Code of Conduct

 

The Code of Conduct for the Members of the Boards of Appeal and of the Enlarged Board of Appeal sets out the standards they are expected to meet in exercising their judicial function. Designed to ensure, in particular, their independence, integrity, impartiality, loyalty, diligence and discretion, the standards build on best practices and recommendations at national and international level.

Background

In accordance with Rule 12b EPC, the Presidium of the Boards of Appeal adopted a Code of Conduct for the Members of the Boards of Appeal and of the Enlarged Board of Appeal on 23 November 2021. The Code of Conduct was then approved by the Administrative Council at its 169th meeting on 14 December 2021 (decision CA/D 21/21) and entered into force on 1 July 2022.

The Code of Conduct builds on best practices and recommendations for judicial conduct at national and international level, including those reflected in the Code of Conduct of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Code of Conduct of the German Constitutional Court, the Guide to Judicial Conduct of the UK Supreme Court, the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct 2002, the Judicial Ethics Report 2009-2010 by the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, Opinion no. 3 of the Consultative Council of European Judges and the Resolution on Judicial Ethics of the European Court of Human Rights.

Key elements

In view of the importance of ensuring public confidence in the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, the Code of Conduct (CoC) lays down the following standards for members and chairs of the Boards of Appeal and the Enlarged Board of Appeal (referred to collectively as "members"):

  •  Members have complete independence in the exercise of their judicial duties, and perform them with integrity, impartiality, loyalty, diligence and discretion (Article 3 CoC).
  •  Members exercise their judicial function independently on the basis of their own assessment of the facts and understanding of the law, without regard to any extraneous influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interference. They neither seek nor follow any instructions and do not accept gifts or favours of any kind which call into question their independence (Article 4 CoC).
  •  Members perform their duties impartially without favour, bias or prejudice and conduct themselves in a manner which maintains the confidence of the public and the parties in their impartiality. They treat all persons who appear before them equally and are aware of and respect diversity in society (Article 5 CoC).
  • Members are loyal to the rule of law and exercise the powers entrusted to them within the limits of the EPC. They perform all judicial duties diligently, fairly, efficiently and without undue delay and treat parties, representatives, witnesses and others with dignity and respect while endeavouring to maintain order and decorum in all proceedings (Article 6 CoC).
  • Members preserve the secrecy of deliberations and exercise the utmost discretion with regard to all information acquired in relation to their judicial function (Article 7).

In addition to these and other standards for the members' performance of their judicial tasks, the Code of Conduct also governs their involvement in any external activities, such as teaching or scientific work, and duties of members after ceasing to hold office (Articles 8 and 11 CoC).

The President of the Boards of Appeal is responsible for ensuring the proper application of the Code of Conduct and will be assisted in this by an Advisory Committee composed of members (Article 9 CoC).

 

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