3

On numerous occasions, the media presents the High Court's decisions about public figures or entities and mentions that the motivation/justification for their ruling will come sometime in the future.

Picking a random recent example, the High Court decided that a certain opposition political alliance can run for European Parliament elections.

However, there is no clear indication about how the High Court reached its decision, as their motivation was to be issued at a later time.

I do not know how it works for other countries (High Courts or equivalent), but it seems strange to have a separation between the decision and motivation, especially when speaking about such important trials (decisions are final at this level).

Note: The Romanian Constitutional Court has just enforced that all the courts issue definitive sentences to provide the motivation along with the decision.

Question: Why don't the high courts always issue the motivation for their decisions immediately with their decision?

10
  • 3
    I've added the Romania tag because that seems to be the high court in question, although the linked article doesn't make that specific. – Jontia Mar 15 '19 at 8:46
  • @Jontia - yes, it is about the Romanian High Court. I do not know about other countries, but I expect some to have a similar mechanism. – Alexei Mar 15 '19 at 11:58
  • 1
    Do you have any reason to suspect the delay has anything to do with politics? Otherwise, I think this belongs to Law.SE. – yannis Mar 15 '19 at 13:18
  • @yannis - I think this is by law and I am wondering why the law is the way it is (which is more about politics than law)? (the decision is delivered faster than the motivation). This seems strange as in order to get to the decision, there are quite solid reasons especially at this level. – Alexei Mar 15 '19 at 14:13
  • 1
    Apparently the judges have 30 days to motivate their decision(s). But it looks like that limit is commonly exceeded by the higher courts due to workload. I don't know which law sets this 30-day term or why it was adopted. – Fizz Mar 15 '19 at 21:40
3

Presumably, because a ruling on the outcome allows the parties to take action going forward knowing what the ruling will be, but drafting a written order that is coherent, grammatical, etc. takes more time and care than deciding how to rule. In a complex case, this could easily take several hours of work, even if the judge has very precise notes about the substance of what the ruling will say.

For example, many judges make it a common practice to pull up the appropriate case caption, identify counsel and the parties for each side, establish some defined terms for party or real property or entity names that are pertinent to the case, set forth all jurisdictional facts authorizing the court's action (even if they aren't in dispute), to set forth the names of all of the witnesses, when they testified and what they testified to, to list all of the exhibits admitted into evidence discussing important ones in detail, to recap the principle legal and factual arguments made by the parties, to summarize the overall factual situation, and the recap the procedural posture of the case at the time of the ruling and the undisputed legal principles that apply to the case, and prepare a signature block for the judge, before diving in to discussing and resolving the disputed issues of fact and law that the judge is actually deciding. This anticipatory boilerplate will often make up most of a written court order. In the substance of the part of the ruling resolving disputed issues, references to legal authorities and disputed facts need to be double checked for proper citation form and factual accuracy (e.g. re dates, spelling of names, addresses, dollar amounts, etc.) from notes or other references. Once everything is done, it would usually have to be proofread at least once with at least some minor corrections and changes before the final draft is written and often with headings added or tweaked and formatting issues resolved, even though the ultimate bottom line judgment supported by the judge's notes may simply be that Fred owes Susan five thousand Euros of back rent. The parties already know most of this and don't need these details for their own purposes.

In U.S. courts, it isn't uncommon for a judge to announce a ruling on the outcome immediately following the conclusion of a hearing, having made a decision and then ask a party (or both parties) to prepare a rough draft of a written order setting forth the basis for the decision, after orally discussing key points the judge has reached conclusions upon with the parties in an abbreviated "ugly" oral ruling. Once a draft or draft is presented, the judge may sign it as is, or edit significantly, before signing (I've seen both things happen). I have no idea if Romania follows that practice.

2
  • The big difference is that Romania is a civil law, not a common-law jurisdiction. – James K Mar 31 at 22:42
  • 1
    @JamesK True, but in this particular instance, not very relevant. Judges in both civil law and common law jurisdictions issue written opinions at the resolution of cases. Civil law opinions in civil law countries tend to be a bit more detailed because often a contemporaneous verbatim transcript of the proceedings is not maintained. And, civil law countries tend to have far fewer cases per judge (although also fewer professional support staffers per judge) than common law judges. But there aren't well established systemically different norms between the 2 macro-systems on this particular issue. – ohwilleke Mar 31 at 22:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .