A crucial dimension of justice sector reform in Albania was assigning Court Chancellors increased managerial and leadership roles alongside the Court Chair and Deputy Chairpersons.
The newly designed Court Chancellor profession in Albania comes in response to the pressing need of courts to efficiently manage the increasing volume and complexity of both judicial and clerical tasks. Albania had not adopted a modern approach to Court Administration and, to move forward, the justice reform package created a Chancellors role that is enhanced and based on international experience and expertise. It was immediately apparent that it was a step in the right direction.
The comprehensive “Court Administration Program” is the result of a two-year commitment of the Court Management Working Group (WG) established by the USAID Justice for All project in 2017. The group is comprised of incumbent chancellors, judges and administrative leaders from all Albanian regions, faculty from the School of Magistrates, and USAID experts. They were mandated to create a unified strategy for improving staff development and court administration training.
LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS
The judicial reform process in Albania legally obligates the School of Magistrates (SoM) to develop and implement a specialized training program for Court Chancellors and other administration staff. To assist the SoM with fulfilling its obligation, the WG initially engaged in a series of USAID-led workshops that jointly contributed to finalizing the training curriculum for Court Chancellors. The meticulous two-year process examined best practices in court management, identified gaps in the current Albanian system, took the legally defined competencies of Court Chancellors and expanded them into robust training modules, and finally produced the “Court Administration Program” (CAP). Within the development process, it was realized that CAP would easily serve the training needs of not only Court Chancellors but also judges, legal advisors and other court staff.
Vangjel Kosta, WG and lead SoM faculty member of CAP, says: “The purpose of CAP is to assist the development of a qualified corps of Chancellors who are able to understand their own function within the court environment. As such, CAP provides the beginnings of an institutional framework to support efforts for constructive change.”
MINDSET SHIFT TO ACHIEVE EFFICIENCY AND EXCELLENCE
CAP, as a foundational training program, helps both incumbent and new Chancellors grow into their expanded roles. It also ensures efficient and effective court operations, which is one of the key goals of the USAID-supported judicial reform in Albania. This can be achieved through dedicated and highly skilled individuals who are willing to break new ground. “Thanks to this training, we achieved awareness raising and acquisition of skills for Chancellors to perform their role court leaders, to bring about change for excellence in the judiciary service,” says Ornela Naqellari, Lezha District Court Chairperson and CAP faculty member.
Piloting the Change
The two years of planning and development opened new pathways not required by law but certainly required under any good governance model and resulted in 33 incumbent Chancellors attending their first ever joint training. The Summer Intensive program was held on June 6-July 26, 2019 and allowed Chancellors to explore their new roles, become familiar with leadership and management theories as they apply to courts and better understand the vision for their expanded role within the judiciary.
A Step Forward for the Courts
As a piece of the reform process, CAP is still work in progress. Nonetheless, tangible results are already there:
- A series of training of trainers was held for the WG on advanced court management competencies and teaching skills for faculty members who will serve as the first cadre of trainers.
- CAP has articulated the need for a distinctive and common identity for Chancellors who can then empower the creation of a strong, independent and truly unified judicial branch of government.
“USAID promotes the expanded role of court administration professionals in Albania to enhance excellence in the administration of justice and overall court management,” says Anne Trice, Chief of Party for the Justice for All project.
Public trust building is another strategic goal of the justice reform in Albania. As the link between the judges, court administration staff and the general public, Chancellors are often at the heart of action and the face of the new judiciary. Courts in Albania have come a long way and, while there is still a long way to go, CAP is playing a crucial role in the field of court administration and how it enhances the management of the judicial branch by directly impacting the tradition of the continuous education of Chancellors.
The USAID Justice for All project is a five-year project implemented by the East-West Management Institute designed to improve court performance and increase public confidence in Albania’s judicial system.