Social Courts in Theory and Practice: Yugoslav Workers' Courts in Comparative Perspective

By Robert M. Hayden | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Participation in the CAL Process; or, Who Talks, About What?

The ideals of the CAL system seem clear: that workers, rather than legal professionals, should decide workers' disputes. It is for this reason that the CALs operate under less strict procedural rules and have so many judges who are not professionals. The expectation seems to have been one of participation by workers in their own cases, as reflected in the terminology: "initiator" of a "discussion" rather than "plaintiff" in a legal case. One might envision the discussion of a case in the CAL as being ideally a matter of free and frank discussion among workers, with the initiator, the "other participant" and the worker-judges all taking part, with the latter drawing on their work experience to formulate a resolution of each case. This image would be supported by the words of the president of the CAL in Zagreb in an article in the popular magazine Start, shortly after that court began work:

They [nonprofessional judges] are people who come from associated labor and who emphasize in their own surroundings the organization and establishment of self-management relations. The predominant number of these "non-permanent" judges come from direct production, where as performers of self-management obligations and organizers of production they have years of immediate experience with the interpersonal relations of workers and the real problems which accompany the birth of these new productive relations. Therefore their presence on our judicial panels ensures that we hold direct and intimate connection with the reality of self-management: in that way we guard against the greatest danger, that we become estranged from our task and turn into a professional institution which would examine only the legal formalities of decisions arrived at in associated labor. ( Miles-Jašarević 1978:22)

Instead, the idea behind these courts was that they should deal informally with the substance of relations.

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