Serbia Justice Functional Review
Internal Performance Assessment > Human Resource Management
f. Support Staff Planning and Utilization
i. Human Resource Systems for Court Staff
- In 2016, it is expected that the HJC will assume responsibility for internal court organization, the book of rules, and the use and number of civil servants and employees.
- The HJC has not provided the necessary planning to advise the MOJ on these matters in the interim, and is not engaged in current efforts to revise the book of rules. The MOJ formed a committee837 to review the book of rules, last revised in December 2009, to reflect changes in statutes such as the CPC, the Law on Misdemeanors, or the new court network. The HJC is not represented on the committee, and its participation is limited to sending information concerning the performance of judges to be included in the Rulebook. The committee to consider rule revisions is comprised of 15 representatives from the MOJ, SCC, the courts, individual judges, court administration, witness and victim program staff, and information technology consultants.
- The HJC needs to immediately begin planning in order to be effective in 2016. The HJC lacks capacity and has not begun planning how it will carry out some of the tasks it will absorb. For instance, the HJC does not employ any statisticians to analyze data to provide guidelines for staff levels. The HJC’s human resources staff focus only on human resources needs of the HJC and the Administrative Office itself, and mainly comprise payroll processing.838
- The responsibility for managing human resources and labor relations of non-judge staff has historically been unclear. This extends beyond the responsibility for determining the number of needed staff to approving court employee classifications, developing selection techniques, and determining how to fill positions. The Law on Civil Servants directs that the SCC be responsible for these activities. In fact, Court Presidents test, select, assign, promote, and terminate civil servants839 without guidance from the SCC, MOJ or the HJC. Responsibility for performance management of civil servants is not addressed in any statute.
- Issues involving the civil service status of court employees are still in flux. The NJRS Action Plan840 seems to suggest that the judiciary or the MOJ may seek to exclude employees from the protections of civil service altogether. This would be unlikely to meet EU requirements.
- Most critically, the status of judicial assistants and judicial trainees has not been formalized. This limits the courts in using them to their full potential to contribute to service delivery. When properly used, these positions perform duties and play a role in case management that would otherwise have to be performed by judges or Deputy Prosecutors.841 The gaps relating to these positions include:
- the lack of specific position descriptions, resulting in assistants performing widely different functions;
- as noted above, there is a lack of formal training in their capacity as judicial assistants.
- lack of job-specific evaluation criteria or a rigorous evaluation process for use by the assistants’ supervisors. Assistants are formally evaluated using the general form for civil servants, which does not recognize their specific roles. The working criteria for their evaluation rely on self-reported statistics not verified by registry offices. Evaluations are not used to establish their career progression from junior to senior assistant, and on to advisor;
- Uniform civil servant and labor processes for other employees have not been established to ensure transparency, fairness, and consistency:
- court position descriptions are generic and do not include the responsibilities, skills, and abilities needed to successfully carry out the job. In 2005, the government promulgated the Decree on Classification and Criteria for Description of Civil Servants’ Job Posts, which significantly expanded the level of detail included in the systematizations.842 This more structured approach to classification, ranking, and selection is required of all ministries and government entities. While recognizing the unique status of the judiciary, the decree envisions a more uniform system of classifying court employees;843
- There are no position-specific methods for recruitment or promotion. Applicants are only screened for minimum education levels, and even less so for promotional criteria than for entry levels. They rely on knowledge of and preference for candidates by Judges/Deputy Prosecutors/managers, and there is not a clear career ladder to tie performance to promotion, encourage superior performance, or help the organization retain talented staff. Few promotional applicants come from outside the system;844
- Court Presidents determine their court employees’ assignments location without criteria (e.g., seniority) or a transparent process for employees to request certain assignments.
- While employee performance evaluations are regularly completed by Court Presidents, these evaluations are generally perfunctory and do not follow standardized procedures. Performance evaluations are also not periodically reviewed at a level above the Court President. Taken seriously, performance management can help shift compliance with legislation to managing for results.
- Performance evaluations are largely used for disciplinary reasons but could be harnessed to drive performance improvements among staff. Evaluation can be a valuable personnel management tool to help employees improve their skills or advance in their jobs by identifying training needs and development assignments. Evaluations and promotions can also build in ‘desirable criteria’ which create incentives for staff to develop capacities in areas of priority such as IT skills, analytic skills, and contribution to priority efforts such as backlog reduction of innovation in case processing. Signaling positive behaviors can thus boost individual motivation, team morale, and system performance.
ii. Flexibility to Deploy Human Resources to Enhance Service Delivery
- The large number of staff classifications within the courts (113 job titles) makes planning complex and impedes effective deployment of human resources.
- Hiring for positions in courts is excessively rigid. As discussed further in the Financial Resources Chapter, courts are constrained in hiring for positions other than what the classification budgeted for. Courts are also precluded from requesting a position requiring a different educational level than one for which they have already received approval, even if they make funds available within their budget. As a result, courts are prevented from trading two typists for one IT administrator, even where the IT administrator could develop improvements that would far outstrip the value of the typists.
- There are no processes to evaluate the judiciary’s technical methodology of work, such as the effective division of labor between judges and support staff. A heavy administrative burden impacts the Court Presidents’ ability to focus on case management and overall court management. Efforts to revise the book of rules are designed to reflect changes in statutes. They do not seek to re-engineer court processes, ensure work is effectively assigned, or relieve judges of administrative tasks where possible.
- Effective allocation of duties to staff in court preparatory departments would ensure case preparation and court practice is consistent. The Law on Organization of Courts provides that these departments be established in larger courts. The Court President of the Novi Sad Appellate Court noted benefits including more efficient use of the judges’ time, higher quality, and more consistent decision-making which outweigh the disadvantages of the reassignment of judicial assistants from individual judges. These departments could be made even more effective by reassigning some existing administrative staff to carry out ministerial duties.
- Courts generally need more analytical staff to contribute to improvements in performance in exchange for the oversupply of ancillary employees. Analysis needs are increasing in scale and complexity, and will continue to do so as Serbia moves towards the accession. Very few, if any, courts employ analytical staff outside of the few in the finance or ICT functions, often on service contracts. Given the specialized skills required for these functions, these employees will likely have to be recruited from outside the courts. This renders an effective and transparent system for selection more critical.
- Human resource management and labor relations are managed by the Court President. Court secretaries and managers, where they exist, play little role in performance management of employees.
- There are very few human resource management staff, even in the largest institutions (see Table 35). Staff that do exist are focused on clerical rather than planning duties. For example, there are no human resources staff in the Belgrade First Basic Court.
iv. Deployment and Use of Court Managers
- There is limited use of Court Managers but no discernible pattern in the types of court or locations that have elected to hire a Court Manager. Of the 25 courts entitled to request Court Managers, only 10 (40 percent) courts have done so (see Table 36).846
- All of the current Court Managers were promoted from within the courts, and most have a business background. Finding qualified people in certain geographical areas has proven difficult even though the position is classified as a high advisor at the highest salary (excluding judges) in the judiciary. The minimum requirements for Court Managers also vary widely from three to seven years of experience, and require widely disparate educational backgrounds.
- Barriers to the use of the position include a lack of understanding of the position’s potential benefits to court performance. The Law on the Organization of Courts provides that the Court President shall entrust material, financial, and organizational tasks to the Court Manager. Court interviews and review of systematizations confirm that Court Managers are used for a wide variety of tasks,847 but primarily financial management, procurement, and management of facilities rather than statistical analysis, strategic planning, or general administration. Using Court Managers for these broader functions would assist the courts in becoming more efficient. In some cases, Court Presidents actively critique the purpose of the position848 partly because it is external to the usual chain of command from the Court Secretary.