Accessibility of information on the work of the judiciary is a necessary precondition for the existence of a democratic state governed by the rule of law. Transparent justice is one of the determinants of public confidence in the courts.
The present study focuses on the main gaps in the proactive transparency of the judiciary. Non-compliance with the Constitutional Court’s decision on the access to judicial acts and disregarding constitutional standards remain serious challenges. Non-fulfillment of the requirements established by the decision of the High Council of Georgia and incomplete publication of public information by the courts is additionally problematic. Existing gaps in terms of the processing and publishing statistics are also noteworthy.
Based on identified gaps and challenges, the study provides specific recommendations, consideration of which is essential for improving the transparency and openness of the Judiciary.
Access to court decisions
- Despite the reasonable timeframe, clearly determined by the Constitutional Court, the Parliament of Georgia has not yet adopted necessary legislative amendments for ensuring the accessibility of court decisions, which significantly undermines the rule of law in the country.
- When public information is requested, common courts are not guided by the constitutional standard and they do not provide the full text (without redacting personal data) of the decision, even though normative content of relevant articles of the Law on Personal Data Protection, which restricts the disclosure of the full text of judicial acts in the form of public information, is invalid since 1 May 2020.
- None of the common court judgments delivered after 30 April 2020 have been published in the search engine of court decisions; this is a violation of the law and a serious challenge in terms of transparency.
Proactively published public information
- The index of proactive disclosure of public information by the High Council of Justice is 43.64%, which lags behind the general index of many courts, revealing that the Council does not properly fulfill the obligation set by its own decision.
- No court has fully published the public information in accordance with requirements set by the High Council of Justice. The Supreme Court has the highest overall index (78.18%) of disclosure and Sachkhere District Court has the lowest (21.92%).
- The overall index of proactively published public information for 17 courts is less than 50%.
- One of the most problematic in terms of proactive disclosure is the annual activity report, which has been disclosed by 2 courts only.
- Annual Report on the Freedom of Information has been disclosed by 12 courts only.
- Information on quarterly salaries, supplements, and bonuses issued to officials (in total) and other employees (in total) has been disclosed on the website by 10 courts only.
- According to the decision of the High Council of Justice, information on the statistics shall be updated in case of changes, but this is a general wording as a result of which court statistics are not published at standard intervals and the frequency of publication depends on the discretion of a particular court.
- Out of 27 courts studied, 4 have their own website, while the remaining 23 operate on the basis of court.ge (the website of Georgian courts). The majority of websites created based on court.ge have similar gaps.
- No legal act exists in Georgia that defines a common standard and methodology for processing statistical information in the common courts’ system, however, in practice, the courts are guided by uniform official statistical forms when collecting statistical data.
- Statistical data on court websites are not published in a uniform standard.
- Common courts do not produce statistical data on the average duration of disputes and the average duration of each stage of the proceedings and this should be assessed negatively. Courts only record the number of cases heard on time and in violation of the timeframe.
- In terms of disclosing information according to dispute categories and on the number of new, completed and remaining cases at the end of the year, the data published by the Supreme Court of Georgia are in full compliance with the standards of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) and this should be assessed positively.
- Statistical data are disclosed in detail, according to the types of disputes/crimes, on the website of the Supreme Court, however, the information on the cases filed under appellate and cassation complaints are not published according to categories.
- Statistical data on first instance disputes, published on the website of the Supreme Court, requires the addition of new separate subcategories.
- Statistics on covert investigative actions in total, as well as detailed information on motions related to wiretapping and recordings are being published on the Supreme Court website and this should be assessed positively.
- Even though courts process information on each covert investigative action according to territorial location and articles of the Criminal Code, neither the Supreme Court nor first instance courts publish this information on websites. Also, no data are being disclosed on covert investigative actions that were carried out in case of urgency and legitimacy of which were/were not subsequently recognized by the court.
- Statistical data on domestic violence, published on the Supreme Court website, are incomplete. Statistics related to protection orders do not provide information on the number of people who applied to the court with the request of the issuance of a protection order. In addition, the number of protection orders issued by the first instance that was appealed, as well as the number of revoked protection orders are not specified.
- Relationship between the violator and the victim, age, and/or the number of juvenile victims is not being published under either protection order or criminal case statistics on the website of the Supreme Court. Criminal cases related to domestic violence are not being published by location.
- Out of the first instance courts reviewed for the purposes of this study, only Tbilisi City Court publishes statistical data listed according to dispute/crime categories. Statistical information published by Rustavi and Batumi City Courts is quite scarce. Fragmented disclosure of statistical data on court websites is linked to the lack of human and technical resources.
- There is no unified software in the court system that would manage the process of the production of statistics as automatically as possible.
- Existing practice of the processing of court statistics is associated with significant risks in terms of statistical accuracy; despite the existence of certain data verification mechanisms, given the current process, achieving full control over the accuracy becomes difficult.
- Those courts that stand out by the relative abundance of information categories, present their data in PDF format, which is not compliant with good open data standards. Certain courts have developed electronic means of data visualization, but these means are not distinguished by the strength of either informative or analytical functionality.
Transparency and openness significantly determine public trust in the judiciary. The accessibility of information is necessary for assessing the work of courts as well as for identifying existing trends and gaps.
The present study revealed that there are significant challenges in terms of proactive transparency of the judiciary. The accessibility of court decisions is especially problematic in this regard. Non-fulfillment of the decision of the Constitutional Court makes it difficult to exercise effective public control over the common courts, on the one hand, and significantly affects the rule of law in the country, on the other hand.
Non-fulfillment of requirements defined by the decision of the High Council of Justice and incomplete publication of public information by the courts is problematic. Unfortunately, the index of the fulfillment of obligations determined by its own decision, by the High Council of Justice, is also quite low.
The study also revealed that there are some challenges related to the production and publication of statistics in the system of common courts, creating difficulties in terms of the accessibility of statistics.
Timely elimination of gaps, revealed by the present study, is essential for the improvement of transparency and openness of the judicial system.
Article 131 of the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts.
Paragraph 31,Article 13 of the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts.
Publishing of court decisions in a single database and the creation of a search engine was the obligation considered under the 2018-2019 Action Plan of the Open Government Partnership of Georgia. Available at:https://bit.ly/37cMBiv [Date of access: 16.10.2020].
The decision of 7 June 2019 of the Constitutional Court of Georgia on the case of ‘Media Development Foundation’ and the “Institute for Development of Freedom of Information’ against the Parliament of Georgia, available at: https://bit.ly/3rrYKaO [date of access: 23.06.2020].
As of October 31, 2020
 According to the Supreme Court representative, the courts are working on the fulfillment of obligations undertaken by the Istanbul Convention, the special program tasked to aggregate all the necessary data under Istanbul Convention will be implemented in 2021, and the data will be subsequently published.
 According to the Supreme Court representative, the data regarding the criminal cases is accessible upon request.
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