After reviewing the judicial function in Italy, this paper describes and critiques the practice of using "honorary court judges" for brief periods when there are temporary judicial vacancies.
In 1998, a law was passed in Italy to create a new kind of civil and criminal judicial position called "honorary court judge," which involves presiding over first-instance cases. These judges are selected according to their identifying academic title, and they are not Ministry of Justice employees. They are not salaried, as they receive payment for the single days in which they work. The objective of creating this judicial category was to provide a quick means to supply vacancies in "regular" judges. The trend, however, has been toward "honorary judges" having the same work schedules and caseloads as "regular" judges, but with lower salaries and no job security. This paper asks why a person would apply for such a job. The author notes that most "honorary judges" are women who are over 30 years old with a family. Whereas, "regular" judges can be assigned to work away from the jurisdiction of their residence for some years, "honorary judges" remain in courts in their home communities. This is a strong incentive for judges with family responsibilities. The problem lies in committing "honorary judges" to the workload and types of cases handled by "regular" judges with broader legal knowledge for handling complex cases. The solution is to pass legislation that will clearly define the fixed duties of "honorary judges" that is commensurate with their qualifications and that carries appropriate financial remuneration and job security that serves judicial independence. 17 notes and 20 references
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