Conf. Dr. Florin Streteanu is in the teaching staff of Babeș-Bolyai University, being also an associate professor at the International Faculty of Comparative Law, Strasbourg.He also has had a rich non-academic experience, being an ad-hoc Judge at the European Court for Human Rightss (2009-2012), Trainer and head of the Criminal Law Department of the National Institute of Magistracy, Bucharest, since 2007, and member of the Ministry of Justice Commission that drafted the New Criminal Code, Founder and Director of Criminal Law Writings and chief editor of the law journal Studia Universitatis Babeș-Bolyai - Serie Iurisprudentia. Being one of the most appreciated theoreticians of the moment in Criminal Law in Romania, Florin Streteanu is, since 2012, the Dean of the Faculty of Law at Babeș Bolyai University.
Lawyr.it: First of all, we would like to know who Florin Streteanu is. What made you choose a legal career?
F.S.: In comparison to other students’ decisions, who knew what they wanted since they were kids, in my case this was a late decision made at the beginning of the last year in high school. Given the fact that my studies and interests were based on mathematics, the normal next step should have been attending the Technical University or the Faculty of Mathematics. However, given the general context, based on the fact that the judicial system, deeply affected by communism, was in an urgent need for a change after the Revolution, the Faculty of Law turned out to be a challenge for every graduating student at that moment. Therefore, I decided to accept that challenge, despite the fact that, until then, I had never had any contact with the judicial world.
Lawyr.it: What was different at the Law School when you were a student as compared to nowadays?
F.S.: Firstly, there were only 65 students per year, plus the 10-15 foreign students, grouped in 4 groups of around 20 people, which lead to a stronger cohesion and closeness of the students. There was a much more personal relationship with the professors, as the seminars and courses were, very often, held by the same professors. Secondly, the examination was fairer, as most of the exams were oral. Lastly, given the political and historic context, most of the existing law books were outdated, being strongly influenced by the communist principles. Therefore, we had no written courses or books in accordance with the newly introduced legislation.
Lawyr.it: When did you discover your passion for criminal law?
F.S.: Quite early, I may say. It was at the end of the second year when I published my first article in a publication. Also, although I had some contacts with civil law, I found criminal law closer to my formation, as the thought process in criminal law required skills that are more similar to the ones developed in mathematics.
Lawyr.it: Why did you choose and academic career and decided not to work in the practice area, being a lawyer, a judge or a prosecutor?
F.S.: When I started my university studies, I thought I was going to be a judge. I had this wish even after I started an academic career, although soon I realized a career as a judge and an academic career are not fully compatible. Also, the experience gained during the few years in which I have worked as a lawyer made me realize that I could not excel both in the academic and in the practice area, so I decided to focus on the first one. Soon after that I started to have a crescent number of responsibilities in the faculty, making a hypothetic switch to another career even more difficult.
Lawyr.it: As a professor, if you were to compare nowadays students with ‘90’s students, what would you choose as major differences?
F.S.: In spite of the fact that each generation is different, there are some similarities. A positive aspect of nowadays’ students is that they are much better informed, given the plurality of books and publications that they can access, both written and via Internet. A negative aspect, though, is that they no longer feel that they belong to a community. However, I do think that this is in the nature of the progress and can be explained through the existence of a greater number of students and groups.
Lawyr.it: What are the most frequent problems that law students usually deal with after graduation?
F.S.: The most significant problem is probably the difficulty of finding a job, because nowadays there is a stringent competition in the legal field. However, in the last few years the results of the National Institute of Magistracy and Barr exams have proven that our students are well qualified, thus most of them find a job in the practice area in the first one or two years after graduation.
Lawyr.it: Very often, students are told that there are major differences between how the criminal law is taught in school and how it actually applies in court. What do you think about it?
F.S.: Theory and practice, in my opinion, should not differ too much, given that both are based on the same laws. However, there are some differences that derive from the interpretation that both academicians and judges offer to the law, but this is a repercussion of the uncertainty of the law in some cases. I also believe that the way in which the judicial system is conceived can contribute to this general impression that people talk about. For example, in school we teach students that the right of a lawyer to have access to the case file is fundamental, but in reality there are numerous procedures that have to be undergone, making the qualification of that right as fundamental utterly questionable.
Lawyr.it: You are also, currently, the Dean of the Faculty of Law. What do you see as the most relevant problems that the faculty is dealing with in everyday life?
F.S.: There are many issues that I could talk about, but the most important concern the infrastructure, the insufficiency of didactic personnel and the diminished visibility in the international legal area. Everybody can certify that currently, because of the large number of students, the lecture theatres are very often too crowded and the small library cannot supply the demand for both books and places to study. A major consequence is the fact that professors have to cover more classes that they should have, being forced to diminish their research. Also, although academically our articles and studies are widely appreciated at a national level, there is still an insufficient degree of visibility outside the Romanian borders. One way of improving that would be to try to study and write more on the currently discussed themes in the legal field or to become part of international mixed research and studies groups.
Lawyr.it: We have just found out that the faculty council has just decided to introduce two important exams, representing a drastic change for students. Could you tell us more about it?
F.S.: Practically, there will be two different exams. The first one regards the admission to college and consists in a written exam aimed at evaluating the logical skills of potential students. The test will be similar to the one passed by the National Institute of Magistracy. We have chosen this type of exam firstly because in the legal area it is absolutely necessary to have good logical skills, in every single branch, and secondly because we do not want to force students to buy various books or to pay teachers to prepare them, as previous experiences shown it would be probable to happen.
The second exam is for those that finish all four years and conditions the graduation. The exam was imposed by the Minister a year ago, and will consist, starting this year, in a written exam with multiple choice questions from civil and criminal law. The exam will have a 50% influence on the final degree of the student, alongside with the grade obtained by submitting a final work paper on a theme chosen by the student.
Lawyr.it: Recently the Parliament adopted the New Criminal Code, which is due to become applicable in 2013. Being part of the commission charged to conceive the new law, how was the experience of having to collaborate with theoreticians with various perspectives?
F.S.: Team work is always a mutually beneficial and valorizing experience for academicians, as it is based on a continuous exchange of ideas and challenging debates. Obviously, there are compromises that you must assume, given the fact that decisions concerning different legislative choices are rarely made unanimously, but I do believe this is something necessary for the achievement of a result, which in this particular case, though perfectible, is rather satisfactory.
Lawyr.it: What major perspective changes come along with the New Criminal Code?
F.S.: The most important innovation can be observed regarding the punishments. Firstly, there was an inclination to reduce the punishment for the crimes against the property and goods of the citizens, concomitant with an aggravation of the sanctioning treatment for concurrence of offences or recidivism. Also, there are important changes both in the regime applicable to minors and in the supervision of criminals’ behavior in case of suspension of their sentence or when they are released on parole.
Lawyr.it: When should we expect a new book written by you?
F.S.: Provided that the New Criminal Code will start to be applicable next year, I hope to rewrite the first volume of the Criminal Law Treaty according to the new legislation and to write the second volume. Also, I intend to write another book regarding the legal problems posed by the incidence in time of the two codes. Hopefully, these books will be published by the end of next year.
Lawyr.it: Lastly, what advice would you offer to your students?
F.S.: I could give many advices, but I think the most important, from my experience, is to live and enjoy the beauty of being at college as much as they can, at every level, both professionally and personally, and take advantage of every opportunity they get.
This interview was published in the first issue of the magazine, which can be accessed here.