EU Adviser Pushes for Judicial Transparency

(CN) – A European Court of Justice adviser on Wednesday advocated for broader access to court documents, reminding the court of its need for transparency and to “revisit some of its institutional arrangements on access to documents relating to judicial activity.”

Advocate General Michal Bobek’s call for judicial openness stems from a self-appointed digital-rights watchdog’s request to see Austria’s response in proceedings by the European Commission regarding that nation’s failure to transpose the EU’s data-retention requirements to Austrian law. The commission refused the request on grounds that the document in question was a court document, and therefore not included in the scope of laws regarding public access to commission documents.

The watchdog appealed to the European General Court, which ordered the commission to give him the document since it is in essence a commission document available for public review. The commission appealed that decision to the European Court of Justice.

In an advisory opinion for the high court, Bobek said EU law requires the commission to grant the watchdog’s request since the case has since been closed. But Bobek took the opportunity to urge his colleagues to consider improving public access to its own judicial activity – even if it is exempt from transparency in the eyes of EU law.

Not that Bobek is calling for complete transparency, however. He acknowledged that some internal documents – like preliminary reports from judges and deliberation notes – should remain under wraps.

But external documents, like Austria’s pleadings in the commission’s case, should be made public in closed cases and on a more limited basis where cases are still pending, Bobek said.

Bobek went a step further, though: He said that beyond individual requests, the court should look at putting the pleadings of parties and requests for preliminary rulings on its website on a regular basis.

The author of over 10 books and 100 articles on legal theory and public law, Bobek became the EU high court’s first adviser from the Czech Republic in 2015.

He also has a fan club on Facebook.