Lecturer Andrea Chiş is a judge at Cluj Court of Appeal, civil section, as well as in the teaching staff at Babeș-Bolyai University. She has a Ph.D. since 2012 and teaches Civil Procedure and European Law of Intellectual Property. Besides her job as a judge and teacher, she has passions such as sky-diving, travelling and riding her motorcycle.
Lawyr.it: What were the greatest challenges in your career?
A.C.: It is hard to imagine a hierarchy. I believe that both professions represent a permanent challenge.
As a judge, you are constantly called to solve problems that are more or less complicated, problems that, at the end of the day, represent an essential aspect in a person’s life, which makes the decision you have to take a heavy burden. You have to be the best prepared person in the courtroom, to know the case inside-out, to anticipate the attorneys and parties defences and to be able to answer the ones that you did not expect. You have to listen to the person in front of you, keep calm in any situation and make decisions in conditions of full impartiality, regardless of your actual feelings. Moreover, as a judge, you have to face the attacks that might occur in the press and the lack of confidence towards the judiciary system. These problems appear as some colleagues are dishonest or not well prepared, and because the public opinion generalises every negative aspect of a judge’s activity.
Being a teacher is always challenging because every lecture and class is different and you need to be constantly prepared. You have to adapt your teaching methods and to be always ready to answer the most unexpected questions. Every lecture makes me experience the same emotions as in the beginning, and with every year I learn something new from my students. I always try to teach them never to trust what they hear, but what they understand and accept.
Both professions represent a permanent challenge because they do not allow you to fall into routine, because every case or lecture is unique and make you feel alive. You feel the need to prepare more and more, to know more in order to face the expectations of others as well as you possibly can.
Lawyr.it: If you had to choose again the line of studies, would you still choose Law or would you like to try something else?
A.C.: The first thought that comes to mind is, without a doubt, that I would choose the same. Twenty years after my graduation, I can tell you that I greatly enjoy my work and I would not do anything else.
I enjoy being a judge because I am being challenged on a daily basis to apply what I learned during my four years of study in Law school and I enjoy being a Civil Procedure teacher because I can pass on to my students what I have learned in my career as a judge.
Had I chosen differently, I do not know if I would have had the same satisfaction, but I can say for certain that I never regreted my decision.
Lawyr.it: What are the greatest differences between being a judge at Tribunal and being a judge at Court of Appeal? (In Romanian hierarchy, a Tribunal is higher than a County Court but lower than a Court of Appeal and Supreme Court)
A.C.: In light of the current Code of Civil Procedure and the activity of a Court of Appeal’s civil section judge (as I am), the greatest difference is that I do not have cases that are in the first instance, therefore I only judge appeals. When I get a case, a Tribunal judge already gave it a form, with all the claims and defences filed, with the facts already established, and with a solution. It is also true that an appeal judge can reconsider the facts and give a different solution. Also, as opposed to a first instance solution, a solution given after an appeal is usually definitive, which means it can no longer be appealed and is enforceable, which brings higher responsibility for the appeal judge.
I believe that every judge needs to work for a number of years at a certain court in order for him to gather the necessary experience to advance. Higher courts require greater knowledge and higher responsibility. I personally worked for five years for each the County Court and the Tribunal in Cluj-Napoca, and I have been a judge of the Cluj Court of Appeal for the past ten years.
Lawyr.it: Do you believe that being a judge implies too many limitations?
A.C.: Depends on what we think of when we say ‘limitations’.
In the social and personal life, you can say you are limited because there are certain restrictions regarding the people you are linked to or the way you can manifest in public. It is also true that the limitations you feel also depend on your way of being. I do not believe that being a decent and moral person is hard, and judges, in their vast majority, fit this description, having to pass the integrity test when joining the profession.
Some limitations are necessary for guaranteeing the appearance of impartiality. That is why you cannot be the judge of your friends’ cases, but that does not mean that you cannot have friends, as long as they respect a quality standard. In this context, I must underline that personal and professional life should not be confused, because most friends that a judge has are inevitably jurists. They can be other judges, prosecutors, lawyers and so on. For example, most of my law school colleagues are currently lawyers, and with some of them I am also a friend. This does not mean though that our relationship as friends could affect the way I judge a case, making me impartial. Does it affect the impartiality appearance? Could someone say that I would give a solution based on a friendship with one of the lawyers? The answer can be ‘yes’ only for an ignorant. I believe that building walls around us or pretending to be different than we are is not a solution, and we must educate public opinion to understand these differences.
Our salary is limited, regardless of workload, as opposed to a freelancer who graduated the same law school. On the other hand, it is also true that it is a salary that provides a lifestyle that can be called decent at least, which means buying a house, a reasonable car, support a family, afford a vacation and buy all the books needed for professional development and more.
Lawyr.it: What is your opinion on judges’ independence and impartiality at this moment?
A.C.: I believe that at a regulatory level, judges’ independence is guaranteed, and this is the most important aspect. It is true that other powers constantly try to exercise some form of control, but this is happening in other democracies as well. Romanian judges gathered the necessary experience to react against any form of attack towards their independence, especially in an organised manner, through professional associations, but also individually.
As far as impartiality goes, the Romanian judge is used to be objective towards the parties and their attorneys and to ignore the press and political pressure meant to influence the solution from a certain case.
Lawyr.it: What do you think about the evolution of law school students’ generations? How do you believe that legal education can be improved?
A.C.: I think that every generation has its own characteristics, but I do not agree with comparisons regarding the quality of students. I never said that a generation is better or worse than another, every generation that I taught was good, because every generation was receptive. We live in a century of change and we all must learn to adapt. We must constantly change our means of teaching, considering that the volume of information is greater every year, we must learn to simplify everything and see the essence.
Legal education cannot cover all the fields of law in detail, but it must offer the student a working tool, in order for him to find on his own a legal solution or the correct interpretation of the law. In law school, the student must understand the principles of law, he/she must learn to ask the right questions, to think on his/her own, to doubt, to find more alternatives to a single problem. That is because, in the future, he/she might, for example, be the attorney of a party and be asked to find the best defence and also anticipate the possible defences of the other party.
Legal education must be abstract and concrete at the same time, because it must form thinking patterns, but also offer practical solutions. I do not believe that the number of law school students should be reduced because a higher number allows a better selection pool. I also do not believe in changing the examination methods, but rather the teaching methods, because if teaching is appropriate, examination can have any form (multiple choice, oral exam, writing and so on).
I believe that every lecture of any faculty should be made accessible to any student, online, even chargeable if he/she is not a student of that faculty, because students need to have access to any information in real time, and lectures are always updated, as opposed to a book or a course book that might be outdated due to regulation changes and increasing doctrine.
Lawyr.it: What does the usual law student lack?
A.C.: Time. He has too much to study. I remember when I lived in campus that we were the ones studying all year long and being the ones stressed the most during examining periods. This lifestyle can limit you because you lose the joys that must be enjoyed at a certain age, you develop your communication skills later and building a personal life becomes difficult.
Lawyr.it: On what qualities should law students focus on for a better personal and professional development?
A.C.: Law students, as any other students, should learn to think and not memorise. As I tell my students, when learning, as well as in life, we must live in the ‘to be’ mode, and not in ‘to have’ mode. Erich Fromm says in his work ‘The art of being’ that in learning, as far as the student is concerned, ‘to be’ means to be partially prepared for the lecture, reading in advance and trying to understand as much as possible from what the teacher is saying. In this way, he will learn what he is taught. The one who is in the ‘to have’ mode, will pay attention to what the teacher is saying, trying to write everything down. In this way, his memory is in the exterior, in the notes that ‘he has’. Without them, he is not as safe as the one living in the ‘to be’ mode, who has everything internalised.
Lawyr.it: Our trademark question: what advice would you give to law students?
A.C.: I think that law students must not make the mistake of believing that law is their life. They must have a social life and a personal life. They must learn to communicate with the others, to get to know as many people as they can outside the profession, to keep open to everything they can learn from every person they meet. Law cannot be practiced without knowing life, because law is the life itself, reflecting its constant move.
This interview was originally published in the sixth issue of the magazine, which can be accessed here.