Measuring Public Confidence in European Courts
published: Jan. 22, 2008, recorded: December 2007, views: 3733
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This paper considers indicators of public confidence in the courts in nine continental European Union countries, considering ways this may be evaluated, factors contributing to or detracting from public confidence, and ways some European countries have addressed public interests and concerns. We draw on a European study that set out to explore ways of measuring the quality of justice.
The study developed a framework within which participating nations reported on their efforts to measure and improve the performance of their judicial systems, including the institutional framework, recruitment and training, means of evaluation, and measures of satisfaction and quality. The European research aimed to understand the quality measurement systems that had been used in the jurisdictions involved in the study, to assess their impact and the possibility of generalising any of them to other jurisdictions.
It was by no means assumed that quality was to be measured quantitatively. As will be seen in more detail shortly, a vast range of indicators was available, from financial data and information on appeals and their outcomes to public campaigns in the media and on the streets. While noting a tendency for judges and managers to value different types of information and to appeal to diverse sets of values, the researchers remained equally interested in all approaches. We return, below, to some further observations on the tensions between legal and managerial approaches and the possibility of their reconciliation. In the present paper we explore a variety of ways in which courts and other public institutions may be able to gather evidence of public confidence, or the lack of it, in order to make judgments as to their standing in the community.
Throughout the study we have been particularly interested in measures that may lead courts to some action to improve or reform their performance, and here we report on those measures that appeared to enhance the capacity of the courts to earn public confidence. Let us consider what information we might be able to gain to better understand its quality, which may be of more interest than its quantity.
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