Judicial institutions – along with other oversight bodies, such as independent authorities, agencies, etc. – are gaining increasing importance in the societies and political systems within the European Union. In fact, citizens’ loss of confidence in representative institutions – a fairly diffuse phenomenon in advanced democracies – joins an increase in demand for policy, conflict management and dispute settlement that is oriented towards other institutions.
In this context, judicial systems have become the recipients of increasingly pressing and complex demands for justice as well as ones that are intrinsically transnational, particularly in the case of the EU.
The expansion of this demand has been reflected in an increased emphasis on judicial institutions in the media and public opinion. Specifically, we can see how a key function of the state has now been transformed in many ways: it is more visible, more transnational, more complex, and more fragmented.
Finally, the development of bills of rights, along with the expansion of inter-institutional conflict has opened up a new arena where constitutional and supreme courts are expected to settle disputes or to provide a binding interpretation of these provisions.
All these factors support the interest in observing and analyzing European judicial systems, their agenda, and their policies. This study offers social scientists new insights, to better understand the dynamics of institutional and policy change.
The principal goal of Just-Europe is the development of empirical and comparative knowledge on the functioning of judicial systems and the reform of their institutions, in the different areas where Italian and foreign scholars can collaborate.
Just-Europe also collaborates with judicial institutions, especially when the latter analyze their functioning using a policy-oriented approach.
The creation of Just-Europe is part of Cri&Demo. The two share the following research objectives:
- the analysis of judicial institutions in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, and Spain;
- the analysis of oversight bodies, looking specifically at how inter-institutional accountability functions (the aim of this is to assess the roles taken on by constitutional courts, courts of auditors, and administrative courts, in comparison with representative institutions as mechanisms of checks and balances);
- monitoring survey data regarding trust in the judiciary and in oversight bodies;
- assessment of judicial policies during economic crises.
Just-Europe is a joint initiative within the CriEc&Demo research program, financed by the Italian Ministry for Universities and Research. The University of Bologna collaborates with LUISS Guido Carli University on this research program, particularly with regard to the analysis of the judicial sector. Just-Europe relies on the communicative, scientific, and collaborative resources built over the last four years through the implementation of the European project, Menu for Justice, financed by the EU’s LifeLong Learning Program in 2009. We take full advantage of our wide network of partners in European and non-European countries, such as the Montaigne Centre for Judicial Administration and Conflict Resolution at Utrecht University, the Institut des Hautes Etudes sur la Justice in Paris, the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies in Oxford, the Centre of Criminology in Toronto, the Centro de Estudos Sociais in Coimbra, the Department of Political Science at Texas Christian University, and the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago de Cile.
- the relationship between judicial independence and judicial accountability of judges, public prosecutors, and judicial institutions;
- management of the courts and the professional profile of judicial staff and administrative staff employed in the courthouses;
- the development of European standards for quality of justice;
- the role of the constitutional courts in new and advanced democracies.