Ethics Workshop - June 3 & 4

On June 3-4 CEELI put on Workshop #2 in their Judicial Workshop Series - The Judiciary and Ethics: Unconscious Bias and Conflicts of Interest. The workshop was an expansion on a preliminary online ethics webinar CEELI hosted in December 2021, with a focus was on examining factors and conflicts that may undermine judicial integrity. It was led by the following visiting faculty: Judge Mel Flanagan (Wisconsin, USA), Nigel Waddington (City University London), Judge Domagoj Frntic (Croatia), and Pavol Zilincik (Slovakia). The 19 attendees came from 10 countries in the Central and Eastern Europe region: Albania, Bosnia y Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Kosovo, Lithuania, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, and Serbia. 

The first day of the workshop was an introduction and overview of the concepts of ethical conduct that would guide the rest of the workshop. Beginning with a presentation and discussion led my Nigel Waddington, main principles of ethical conduct were worked out from discussing the important factors judges must consider. This discussion culminated in the handing out of the Bangalore Principles which outlined the following values (which the group had individually worked out through the guided discussion): Independence, Impartiality, Integrity, Propriety, Equality, & Competence/Diligence.

The second part of the first day was mainly led by Judge Mel Flanagan who gave an overview of Bias, specifically honing in on implicit/unconscious bias which may not be readily detectable in a judge’s own analysis of their behavior and thought processes. A key resource in this discussion and lesson of detecting and mitigating bias was the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT). Mitigation strategies and creating action plans for detecting implicit bias was a primary focus of Judge Flanagan’s presentation.

The second day of the workshop primarily focused on conflicts of interest – detecting conflicts and practical guidelines for addressing them. All the panelists shared insight into their own countries’ approaches to addressing conflicts of interest, with case studies giving practical guidance. Additionally Judge Frntic and Pavol Zilincik walked the attendees through carefully constructed hypotheticals to shed light on how important a framework and system of guidelines is in addressing conflicts of interest, especially borderline cases where early addressing of conflicts is paramount.

The workshop closed with a wrap-up of the topics covered and recommendations of how to instill ethical conduct and approaches to conflicts of interest in the participants home countries. Primarily highlighting the importance of actual practical guidance, instead of just abstract principles, in codes of conduct, the workshop’s faculty left the participants with skills necessary to imbue ethical approaches in day-to-day judicial work and continue development of ethical guidelines in the participant countries.

Working with Freda and the Faculty in making sure the workshop ran smoothly was a fantastic experience that gave me access to many different perspectives on judiciary ethics. It was great to witness and be part of a world class program, one of many that CEELI regularly puts on, and see just how the Judicial Network really helps to strengthen judiciary members in the region through education and sharing ideas in collaborative work.


(Ethics workshop faculty and participants - I am upper right)