examining magistrate
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In an
inquisitorial system An inquisitorial system is a legal system in which the court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out th ...
of law, the examining magistrate (also called investigating magistrate, inquisitorial magistrate, or investigating judge), is a
judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a Judicial panel, panel of judges. A judge hears all the witnesses and any other Evidence (law), evidence presented by the barristers or so ...

judge
who carries out pre-
trial In law, a trial is a coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information (in the form of evidence Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion, because evident things are undoubted. There are ...

trial
investigations into allegations of
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Crime, definitions of", in ...

crime
and in some cases makes a recommendation for
prosecution A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in states with either the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tr ...
. The exact role and standing of examining magistrates varies by
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...
. Common duties and powers of the examining magistrate include overseeing ongoing
criminal investigation Criminal investigation is an applied science that involves the study of facts that are then used to inform criminal trials. A complete criminal investigation can include Search and seizure, searching, interviews, interrogations, Evidence (law), e ...
s, issuing
search warrant A search warrant is a court order that a magistrate or judge issues to authorize Police, law enforcement officers to conduct a Search and seizure, search of a person, location, or vehicle for evidence of a crime and to Confiscation, confiscate any ...
s, authorizing
wiretap Telephone tapping (also wire tapping or wiretapping in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the ...
s, making decisions on
pretrial detention Remand, also known as pre-trial detention, preventive detention, or provisional detention, is the process of detaining a person until their trial after they have been arrested and criminal charge, charged with an offense. A person who is on r ...
, interrogating the accused person, questioning witnesses, examining evidence, and compiling a dossier of evidence in preparation for trial. Examining magistrates have an important role in the
French judiciary In France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and Overseas France, several overseas regions and territorie ...
. They are also a feature of the Spanish, Dutch, Belgian and Greek
criminal justice system 350px, United States criminal justice system flowchart. Criminal justice is the delivery of justice Justice, one of the four cardinal virtues, by Vitruvio Alberi, 1589–1590. Fresco, corner of the vault, studiolo of the Virgin of Mercy, Ma ...
s, although the extent of the examining magistrate's role has generally diminished over time. Since the late 20th and early 21st centuries, several countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, and Italy, have abolished the position of examining magistrate outright. In some cases, they have created new positions that take on some of these responsibilities.


Role and description

John Henry Merryman and Rogelio Pérez-Perdomo have described the examining magistrate's role in civil-law systems as follows:


Comparison to common-law systems

The role of the examining magistrate is important in civil-law jurisdictions such as France, which have an
inquisitorial system An inquisitorial system is a legal system in which the court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out th ...
. In contrast,
common-law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudi ...
jurisdictions such as
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. En ...

England
and the
United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., federal di ...

United States
have an
adversarial system The adversarial system or adversary system is a legal system used in the common law countries where two advocates represent their parties' case or position before an impartial person or group of people, usually a judge A judge is a person who ...
and lack a comparable official. Frequent close interaction with police and prosecutors "may well condition examining magistrates to favor the long-term interests of regular participants over those of the accused." This problem also affects common-law jurisdictions. It has been noted that "in the United States, the focus of concern has been the independence of counsel for the defense, while in France, concern focuses on the
independence upright=1.0, Pedro I of Brazil, Pedro surrounded by a crowd in São Paulo after breaking the news of Independence of Brazil, Brazil's independence on September 7, 1822. Independence is a condition of a person, nation, country, or Sovereign state ...
of the examining magistrate." The examination phase has been described as "the most controversial aspect of criminal procedure" in civil-law jurisdictions because of " e secrecy and length of the proceedings, the large powers enjoyed by examining magistrates" and "the possibility for abuse inherent in the power of the individual magistrate to work in secret and to keep people incarcerated for long periods." Some commentators, however, have compared the examining magistrate's role favorably to that of the
grand jury A grand jury is a jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartiality, impartial verdict (a Question of fact, finding of fact on a question) officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a sentence (law ...
in common-law systems. Scholar George C. Thomas III finds that while the grand jury as it exists in U.S. law is an effective ''investigative'' function, it lacks the ''screening'' functions that the French system has. Thomas notes that under
U.S. Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a coun ...

U.S. Supreme Court
precedent, U.S. prosecutors are not obliged to present
exculpatory evidence Exculpatory evidence is evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field t ...
to grand juries, and as a result grand jurors hear only evidence from the prosecution. By contrast, under the French system, the French examining magistrate operates as an investigator, and the indicting chamber acts as a screening body expressly responsible for seeking the truth.


By country

Use of the examining magistrate has declined in Europe over time.
Spain , * gl, Reino de España, * oc, Reiaume d'Espanha, , , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_ ...

Spain
,
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and Overseas France, several overseas regions and territories. The metro ...

France
,
Croatia :* french: link=no, République de Croatie :* hu, Horvát Köztársaság :* it, Repubblica di Croazia :* rue, Републіка Хорватія :* sr, Република Хрватска :* sk, Chorvátska republika :* sl, Republika H ...

Croatia
, the
Netherlands The Netherlands ( nl, Nederland ), informally referred to as Holland, is a country primarily located in Western Europe and partly in the Dutch Caribbean, Caribbean. It is the largest of four Kingdom of the Netherlands#Constituent countries, cons ...

Netherlands
,
Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. G ...

Belgium
and
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical region of Europe Europe is a continent A contin ...

Greece
are among the countries to retain the practice. But in all of these nations, the examining magistrate's role has been diminished, with a general trend of restricting the examining magistrate's involvement to only "serious crimes or sensitive cases", or having the examining magistrate share responsibility with the public prosecutor.
Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under a multi-party assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_t ...

Switzerland
,
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German language, German , demonym = Germans, German , government_ ...

Germany
,
Portugal Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=yes ), is a sovereign state, country whose mainland is located on the Iberian Peninsula, in Southern Europe, Southwestern Europe, and whose territory also includ ...

Portugal
, and
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Italy, continental part, delimited by the Alps, a Italian Peninsula, peninsula and List of islands of Italy, se ...

Italy
have all abolished the examining-magistrate system.


France


History

In France, the investigative judge (', "judge of inquiry") has been a feature of the judicial system since the mid-19th century, and the preliminary investigative procedure has been a part of the judicial system from at least the 17th century. The sweeping powers traditionally entrusted to the ' were so broad that
Honoré de Balzac Honoré de Balzac ( , more commonly , ; born Honoré Balzac;Jean-Louis Dega, La vie prodigieuse de Bernard-François Balssa, père d'Honoré de Balzac : Aux sources historiques de La Comédie humaine, Rodez, Subervie, 1998, 665 p. 20 May 1799& ...

Honoré de Balzac
called the examining magistrate "the most powerful man in France" in the 19th century. In a celebrated although exaggerated passage, Balzac wrote that "No human authority, neither the king nor the minister of justice nor the prime minister can intrude on the power of the examining magistrate, no one can stop him, nobody gives him orders. He is sovereign, obeying only his conscience and the law." Later, however, the authority of the examining magistrates in France was diminished by a series of reforms. In 1985, French justice minister
Robert Badinter Robert Badinter (; born 30 March 1928) is a France, French lawyer, politician, and author who enacted the Capital punishment in France, abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, while serving as Minister of Justice under François Mitte ...

Robert Badinter
proposed limiting the examining magistrate's role in making custody decisions; 's successor,
Albin Chalandon Albin Chalandon (11 June 1920 – 29 July 2020) was a French politician and minister. Between 1968 and 1972, he was Minister of Public Works. And from 1986 until 1988, he was Minister of Justice A justice ministry, ministry of justice, or depar ...
made the same proposal two years later. In 1990, Justice Minister
Pierre Arpaillange Pierre Arpaillange (13 March 1924 – 11 January 2017) was a France, French author, senior judge and Government Minister. Career After obtaining his law degree, Arpaillange began a judicial career in 1949. He became ''Secrétaire Général du Pa ...
convened a Human Rights Commission ('), led by the legal scholar Mireille Delmas-Marty. The commission concluded that France's criminal procedure code violated human rights standards, noting that the examining magistrate combined investigative and judicial powers in a single person. The commission proposed a package of due process reforms, including the abolition of the post of examining magistrate and the creation of a "liberty judge" (') in its place. Under the proposed system, the prosecutor and the police would have sole responsibility for conducting the investigation, and the liberty judge would be charged with overseeing pre-trial investigations. This proposal prompted an outcry from the conservative judiciary, as well as from scholars and the media; "in the context of repeated investigations of Socialist Party (France), Socialist Party officials, the proposition appeared self-interested." Less extensive reforms were adopted instead; legislation that became effective in 1994 provided a right to counsel for persons in police custody ('), and also transferred the decision on bail and
pretrial detention Remand, also known as pre-trial detention, preventive detention, or provisional detention, is the process of detaining a person until their trial after they have been arrested and criminal charge, charged with an offense. A person who is on r ...
"to a team of magistrates not involved in the particular case." Almost immediately, however, opponents of the reforms mobilized, upset with the substantial changes to historic French practice; several magistrates resigned in protest. The new minister of justice, Pierre Méhaignerie, pledged repeal. The reforms were reversed in August 1993, when a new law repealed the right to have counsel at the beginning of police detention (but retained the right to have counsel after 20 hours of detention); restored "the powers of the 'solitary' examining magistrate involved in the case to bail or remand"; and again restricted the accused's access to the investigative dossier. Reforms resumed in 2000, with the enactment of the Élisabeth Guigou, Guigou Law. This followed the report of the Truche Commission and a proposal to revise the French code of criminal procedure by Michèle-Laure Rassat. Among other reforms, the 2000 law abolished the power of the examining magistrate to remand defendants into custody and created a new specialized judicial officer, the judge of liberty and detention (') to make these determinations. Renewed calls for further reform to abolish or diminish the powers of the French examining magistrate intensified after a series of botched investigations, including what became known as the Outreau trial, Outreau scandal. In that case, more than a dozen people near Boulogne were wrongfully imprisoned (and about half wrongful conviction, wrongfully convicted) on false allegation of child sexual abuse, false charges of child abuse after a flawed investigation by an inexperienced ''juge''. In 2009 and 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy unsuccessfully attempted to abolish the post of examining magistrate as part of a broader package of legal reforms.


Today

Today, examining magistrates (') are one of four types of French magistrates, the others being trial judges ('), ministère public (France), public prosecutors ('), and policymaking and administrative magistrates at the Ministry of Justice (France), Ministry of Justice. Each ' is appointed by the president of France upon the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice and serves renewable three-year terms. Magistrates "can move between these four categories, and their career prospects may be subject to the political interests of the government (although promotions must be approved by a high council of the magistrature chaired in the past by the President of the Republic and now by the president of the '." This arrangement has prompted criticism on the ground that the judiciary is not fully independent of the government. In 1996, political scientist Herbert Jacobs described the still-extensive powers and authority of the examining magistrate: Examining magistrates initiate an investigation upon an order of the ' (public prosecutor), or upon the request of a private citizen. The ' may issue Letters rogatorys, order the seizure of necessary evidence, compel witnesses to appear and give evidence, and request expert testimony; at an investigative hearing, the ' may have witnesses confront each other or the accused. They may also authorize
wiretap Telephone tapping (also wire tapping or wiretapping in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the ...
s. At a later plenary hearing in open court, the investigative judge may issue an order of ' ("no case") or, if the evidence is sufficient, will commit the case to the trial court. Charges of a serious misdemeanor or lesser felonies go to the criminal court directly. In contrast, major felonies are referred to the Court of Appeal (France), Court of Appeal for the pretrial hearing. The Court of Appeal decides whether to approve the 's recommendation and, if it does, the case is turned over to the Cour d'assises, Assize Court. Examining magistrates are not involved at trials, although, in France, criminal trials are "in many respects a continuation of the pretrial investigation", with the trial judge acting as the leading figure in the examination of witnesses. In the year 2000, only about 7% of criminal investigations in France were directed by a '. By 2010, that number had declined further to 4%, with police overseeing the rest. Notably, in 2002, there were 562 investigating magistrates in France, with some 60,000 investigations ongoing at any given moment, so caseloads were large and individual attention to each was difficult. But, examining magistrates "are seen as important, independent arbiters, examining the most sensitive and serious allegations." A few examining magistrates, such as Renaud Van Ruymbeke, Thierry Jean-Pierre, and Éric Halphen have become widely known for their investigations into corruption in France, corruption and list of political scandals in France, political scandals; such figures have investigated high-level government officials, including Prime Minister of France, prime ministers, and made widely publicized visits to the headquarters of the major Political parties in France, French political parties, reflecting their broad powers. In France, many magistrates belong to trade unions. About 60% belong to the Union syndicale des magistrats (USM), which is center-right, while about 30% belong to the leftist Syndicat de la Magistrature (SM). The unions represent the interests of magistrates, but by French law they are barred from striking.


Spain

In Spain, a ' is an examining judge, and a ' is the office of an examining judge. Each investigating judge is responsible for investigating "all kind of criminal cases committed in his district, except those cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the National Court (') or where another court has jurisdiction '." In addition to investigating crimes of all sorts, "the investigating judges are competent to try petty offense cases." Among the most famous Spanish investigating judges was Baltasar Garzón, a polarizing figure known for investigating high-profile political corruption, corruption and human rights cases. Garzón was known for invoking the doctrine of universal jurisdiction to Indictment and arrest of Augusto Pinochet, issue an international arrest warrant for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, leading to his apprehension in London in 1998. Garzón also gained attention for overseeing an inquiry into White Terror (Spain), atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War (despite a Spanish 1977 Amnesty Law, 1977 amnesty act) and Francoist Repression, human rights abuses committed during the Francoist Spain, dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Garzón was convicted of illegal wiretapping in 2012 and was suspended from the bench for 11 years.


Andorra

The small European nation of Andorra has investigating magistrates; in 2018, for example, an investigating magistrate in the country issued indictments against 28 people, including former Venezuelan officials, on charges of money laundering.


Belgium and the Netherlands

Both
Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. G ...

Belgium
and the
Netherlands The Netherlands ( nl, Nederland ), informally referred to as Holland, is a country primarily located in Western Europe and partly in the Dutch Caribbean, Caribbean. It is the largest of four Kingdom of the Netherlands#Constituent countries, cons ...

Netherlands
retain the examining judge in some cases; examining judges investigate in 5% of cases in Belgium and 2% of cases in the Netherlands. In Belgium, criminal proceedings are usually initiated by the public prosecutor (' or '), who typically decides whether to issue a summons to a suspect ordering him or her to appear in court. However, in "more serious or complicated cases" the prosecutor can defer to matter to the examining magistrate (' or '), who is an independent judge and member of the Tribunal of first instance (Belgium), tribunal of first instance (' or '). The ' has the power to question suspects, but not testimony, under oath; he or she may also question witnesses, issue search warrants, and issue pretrial detention, detention orders. The ' generates a report on the outcome of the investigation and then refers it to the ', an arm of the court, to decide whether to dismiss the case, allow it to proceed, or (in certain circumstances) to refer it to another court. The role of the ' role is unusual, because he or she is simultaneously a judge and an officer of the '. In the Netherlands, the position of examining magistrate has existed since 1926, and the powers of the office were strengthened in 1999. Openbaar Ministerie, Dutch public prosecutors are charged with supervising criminal investigations and ensuring the "legitimacy, fairness and overall integrity" of the investigation and pretrial proceedings. In addition to their investigative role, examining magistrate is also charged with making determinations as to the lawfulness of arrests and as to
pretrial detention Remand, also known as pre-trial detention, preventive detention, or provisional detention, is the process of detaining a person until their trial after they have been arrested and criminal charge, charged with an offense. A person who is on r ...
. The examining magistrate specifically reviews the public prosecutor's request to use some intrusive special investigative techniques when the prosecutor requests the magistrate to do so. For the most intrusive modes of investigation, such as wiretapping or other lawful interception, telecommunication intercepts, public prosecutors must secure the approval of the examining magistrate.


Latin America

In Latin America, the investigative (' or ') phase of a criminal prosecution was historically overseen by an examining magistrate, preceding the trial (') phase. In the first phase, an examining magistrate interviewed the witnesses, questioned the accused, examined evidence, and created a dossier before making a recommendation to the trial judge as to whether the defendant should be discharged or tried. Formerly, in Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela, "no distinction was made between the examining magistrate, who is responsible for the investigation, and the judge, who issues the rulings. This distinction was considered very important in Europe, where these functions were separated to promote the impartiality of the court." In Chile, for example, examining magistrates formerly had the "triple role" of overseeing the investigation, rendering a verdict, and passing a sentence. By the end of the 20th century, most Latin American countries followed Germany in eliminating the examination phase. In 1998, Venezuela enacted a legal reform that ended the secrecy of the ''sumario'' phase and bolstered the ability of accused persons to prepare a defense. Beginning in 2002, Chile began to incorporate more adversarial aspects into its inquisitorial system, and this reform was implemented fully by 2005. The transition to a separation of judicial and investigative roles meant that public prosecutors (''fiscales'') obtained many responsibilities that were historically performed by investigative magistrates. However, investigations in past Human rights violations in Pinochet's Chile, human rights abuses in Chile have continued to use investigative magistrates at the first stage.


Greece

Greece, which follows a French-style legal system, has retained the investigative magistrate. In Greece, the investigative magistrate interviews witnesses, reviews the evidence, and refers cases to the public prosecutor, who makes the ultimate charging decision. Greek investigative magistrates can also issue arrest warrants.


Countries where the position was abolished


Italy

Italy abolished the examining magistrate in 1989, as part of a broader overhaul of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure. The reform transferred the investigative functions of the examining magistrate to public prosecutors, who in Italy are also considered judges. The reform transferred the oversight functions of examining magistrates to newly created ''judges of the preliminary investigation'' with specified duties, including the issuance of search warrants, the authorization of wiretaps, and the decision on pretrial detention. The replacement of examining magistrates was not the only element of the 1989 reform that "marked a departure from the inquisitorial French tradition and partly subscribed to adversarial assumptions"; the code revision introduced cross-examination and negotiation between the parties, although it preserved some elements of the continental legal tradition.


Switzerland

Before 2011 Switzerland had four different models of inquiry: examining magistrate models I and II (') and public prosecutor models I and II ('). Different cantons of Switzerland used different models. Under "examining magistrate model I" an independent examining magistrate directed the police investigation directly, and the public prosecutor was only a party in the case. Under "examining magistrate model II" the examining magistrate and the public prosecutor jointly directed pre-trial proceedings; "the examining magistrate acted not independently, but was bound by the public prosecutor's instructions." The "public prosecutor model I" followed the multiple-stage French system, in which (1) the public prosecution first directed the investigation by judicial police before transferring the matter to the independent examining magistrate; (2) the examining magistrate conducted examination independent of the prosecutor; and (3) at the end of the examining magistrate's inquiry, the case was returned to the public prosecutor, who made the ultimate decision on "whether to charge or discontinue the case." Finally, under "public prosecutor model II" the examining magistrate was absent altogether and the public prosecutor being the "master of preliminary proceedings" responsible for conducting the investigation and examination, making the decision of whether or not to charge, and prosecuting the case. When the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure came into effect in 2011, Switzerland adopted the latter model nationwide, abolished the position of examining magistrate that had previously existed in some cantons. One prominent Swiss investigative magistrate was Carla Del Ponte, who became prominent for her investigations into Sicilian Mafia crime in Switzerland. Del Ponte was later appointed public prosecutor and then federal attorney general of Switzerland, before becoming chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.


Elsewhere

Poland historically had examining magistrates; Polish examining magistrate Jan Sehn investigated the Nazi atrocities at Auschwitz concentration camp, Auschwitz in preparation for the Auschwitz trials. However, in 1949, the Polish judiciary was restructured along Polish People's Republic, Soviet lines, and the position of investigating magistrate was eliminated. West Germany abolished the examining magistrate at the end of 1974. Portugal abolished the examining magistrate in 1987.


In popular culture

The 1969 film Z (1969 film), ''Z'' stars an examining magistrate based on Christos Sartzetakis.


See also

* Magistrate (England and Wales) * United States magistrate judge


Notes


References

Books * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Other works * * * * * * {{refend Judges Judiciaries Criminal procedure Criminal investigation