PROGRAM AREAS & OPPORTUNITIES

  • Court Management and Administration
  • Judicial Independence
  • Judicial Ethics and Accountability
  • Strategic Planning and Program Design

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Serbia Judicial Reform and Government Accountability Project
 
 
  From left to right, JRGA Chief of Party, Laurence T. Vetter,
President of Appellate Misdemeanor Court, Zoran Pasalic,
and President of the Misdemeanor Court in Nis, Vera
Cvjetkovic, on the occasion of the Partner Court Meeting
in Nis, held on March 19-20, 2015.
 

The Judicial Reform and Government Accountability Project in Serbia (Serbia JRGA) is a five-year USAID initiative. The objectives of the JRGA project are to strengthen the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice in Serbia; to increase public awareness of reforms in the judicial sector; and to strengthen the ability of the Serbian government, Independent Agencies, and civil society to detect and prevent corruption. The JRGA project has two main components. Component I is responsible for implementing reforms in the Administrative Court, the Misdemeanor Appellate Courts, and 45 Misdemeanor Courts. Component II is responsible for providing capacity building and institutional support to four Independent Agencies: the Anti-Corruption Agency, the Ombudsperson’s office, the Commissioner for Information on Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, the State Audit Institution, and the Commissioner for Protection of Equality.

Serbia JRGA has collaborated closely with local institutional counterparts on a number of reform activities, some of which are summarized below.


Judicial Reform
  • JRGA is automating case management practices in the Serbia’s Administrative Court, Appellate Misdemeanor Court, and 45 Misdemeanor Courts. In association with the Misdemeanor Courts and the Ministry of Justice, JRGA is implementing a Misdemeanor Court Case Managements System (MCCMS), which is automating court practices on a system-wide basis, enabling integration of Misdemeanor Court practices on a nation-wide basis. Cases are being entered into the misdemeanor court system with a rate of approximately 100,000 new cases being added per month. Currently there are over 800,000 cases in the system at this time and over 1,500 court personnel using MCCMS. 
  • The case management system currently features a registry module and an enforcement module, and several additional modules are being rolled out in 2015. Through the automation process in the Misdemeanor Courts, approximately 225,000 Euros in collections have already been made in the four courts using this enforcement module.  The cost incurred in providing the reminder notices was only 3,400 Euros.  
  • JRGA provides extensive technical assistance to MCs and external justice system partners for the full implementation of the new Law on Misdemeanors provisions. Twenty-seven roundtables have been organized for approximately 770 authorized petitioners to ensure that the procedural changes introduced by the new Law on Misdemeanors are being implemented effectively. 
  • JRGA has renovated courthouse facilities for the Misdemeanor Courts in Sabac and Pirot, the Administrative Court in Belgrade and Kragujevac, and the Appellate Misdemeanor Court in Nis, with a view to ensuring optimal functional organization of the courts and enabling operational efficiencies, easier public access and safe and open hearings. To date, JRGA has completed 16 facility upgrades or renovations to MCs and AC buildings. 
     
  Training on the New Law on Whistleblowing, Belgrade,
February 2015 
 

Government Accountability
  • Through a multi-year process, JRGA is strengthening the management and operational capacities of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), to ensure greater accountability over Serbian government agencies and the political process.
  • JRGA has provided extensive support to a working group established by the Ministry of Justice and assisted the working group in finalizing the Law on Whistleblowers, which is considered a critical measure in preventing, detecting, and prosecuting government corruption. The National Assembly adopted the Law on December 4, 2014. In an effort to prepare judges of all courts for the new Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers entering into force on June 5, 2015, the Project worked with the MOJ and the Judicial Academy to implement a comprehensive training program reaching out to over 1000 judges. 
  • JRGA is collaborating with the Ministry of Justice on implementing a national anti-corruption strategy, monitoring implementation for results, proposing measures that will improve outcomes, and in coordinating the strategy and communicating results at central government level. 

Grants Program

     
  Training for lawyers on the provision of legal aid for domestic
violence victims in Nis the NGO, Counseling Against Family
Violence (CAFV), April 2014. 
 

Serbia JRGA also implements a grants program to strengthen civil society’s role in the reform process. The grants program is $1.3 million, and it is currently in its fifth year of operation. Over 30 grants have been awarded to various civil society organizations committed to advocacy, public watchdog, and policy reform initiatives. For example, the Association of Misdemeanor Judges (AMJ) has used grant funds to train Misdemeanor Court judges on the use of plea agreements in misdemeanor proceedings. The Center for the Development of Serbia (CDS) created and disseminated a publication to Serbian citizens on the role of the Administrative Court.  A grant to the Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI) supported an examination of the misuse of public funds for political activities at the local level in four different Serbian cities.  Through grant funding, the Eutopia Association established a special helpline for whistleblowers, who will be able to get expert advice from trained lawyers on how to properly report corruption and wrongdoing, as well as to protect themselves from retaliation. 


JRGA Success Stories

Successful program outcomes are captured in success stories that have been developed in coordination with USAID.  Some of the JRGA’s success stories include, among others, how one-stop-shops are revolutionizing Serbian misdemeanor courts, how a model voluntary enforcement pilot program increased revenue collection in the Misdemeanor Courts, and how JRGA is partnering with civil society organizations to fight against domestic violence.  These success stories are summarized below.  

Success Story: One-Stop-Shops Revolutionize Serbian Misdemeanor Courts
JRGA and the MOJ partnered together to renovate misdemeanor courts in order to improve efficiency, credibility and streamline the judicial process. The misdemeanor court in Zrenjanin underwent such a transformation and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. 

Success Story:  Model Voluntary Enforcement Pilot a Success 
The Model Voluntary Enforcement project was initiated in four courts in an effort to demonstrate cost-effective ways to send out payment reminders for outstanding debts owed to the court. The results of the project shows just how capable these payment reminder methods were in collecting debts while at the same time keeping costs low. 

Success Story:  Joining Forces Against Family Violence (CAFV)
JRGA is working to improve the response to domestic and family violence in Serbia by partnering with civil society organizations. One such organization, The Association of Public Prosecutors, has received a grant from JRGA in order to implement an inter-agency cooperation model in an effort to better handle these cases.