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Judicial Role in Italy: Independence, Impartiality and Legitimacy

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 73 Issue: 6 Dated: (April-May 1990) Pages: 322-327
M L Volcansek
Date Published
6 pages
The Italian judiciary lost public confidence and, in a 1987 referendum, their protection against civil liability by failing to maintain insularity and impartiality.
A petition signed by 700,000 Italian voters called for a referendum to revoke the shield of judges against civil liability. Three factors influenced the Italian public to conclude that judges failed to meet their expectations about judicial behavior and to believe that judges should be personally liable for errors in their decisions: (1) questions about the independence of the judiciary; (2) doubts about judicial objectivity; and (3) political interference in the administration of justice. The Italian government took two major actions in the aftermath of the 1987 referendum, the creation of a system for determining the civil liability of judges and the promulgation of a new criminal code. The changes in judicial accountability and criminal procedures are intended to restore the judiciary's public legitimacy. The effect of terrorist activities and Mafia organizations (Cosa Nostra, Camorra, and Ndraghetta) on Italy's judicial system is discussed. 37 footnotes.