Interview with Ulrich Meyer, President of the Federal Supreme Court
Mr Meyer, are the Federal Supreme Court’s decisions always just?
The Federal Supreme Court cannot adjudicate based simply on the individual judges' personal views of how justice should be done. The court is bound by the applicable law. So, can a lawful judgment be unjust? Theoretically it can’t be. Nevertheless, the proposed solution would certainly have to be reconsidered if one’s sense of justice were to be troubled. Personally, I have never had to go against my own sense of justice, not even in cases in which I was in the minority.
What constitutes a good Supreme Court judge?
The first requirement is a love for the law, that is to say a sense of joy in our profession. Of course, a Supreme Court judge must also have an excellent legal mind as well as experience. Furthermore, a judge should be willing to listen and to consider other points of view, and also be prepared to question his or her own position.
What happens if Supreme Court judges do not agree on the solution to a case?
Then a public hearing is held: the judges concerned meet in the courtroom and discuss the various proposals. At the end, a decision is taken in the presence of the public. There is no secrecy in hearings. This reflects the democratic principle of transparency, which is characteristic of Switzerland, even in Supreme Court decision-making.
«It is in the nature of things that Federal Supreme Court decisions please some people and displease others.
How does the Federal Supreme Court deal with criticism of its judgments?
Very serenely. Judgments are the subject of public debate. It is in the nature of things that Federal Supreme Court decisions please some people, and displease others. You have to be able to deal with this.
Has the work of Supreme Court judges changed over time?
Judicial activity, as such, has not changed: reading, deliberating and writing are the means and forms of judicial decision-making. Having said that, IT has greatly influenced the way we actually do our work. Today, we do most of our legal work at the computer.
Can I also send an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court by email?
It’s not possible to just send a normal email or fax. However, electronic transmission is possible, provided that the appeal bears a recognised electronic signature and is filed within the prescribed deadline via a delivery platform that is accepted by the Federal Supreme Court. In collaboration with the cantons, the Federal Supreme Court is working intensively on implementing the electronic transmission of legal documents throughout Switzerland.