The image of Justice as a public service is increasingly deteriorated while the majority of citizens distrust the independence of the judges and courts in charge of imparting it. This is one of the main conclusions of different polls by the Sociological Research Center (CIS) that, in recent decades, have addressed the public perception of this power of the State, currently weighed down by the political battle around the blockade of the renewal of its governing body, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), which has already been in office for more than a thousand days.
Lesmes does not resign and distributes blame between the Government and the PP for the blockade of the Judicial Power
At the beginning of the 90s, the percentage of respondents who considered that justice was working badly or very badly went from being below 30% to going up to 45%. In 1998 it was already 57%. The percentage has undergone some variations but dissatisfaction with the third power of the state has been maintained in the studies carried out during these 30 years.
In addition, the administration of justice appears as the public service that is worst valued by citizens, behind the assistance to dependent persons or the management of pensions in a study carried out between the 21st and 29th of last July, when the institutional paralysis of the CGPJ he was already taking part of the political agenda. Two out of three respondents, 65.7% of the total, answered that the administration of justice works little or not at all satisfactorily, according to that survey, which, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranked health care as the best public service valued, just on the opposite side of the list.
Other CIS studies that have surveyed opinions on the functioning of judges and courts have also shown the deterioration in the perception of Justice among citizens, with very critical evaluations on the independence of judges or excessive bureaucratization, but also on the lack of means in the courts. The last time that the public demographic institute included a battery of specific questions about the operation of justice was in 2019, when 48% of those surveyed described the operation of Justice as “bad” or “very bad”.
In the previous study of 2011 also practically half of the respondents – 48% – had considered that the administration of justice worked badly or very badly as a whole, a lower percentage than that registered in the 1998 report, when the answers delved into criticism of one of the three powers of the State. Then, 56.7% of those surveyed offered a negative assessment, considering that the Justice functioned badly or very badly. This percentage was 39.3% in 1996, 45.6% in 1995, 44.7% in 1992 and 28.8% in 1987, which is the first record in the series.
In 2019, most of that critical mass with the administration of justice justified their perception on several main ideas: the penalties are very soft, there is a lot of bureaucracy or the justice is politicized and offers discriminatory treatment. And, among all of them, a particularly worrying data: 50.8% of those surveyed valued the degree of independence of the judges as “quite low” or “very low”, while only one in three respondents – 29, 4% – thought it was “quite high” or “very high”.
This study showed that the percentage of discontent was slightly lower in the case of Supreme Court magistrates: 44.2% stated that the degree of independence of their judges was “quite low” or “very low”. The fieldwork of this study was carried out in mid-July 2019, weeks after the oral hearing of the process ended and the Court unanimously ruled that the group aggression in La Manada was a violation and increased the sentences to fifteen years in jail for the five defendants.
This Monday, during his speech at the solemn act of Opening of the Judicial Year, the acting president of the CGPJ and the Supreme Court, Carlos Lesmes – who was a senior position in the governments of José María Aznar – vindicated judicial independence, which he defined ” not as a privilege of the judges, but, and, above all, as what it truly is: a guarantee of the citizens “.
Despite their criticism, citizens are also aware of the lack of means that plagues the administration of justice, as they have repeatedly denounced professional associations. According to the specific study of 2019, 61% of those surveyed described the means they have as “insufficient” to carry out their tasks and only 21.4% considered them “sufficient”.