Judicial independence is a polymorphous notion. It has many facets: institutional, collective, procedural, administrative, and personal independence – all interrelated, and all considered premises for good mutual performance. Institutional or collective independence is the dimension of judicial independence, and it relates to the relation between the judiciary and the other branches of government. It is often referred to also as external independence and it serves as a gatekeeper for the independence of individual judges. This dimension is directly related to the separation of the doctrine of power, which lies at the heart of the ideal of the rule of law. Procedural independence means that judges can adjust the procedure in the courtroom to ensure fairness and justice, while administrative independence requires the court to be organized from a structural, financial, and administrative point of view so that it can be independent from the interference of political actors. While these first three elements of judicial independence have been extensively analyzed in different academic research, the personal independence of judges is the least explored dimension of judicial independence. Still, it is a very important dimension.
Personal independence focuses on individual judges, and it mainly refers to the formal guarantees necessary for fulfilling the judicial function in an independent manner, such as: the selection and appointment of judges, the tenure, the rules of incompatibility or the irremovability, as well as the financial and non-financial benefits during the exercise of their office. All these guarantees serve to provide them with the personal freedom to judge without fear of repercussion, or of intimidation that their judgements would affect their status. On the other hand, personal independence also has the dimension of accountability, which serves the integrity of the system and judges as part of it. These principles of personal independence of judges are not only enshrined in international documents on judicial independence, but also in the jurisprudence of the ECtHR and Court of Justice of the EU, emphasizing the extreme importance not only of the existence of a legal framework on the status of judges, but also the factual guarantees and the respect of these principles. The aim of this paper is to analyze judicial independence in Albania in its three core aspects: judicial appointment, judicial career, and judicial accountability. Since the latest justice reform in Albania was adopted in 2016 and further amendments were provided in 2021, we will attempt to identify some of the recent challenges and to make room for further discussions on the basis of this policy paper.
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