Role conflict and role ambiguity in the work of judges: the perceptions of Portuguese judges

Abstract The reform of the judiciaries of several countries have created a new role for judges, a managerial role, in which judges assume new management responsibilities. This new role is different from the traditional one which focused on judicial tasks, and has generated conflict and ambiguity in the work of judges. This study aims to identify and discuss the conflicts and ambiguities between the judicial and administrative roles performed by Portuguese judges. The research took place in Portugal over the period between 2013 and 2014, and data was collected from in-depth interviews with 12 judges. The research identifies several areas of role conflict and ambiguity in the judges’ work. The main conflicts are: incompatibility between the carrying out of judicial and management activities; high workload and insufficient and unmotivated administrative staff; the need to maintain both productivity and judicial quality; and the great responsibility of the position but poor remuneration. The main ambiguities reported are: the formal relationship between judges and administrative officials; the judge’s function in the process of court planning; the criteria for the distribution of judicial proceedings among judges; and the criteria to evaluate judges’ performance. These results are discussed and a research agenda is suggested.