Sean\’s Sicily

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The Magistrate’s Exam – an Italian Comedy

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A friend of ours, a graduate in Law, went to Milan last week for the magistrate selection board.  A full week of exams and bureaocracy, a long way from home.

For those unfamiliar with the Italian (and indeed, French and Spanish) system, the magistrates are a mix of prosecution, investigator, and judge.  A magistrate has a lot of power in Italy, to authorise search, survellience, wiretaps, arrests, confiscation of property, etc. The magistrate guides and controls investigations, interrogates witnesses and suspects, and prosecutes the case in court.

Magistrates also act as judge and jury (Italy by and large has non-jury trials), although there are procedures in place to prevent conflicts of interest.  All this power is kept in check by a governing council which tries to stop magistrates abusing their power, although if you listened to Burlesconi, all the magistrates are raging Commies out to get all honest people, and him in particular.

You can always tell a magistrate in Italy, because they are invariably accompanied by armed bodyguards, fast cars and loud sirens.  A standing joke in Palermo used to be that Judge Falcone caused most of the traffic jams with his 3-car convoy racing around.  That joke fell flat when he (along with his wife and several bodyguards) were killed by a massive IED installed in a drain under the 4-lane motorway at Capaci.  (Unanswered even after 15 years is ‘how did Brusca, “lo scannacristiani“, know Falcone was coming to Palermo, unannounced and in a private jet, on that particular day, at that particular time?)

It got even less funnier when Borsellino met the same fate a few months after, along with his entire escort.

Anyway, by now it should be clear that any young Sicilian wanting to be a magistrate is probably, counciously or not, trying to emulate these great Sicilian heroes and bring a little honesty to this corner of the world.  But first, they have to get selected.

And that’s not easy – 500 posts nationwide, and 5,600 applicants.  Obviously, you have to be very, very good, to get selected.  A lot of stress, and a lot of study.

Obviously it’s impossible to remember the entire Codice Civile, so students can bring a plain copy of the Civil Code into the exam, and maybe an Italian dictionary.  You have to be able to demonstrate understanding of the code, of precedent, all that good stuff that goes into turning dry legalase into everyday judicial decisions.


Before we get to “or”, let’s put some light on a few irregularities…

This year, the exam venue was changed from Rome, where it has always been held, to Milan.  Probably because Bossi, the leader of the right-wing Northern League (despite a corruption conviction) wants more business for the north.

The second irregularity, is that the guy responsible for the selection process, Antonio Gialanella, resigned from the post a week before the selection.  Why?  As one applicant quipped, maybe his phone was broke from all the phone calls.  One can imagine a situation similar to that of Messina – “If the son of ‘so-and-so’ doesn’t pass, we’ll chop your fucking legs off”.

Andiamo avanti, as they say here, to the start of selection week.  The students have to go and get their books checked for illegal markings etc.  Banned are expanded copies of the Code, which are sort of “dummies guides” to the law, and explain a lot of things.  Obviously book with lots of scribbles or inserts are banned.  Basically, only the basic, plain, unexplained and un-commented Civil Code is allowed.  Each book gets a stamp to show that it has been checked.  On average, 10 minutes per book, as the checker leafs through looking for anything dodgy.

And thus to the exams.  And the first day, 25 appllicants expelled.  It’s not quite clear if those expelled were cheating, or in fact where honest students complaining about cheating going on unchecked.

What’s that? I hear you ask…

Yep.  Students who complained about cheating were threathened with expulsion for interrupting a civil service exam.  The cheaters were left unmolested.  At most, the offending items were taken from the cheating student, who then continued the exam.

And what were the offending items?  Palm Treos with the Codice Civile?  Whisphered conversations into bluetooth headsets?  Scribbled answers on forearms?

Please, this is Italy.  Things are far more sophisticated here.

The offending items were fully annotated copies of the Civil Code, duly marked with the official “this book has been checked and is ok to use in the exam” stamps.  That’s right, someone had marked these annotated, scribbled on highly illegal books as perfectly ok to use in the exam.  How they got that stamp on these illegal books, remains to be answered.

Actually, it’s easily answered, but this is Italy and if I said what I thought, I’d be sued.

Check the video.  At min 2:30 and on, you’ll see people coming out of the exam, walking past with armfuls of books.  I’ve seen the Civil Code, it’s about the size of a family bible (depending on how small the print is, of course).  It’s not an armful of thick books.  How the hell did they get those books into the exam?  How the hell were they able to use them without the examiners raising hell?

Fecks sake, when I took an exam on wireless communcations with OU, I had to write down the model number of my scientific calculator on the exam paper, and the examiner CHECKED IT!  When I took out my copy of a manual, the examinar came by to see what it was, and flipped through it.  THAT’s what an examiner does.

Not in Milan though!  The cheating was so blatent, this applicant has admitted that he asked his neighbour for a loan of his annotated copy. As did the applicant on the other side…

Applicants protesting were warned that they were interrupting a civil service exam and would be reported to the police if they continued!

And what did the chief invigilator Maurizio Fumo (that’s the guy incharge of the exams) say to all the applicants complaining about the cheating – faced with applicants shouting out that he was a fool and a collaborator in the cheating, what did this high-ranking magistrate have to say?

If you’re not happy, you can leave and sue us!”
No, seriously, this was his response (at 2:27 minutes in the video).
What power did that guy think was protecting him and his commission, when he could respond like that to a roomful of law students?
Basically, ‘piss off and sue me!’.

Outraged by the blatent cheating, and seeing that they had no chance of one of the 500 places, many applicants  walked out and immediately laid charges with the police themselves.

Now there’s an investigation.  The minister of Justice is banging on about introducing new laws.  The chief invigilator and all the examiners seem to have been fired (though I’m not sure if that was just the Minister saying he WILL fire them, or he HAS fired them).

Strangely though, the TV news stations are steering clear.  On Annozero this morning, they were talking about a similar problem in Messina, but when one member of the audience wanted to mention Milan, the host cut him off saying “Oh we can’t talk about that, as there’s been no judgement…”  But there’s no judgement in Messina neither, and they’re talking about that?

I’m just glad that the applicants have managed to get their story out about this whole farce.  Hopefully the selection will be annulled and held again, and all honest applicats will have an equal chance at securing on of those coveted positions in the Magistrature.  And hopefully, those honest applicants will become honest magistrates and help clean up Italy, which badly needs it.

p.s. on Annozero, one of the guests loudly asked “Why don’t the students do SOMETHING about this?  Why aren’t they protesting in the STREET?”

A student from Messina answered, and then said “And now, wait and see, now I won’t graduate because of what I’ve said here”

And the host told him to shut up.  “You’re responsible for what you just said, not us!”

In other words, Annozero likes to ask questions, it just doess’t like to get honest answers.  Won’t be watching that wanker again.

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#cheating #magistrate

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Written by seancasaidhe

November 30, 2008 at 2:10 am

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