On April 27, 2010, Serbia High Court Council President Nata Mesarovic and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Michael Harvey signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the support USAID will offer the High Court Council (HCC) through the Separation of Powers Program (SPP). The SPP is a five year project implemented by EWMI with the principal goals of enhancing the independence of the judicial and legislative branches of government and improving the efficiency of the courts. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlines SPP’s plan to assist the HCC in its efforts to build a capacity for the independent preparation and management of the budget and of financial operations for the judicial system, and will support efforts for the HCC to engage in long-range planning for the judicial branch of government.
The Serbia High Court Council began its work in April 2009 and is charged with the responsibility for judicial governance (judge selection, evaluation, and discipline, judge training, judicial ethics, and selection of chief judges), judicial administration (including determining the number of judges), and court budgeting and fiscal management. The initial task of the Council was to elect judges to fill the approximately 2,500 judge positions in the new court network that became effective on January 1, 2010. Upon completion of most of the judge election process, the Council is now turning to issues relating to administration, and SPP will assist the Council as it undertakes assumption of the financial tasks.
Through SPP, EWMI plans to help with the organizational structure and competencies of the budget office, assist in drafting procedural guidelines, support training of office staff, and support the IT needs of the budget and financial management personnel. EWMI will also assist the Council with efforts to engage in strategic planning, and with building an accurate baseline for case weighting and weighted caseload assessment determinations.
The Signing of the MOU occurred at a public ceremony held at the newly renovated national level courts building in Belgrade. The building houses five courts, including the Supreme Court of Cassation. The signing event was held in the general session conference room of the Supreme Court of Cassation, and was attended by the US Ambassador, Minister of Justice, all members of the High Court Council, presidents of three of Serbia’s Courts of Appeals, other national level court presidents, and many media representatives.
US Ambassador to Serbia Mary Warlick spoke at the ceremony and emphasized the opportunities for the High Court Council to plan for the future, and to increase the professionalism of court management through the use of court managers and of judges through continuing education. HCC President Mesarovic also addressed the assembled dignitaries and thanked USAID and SPP for their help and for the support that would flow from signing the memorandum. USAID and EWMI support to the High Court Council will last until July 2013.