Quality of Justice in Portugal! Impact of working conditions in the performance of judges and public prosecutors

June 1, 2018 to March 31, 2022
46 months

72.9% of magistrates (judges and public prosecutors) consider their workload excessive (Ferreira, Dias et al., 2014). Some of the responses, obtained in this study, lead to perceptions of deterioration of working conditions in the courts, which impacts negatively on the quality of justice. While the responses were being collected, the largest process of judicial reforms was under way in tandem with budget cuts in the field of justice (austerity policies).

QUALIS aims to examine the changes in working conditions of magistrates in Portugal, in order to evaluate their impact on professional performance and, consequently, on the quality of justice, after the reform of the Judiciary Map of 2013. The study will cover three dimensions:1) the legal/functional dimension, which implies the study of legal changes and their consequences on the judicial map and organisation, professional functions, among others; 2) the subjective dimension, which involves getting feedback from the magistrates regarding their changing working conditions due to the recent reorganisation, their professional motivations, workload and stress, among other concerns; and 3) the objective dimension, comprising an assessment of the working conditions under which they perform their duties in the courts. This will be evaluated in two parts: work environment (the physical space, equipment, computer/information services, organisation, etc.) and the labour relations (schedule, remuneration, workload, etc.).

A multidimensional methodology is proposed (qualitative and quantitative). The legal/functional dimension will analyse and review the recent legal changes that occurred at various levels, from the new Organizational Law of the Judicial System to the management model adopted, including functional changes in the legal professions. The subjective dimension will use an online survey to gather the perceptions of the magistrates regarding the factors that improve/diminish working conditions and its impact on the quality of justice. The objective dimension’s assessment will be achieved by directly observing 3 case studies (district court).This will provide information concerning material working conditions, workplace relations (socio-professional), and their impact on the professional performance. The selected case studies are: Lisbon (a large area with great litigation complexity), Coimbra (medium size and complexity) and Castelo Branco (a smaller, less complex area in the interior of the country).

QUALIS will partner with the High Councils and of the two magistrate’s associations, aiming to expand and deepen the understanding of the impact of recent changes in the justice system which may be eroding citizenship’s most basic rights. The production of a book, articles on international journals and the formulation of political recommendations (through a co-creation process of involvement between policymakers, professionals, experts, etc.) are some of the expected outcomes of QUALIS.

Justice, quality, working conditions, magistrates
Funding Entity
FEDER - Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional funds through the COMPETE 2020 - Operacional Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalisation (POCI), and by Portuguese funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia