Proactive Disclosure of Court Statistics and other Public Information on Websites of Judiciary

News | Rule of Law | Good Governance | Media Internet Telecommunications | Publications | Report 10 February 2012

This study was made by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) in the frameworks of the project "Improving the Accountability and Transparency of the Georgian Courts" and is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), East West Managment Institute (EWMI), and Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF), within the Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project.

The contents are the responsibility of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) and do not necessarily reflect views of USAID, the United States Government, EWMI, or EPF.
 

 

Proactive Disclosure of Court Statistics and other Public Information on Websites of Judiciary

(Georgia and International Practice)

By

Constantine Janjghava

 

The presented research was created within the framework of the project titled “Improving the Accountability and Transparency of the Georgian Courts” by the expert team of Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI). The research represents the comparative analysis of the practice of proactive disclosure of public information related to the activity of courts by the bodies of judicial branch of Georgia and the following eleven countries: the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Korea, Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia.

The research is divided into three chapters (articles), each correspondingly dedicated to the issues of proactive disclosure of court statistics, the disclosure of other court-related public information and aspects of eGovernance and technical operability of court websites. For the purpose of better comprehension of specific issues of the research, there were given the colored illustrated examples. The research was aimed to support the perspective of creating the best practical model for proactive disclosure of court-related public information in Georgia via the analysis of problematic and positive tendencies worldwide.

Within the framework of the research, the court statistics is considered one of the most important tools for providing the best and comprehensive impression on court activity for the interested website users. The concept of court statistics is conditionally divided into two constituent criteria – visualization and categorization of statistics. The issue is covered in chapter one of the research. The analysis of court statistics published on court websites of Georgia showed a great deal of problems pertaining to both of the aforementioned criteria. The entirety of statistical information published proactively on websites of regional (city) courts of Georgia are poorly categorized and presented primitively according to the visualization criterion, while the official website of the Constitutional Court of Georgia provides higher index in aspect of categorization of statistics along with the official website of the Supreme Court of Georgia amounting relative leadership in Georgia according to both criteria.In addition, the research showed that unfortunately, there was no separate and unified website for entire judiciary information in Georgia, as it was presented on certain examples of other foreign states.

At the same time, the analysis of court statistics published on court websites of eleven foreign countries which were subject to the research showed that there was no ideal instance of proactive disclosure of court statistics in Internet worldwide. Notwithstanding this fact, the court statistics proactively published on various websites of the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, also the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea provided much beneficial examples of best practice for visualization and categorization of court statistics for Georgian reality. The part of the research covering the analysis of international practice was dedicated not only to the statistics published on websites of courts, but also on websites of various national offices/departments for statistics. Compared to Georgia, the best international practice in sense of visualization of court statistics comprises not only the active use of bar charts and pie charts, but also the use of cartograms and line charts. As for the international practice of categorization of court statistics, most of main statistical categories (various types of data division according to the fields of Civil, Administrative and Criminal law) turn out to be nearly analogous to the categorized data proactively published on the official website of the Supreme Court of Georgia. It’s also worth mentioning that the relative abundance of proactively published statistical categories related to the activity of constitutional court worldwide can also be accredited to the Constitutional Court of Georgia. Unfortunately, the Georgian court websites fail to provide the users the opportunity to choose the desired format of statistical data files to view as it is presented on various court websites worldwide. The part of the research described above, revealed the need of further basic and specific categorization and visualization of court statistics (for constitutional court and courts of general jurisdiction) which may be proactively published on Georgian websites in order to achieve higher degree of transparency of websites of Georgian judiciary.

Chapter two of the research covers the issue of proactive disclosure of court-related public information other than statistical data by courts of Georgia and foreign states. The aforementioned analysis comprised the study of sixteen existing Georgian websites of judiciary (websites: the Supreme Court of Georgia, the Constitutional Court of Georgia, two appellate courts, twelve regional (city) courts) with comparison to the court websites of eleven foreign countries. The study revealed the significant lack of overall public information to be published on websites of regional (city) courts of Georgia. The websites of appellate courts of Georgia showed moderate existence of minimal standard of proactively published information, while the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court of Georgia marked themselves with a relative abundance of public information standardized and published on their official websites. The types of public information most frequently published on websites of Georgian judiciary are: information concerning directorship and staff (judges), general contact information, general information concerning court structure/system, court forms, information on current court cases etc. The problems show up with regard to the publishing of legal acts related to the activity of courts, existence of search filters for legal acts and databases of court internal acts etc. The problematic issue exists concerning news on current activities of courts, where the official websites of regional (city) courts of Georgia fail to provide sufficient information by means of proactive publishing of news and press releases. Other problematic issues revealed by the analysis are: the practice of proactive publishing of information on participation in implementation of state programs/projects (only in case of separate section titled “Court Projects” on website of the Supreme Court of Georgia), the practice of proactive publishing of description of competences, scopes of operation, functions, goals and task of courts defined by the existing legislation (majority of regional (city) courts’ websites fail to provide the mentioned type of public information), the practice of proactive publishing of information on probation, attestation, training, qualification, educational courses and seminars of courts (no separate sections comprising mentioned type of information on websites of Georgian judiciary), the practice of proactive publishing of information on finances and expenses, also state procurement, state property privatization and contracting processes (in the majority of cases), the practice of proactive publishing of complete information on court personnel recruitment (despite the fact of existence of separate sections titled “vacancy” or “career” containing the corresponding applications, the required information lacks the description of  procedures for appointing to court apparatus vacancies and procedures conducting contests for court apparatus vacancies, the description of  procedures for submitting claims against the rules and outcomes of the contests for court apparatus vacancies, contest outcomes for court apparatus vacancies etc). It is worth mentioning that along with others, the most problematic issue turned out to be the non-existence of practice of proactive publishing of information on websites of Georgian judiciary about court activities pertaining to information freedom / public information disclosure. The aforementioned comprises the disclosure of the following minimum amount of information

  • Full name and position of a court officer responsible for ensuring a free access to public information;
  • Contact details (working e-mail, telephone and fax numbers) of a court officer responsible for ensuring a free access to public information;
  • Legal acts pertaining to request for, access to, provision of, refusal for the provision of, classification of information and other freedom-of-information-related issues;
  • Availability of information request forms/samples for downloading on a court website;
  • Data concerning appeals against court refusals to provide public information (texts of decisions, decrees, acts, court orders, information about enforcement thereof etc);
  • Data concerning a number of court permissions to provide or to refuse to provide public information;
  • Data concerning a number of General Administrative Code requirements violations by public officers and a number of disciplinary measures taken against them;
  • Availability on a court website of complete annual reports submitted to the President and the Parliament of Georgia in accordance with Clause 49 of the General Administrative Code of Georgia.

The research also revealed the positive standardized practice of proactive publishing of court cases on websites of courts of Georgia, which is the least constituent part of the minimal standard for court-related public information to be published on websites. Thus, there is acute lack of publishable information on court websites in Georgia, the minimal standard of which has been already defined by the expert team of IDFI. 

The third chapter of research covers the basic comparative analysis of eGovernance and technical operability components of official websites of Georgia and foreign countries. The comparative analysis was conducted according to the following criteria: visual appearance, search and filtering of information, ePayment and SEO(Search Engine Optimization)  – onsite optimization. Only one out of all monitored Georgian websites met the criteria of easy reading environment, easy navigation and SEO– onsite optimization (Kutaisi Appeal Court), only two out of all monitored Georgian websites met the criterion of light design (Kutaisi Appeal Court and City Court of Tbilisi), only two out of all monitored Georgian websites met the criterion of information filtration function (City Court of Batumi and City Court of Tbilisi), only one out of all monitored Georgian websites met the criterion of information search by means of map (the Supreme Court of Georgia) and none of the monitored Georgian websites met the criterion of possibility of ePayment.

The part of the research described above revealed the major difference between Georgian and foreign court websites. The foreign resources unlike Georgian ones are constructed according to demand i.e. the structure, modules, functions and abilities of the mentioned websites are precisely fit to activity. In addition, almost all monitored foreign court websites had the support of HTTPS compared to none of Georgian ones. All existing websites of Georgian judiciary suffer the need of technical operability correction and integration of modern elements of eGovernance, for these purposes the specific practice illustrated in the research and its incorporation into Georgian reality shall definitely simplify the process of provision, search and comprehension of proactively published information for the interested users, while the Georgian judiciary shall gain as a benefit a high degree of website security, online interaction with civil society, implementation of eServices and more number of interested users.

The overall research in regard with reality of Judiciary eTransparency in Georgia has revealed the urgent need of adoption of proactive disclosure standard for court-related public information, the refinement of visualization of court statistics published on websites, the enrichment of court statistics to be published on court websites with categories and improvement of technical operability of websites, along with integration of eGovernance elements and platforms into them. The actions mentioned above should be deemed by Georgian courts as a uniform and organic action plan, the implementation of which shall definitely benefit the interested civil society on one hand and the courts of Georgia on other, as a result – the higher level of transparency and accountability of Judiciary shall be reached.

We sincerely hope that the examples of negative tendencies and positive practices covered in the research shall not remain as a mere analysis written on paper and shall find practical incorporation on web-pages of courts of Georgia in form of better model of proactive publishing of court-related public information. In order to achieve this goal, IDFI continues its activity which involves the partnership with Georgian judiciary, the adoption of the corresponding amendments to legislation and permanent refinement of agreeable standards.
 

For the full version of the research in Georgian please see this file

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