Opinion: Judging the judges

POSTED: 02/2/12 2:27 PM

Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten announced yesterday that judges will have to submit themselves every year to a job evaluation interview. A survey conducted twelve years ago showed that there are around 1,700 judges in the Netherlands, so that is a lot of job evaluation interviews. If they all take, say, two hours, writing the report takes another two hours, and discussing the results takes another hour, the justice ministry will spend every year 8,500 hours or 1,062.5 full work days on evaluating its judges.
Is that worth it? It will certainly create employment. Opstelten wants measures against badly functioning judges. If they are absent from work, their salaries can be cut. If they have arguments with colleagues they can be moved to another court. The minister wants new measures because at the moment judges only have to fear two things: a written warning or dismissal.
The Freedom Party created a controversy some time ago when party-leader Geert Wilders called for dismissal of judges who hand down sentences that are too mild. The party changed its mind on the subject later on, but it maintains that judges need to be evaluated.
What is it with politicians that they want to interfere with the judicial pillar of the trias politica? In Curacao Pueblo Soberano is campaigning against the Public Prosecutor’s office and against the courts. People who are willing to believe party-leader Helmin Wiels – and those people exist – think that the courts are some sort of conspiracy against the local population.
Those same people forget that the independent justice system is one of the crown jewels in a constitutional democracy. Political meddling in this field seldom ends well, and it is seldom inspired by honorable motives.
Opstelten apparently has no confidence in the system the courts have in place to keep members of the court in check. That is a shame, and actually a bit of an insult.
We think therefore that, like with the burqa-ban, the government is desperately looking for pacifiers to charm the Freedom Party. If Wilders gets dissatisfied enough, he will simply pull the plug on the Rutte-cabinet, and the powers that be in The Hague are not ready to go home yet. Therefore, Wilders may expect more of these feel-good gestures by the cabinet that he controls from the shadows. Whether all this does the Dutch society any good is highly doubtful.
And by the way, why only a job evaluation interview for judges? Should there not also be one for politicians? Ah, okay, they get their vote of (non) confidence every four years during elections. But shouldn’t somebody control what politicians do in the four years and in between? Do they show up for work? Do they do what they are supposed to do? Four years without a boss controlling you is probably every employee’s wet dream – but only politicians have made this a reality. It’s time to think about this and to create a possibility to send non-performing politicians home instead of letting them riding it out until the next elections.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Judging the judges by

Comments are closed.