, disciplinary proceedings, must be systematically considered.

3) The CSJ may only interview members of the judiciary for information purposes

However, the CSJ should be able to interview any person, whether or not that person is a member of the judiciary, in order to have all relevant information when conducting its inquiry.