Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Rethinking the Evaluation Framework for Analyzing Professional Conduct of Romanian Magistrates

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Rethinking the Evaluation Framework for Analyzing Professional Conduct of Romanian Magistrates

Article excerpt


Ways of rethinking the professional conduct of a magistrate have been studied by using a mixed (qualitative and quantitative) method approach. A number of 19 magistrates participated in the qualitative study, as members of the Appreciative Inquiry Group, moderated by the author. Vallacher and Wegner's Action Identification Theory (AIT) was applied as an intellectual tool for moderating group discussion. Facilitation of the belief adjustment availability of the group members and their motivation to obtain consensus on the magistrate profile resulted from the qualitative research. Another group of 235 magistrates participated in a quantitative survey. AIT was applied here in order to test the idea that the magistrates' readiness to appreciate the new high-level action identities as a good measure for professional conduct develops to the extent to which the lower-level identities within an action identity structure are made available and accessible. Age and gender differences are also discussed.

KEYWORDS: appreciative inquiry group, Action Identification Theory, magistrate.


Starting in 2005, a large endeavour to collaborative inquiry concerning the system of periodical evaluation of professional competences has been promoted among Romanian judges and prosecutors by the Superior Council of Magistrates (SCM) and National Institute of Magistrates (NIM). The purpose of these efforts was the improvement of the evaluation impact on the magistrates' individual careers and on the quality of the judicial system. In addition to workshops and symposia organized in Bucharest for rethinking the professional evaluation of magistrates, an Appreciative Inquiry Group (see Johnson & Cooperrider, 1991; Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987; Grant & Humphries, 2006) has been organized by SCM in order to elaborate the magistrate profile. The author of the study participated in numerous ardent discussions where participants could hardly reach consensus regarding what should be evaluated and what could be measured.

The idea of this research emerged in a reflective moment following the observation of the immediate reaction of unquestionable acceptance vs. firm rejection of behavioural descriptions that were being proposed as indicators of appropriate professional conduct of a magistrate. These indicators were meant to be included in a new periodic professional evaluation scheme. More precisely, throughout group discussions, some very general wordings concerning the appropriate professional behaviour (e.g., She's equidistant), as well as specifications of what exactly the magistrate should be doing in particular circumstances (e.g., He's giving close and thoughtful attention to the arguments of both parts) were accepted without reservation. Surprising for some participants and taken for granted by others, some similar wordings were firmly rejected, be they general (e.g., concerned about the appearance of impartiality) or specific (e.g., he's documenting the opportunity of the approved/rejection adjourn). This could be explained as being, on the one hand, an easy cognitive assimilation of the perceived information into the main representation of an action, and on the other hand, as a rejection of representation-disconfirming information. The problem for the discussion moderator was that what appeared to be perfectly appropriate behavioural indicators for some participants were considered as unsuitable by others.

There were, however, two organizational conditions that facilitated collaboration. First, the group had the formal obligation to find a solution. Finding a way out of the radical polarizations of the discussion and searching for consensus was possible because all participants were aware that a new evaluation scheme should finally be elaborated. Moreover, the periodic evaluation of magistrates was stipulated by law and the prior evaluation scheme was already formally suspended for being inappropriate. …

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