Strasbourg 22 September 2005

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 11

EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR THE EFFICIENCY OF JUSTICE

(CEPEJ)

TASK FORCE ON TIMEFRAMES OF PROCEEDINGS

(CEPEJ-TF-DEL)

2nd meeting, 14-16 September 2005

MEETING REPORT

At its 2nd meeting, the CEPEJ-TF-DEL:

(i) initiated the drafting of a Compendium of Best Practices designed to implement the Framework Programme of the CEPEJ for optimum and foreseeable timeframes for judicial proceedings;

(ii) prepared a checklist of indicators on time management in courts;

(iii) launched two studies on a) the situation of judicial timeframes in ECHR case-law, and b) time management in Nordic courts;

(iv) defined the arrangements for effective participation by the Network of pilot courts in the work of the Task Force;

(v) decided to study a typology of cases and the corresponding timeframes of proceedings;

(vi) decided to articulate its work with the other competent bodies in the Council of Europe working on timeframes of proceedings.


1.       The Task Force on Timeframes of Proceedings (CEPEJ-TF-DEL) of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) held its 2nd meeting in Strasbourg from 14 to 16 September 2005.  The Task Force meeting was chaired by Mr Alan UZELAC (Croatia).

2.      The agenda and list of participants appear in Appendices I and II to this Report.

3.      The Chair of the Task Force welcomed Ms Janny KRANENBURG (Netherlands) and Mr Gabor NAGY (Hungary), two new members replacing Mr Ion POPA (Romania) and Mr Mario REMUS (Italy), who had been appointed to other positions.  The Task Force also welcomed Mr Klaus DECKER, who was representing the World Bank and had already actively participated in the work of the CEPEJ, including the development of the Scheme for evaluating European judicial systems.

         I.      Information from the Secretariat

4.      The Secretariat informed the Task Force that at the 936th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies (7 September 2005) the CEPEJ Chair, Mr Eberhard DESCH (Germany), had presented the CEPEJ 2004 Activity Report.  The Ministers' Deputies had approved this Report and the draft revised Scheme for evaluating European judicial systems, and had reiterated their support for the work of the CEPEJ.

               II.    Study of the situation of judicial timeframes in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights

5.      The CEPEJ-TF-DEL welcomed Ms Françoise CALVEZ, Judge, Director of the European Law Observatory at the French Court of Cassation, and thanked her for accepting the task of scientific expert responsible for preparing a report analysing the situation of judicial timeframes in the member States of the Council of Europe, drawing on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

6.      The Secretariat had previously supplied Ms Calvez with the Court’s case-law and other relevant documents (judgments, decisions on admissibility and Committee of Ministers resolutions).

7.      Having agreed on her terms of reference with the CEPEJ Secretariat, drawing on the information provided by the Chair of the Task Force, and following a preliminary study of relevant Court judgments, Ms CALVEZ presented some of the aspects she would be dealing with in her report:

·   the criteria used by the Court to assess whether or not a reasonable timeframe had been respected (complexity of the case and the conduct of the applicant and the competent authorities);

·   the criteria used by the Court to evaluate timeframes in criminal, civil and administrative cases;

·   the  jurisdiction ratione temporis of the Court.

8.      The first stage would thus be to conduct a methodical State-by-State study of Court judgments in order to pinpoint the types of delays and their causes; this study would be accompanied by a summary of the work conducted by the Committee of Ministers and other relevant Council of Europe bodies.  In a second stage, adopting a transboundary approach, this analysis would serve to highlight various types of delays and causes common to several countries.  Study of the Court’s recommendations to States, decisions on non-admissibility or non-violation and the relevant Committee of Ministers Resolutions, should also help highlight good practices.

9.      An interim report would be submitted on 20 November for consideration at the  6th plenary meeting of the CEPEJ (7 - 9 December 2005); the Secretariat might organise a visit to the Court and the Directorate General of Human Rights, during which Ms CALVEZ might use the Documentation Centre and meet with the relevant staff members, depending on the progress of the work.

10.    The CEPEJ-TF-DEL recalled that its aim was to secure an accurate analysis of the human and material causes for delays and a list of optimum standards capable of facilitating implementation of the Framework Programme for “optimum and foreseeable timeframes”.  It also stressed the fact that the report had to set out any suggestions from the Court for reducing or preventing delays.

11.     The Task Force thanked the expert for the work which she had already carried out, and strongly stressed the usefulness of the study for its activities.

         III.   Launch of the study on “Time management in Nordic courts”

12.     Mr Jon JOHNSEN (Norway) presented the study which he would be supervising on “Time management in Nordic courts”. The study would be conducted by the Finnish National Research Institute for Legal Policies and funded by the Finnish Ministry of Justice.  The project was intended to summarise all the existing studies and reports on the issue of judicial timeframes in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, many of which had never been translated.  The aim of the work was to secure a description of the systems for managing judicial timeframes in these States, to pinpoint suggestions for improving the systems and to secure a specific analysis of the studies conducted in the past to prevent unnecessary delays in proceedings.

13.     It was decided to invite the Director of Research (Dr Marjukka LITMALA) and/or the official responsible for research (Ms Mirka SMOLEJ), as well as the CEPEJ representative in respect of Finland, to attend the subsequent meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL in order to inform the Task Force of the content of and progress in the work.  The final report should be completed by February 2006.

14.    The Task Force considered that this study would be extremely useful for the work of the CEPEJ, and thanked all those involved in launching and running the project.  It agreed that it would be useful to provide for appropriate publication of the report, possibly posting it on the CEPEJ website, with the particular aim of motivating other member States to conduct similar studies.

         IV.   Preparation of a Compendium of Best Practices

15.     As decided at its first meeting, the Task Force began preparing a compilation of best practices based on the experience of pilot courts and on other available information (including comments by the member States on the Framework Programme).  The structure of the compilation would be based on the lines of action set out in the Framework Programme on timeframes.

16.    Each line of action should be fleshed out with general strategies for its implementation, as well as practices that had already been tried out in various States, which could serve as models for other States affected by problems of delays in judicial proceedings.

17.     The consolidated papers prepared by the Secretariat (CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 4 and CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 9) might be used as reference documents for this work.  If necessary the Secretariat could add any new information coming in from the pilot courts or deriving from the current work of the Venice Commission or the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to these documents.

18.    In order to carry out this assignment, the lines of action were apportioned among the members of the Task Force (see apportionment of tasks in Appendix III).  It was agreed that the experts would identify those aspects of the existing material which could usefully be included in the future Compendium, and would also elaborate the presentation of the whole content.  An expert was appointed to deal with each line of action, accompanied, where necessary, by one or more “resource persons” (mentioned in brackets in Appendix III).  The experts would work in close cooperation with the Secretariat, which would ensure the overall coherency of the Compendium and provide experts with the requisite assistance in organising contacts with the pilot courts.  Their initial findings would be presented at the subsequent meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL.

         V.     Facility for measuring judicial timeframes

         a.      Draft checklist of indicators concerning measurement of timeframes of proceedings

19.    The CEPEJ-TF-DEL considered the draft checklist of indicators for the measurement of judicial timeframes as prepared by Mr Alan UZELAC, and decided to use it to draw up a “time management checklist” for courts in member States.  It would comprise a number of elements to be checked by courts with a view to securing precise information on the use of time during judicial proceedings and therefore the reasons for any delays.

20.    The experts decided to:

·   state on the first page that this was a document for optional internal use by courts rather than a new evaluation tool for the CEPEJ;

·   draw a clearer distinction between criminal and civil proceedings;

·   add indicators to differentiate clearly between periods of activity and inactivity;

·   ensure that the questions asked were relevant to all the judicial systems covered;

·   e-mail all their proposed amendments to the Secretariat (cepej@coe.int, copy to auzelac@pravo.hr) by 1 October 2005 so that a revised document could be made available for the subsequent meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL.

         b.     Establishment of a typology of cases and the corresponding judicial timeframes

21.     The Task Force held an exchange of views on the advisability and feasibility of establishing a typology of cases and the corresponding judicial timeframes to serve as a tool for judicial time management in courts.

22.    For the time being, it instructed the Secretariat to consult the relevant CEPEJ members and prepare a summary of the existing typologies in certain States (eg Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and certain Nordic countries).  This summary would be evaluated at the subsequent meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL.

         VI.   Cooperation with the network of pilot courts

23.    The Network of Pilot Courts currently comprised 36 courts representing 28 member States; 22 of them had answered the questionnaire on judicial timeframes.  The CEPEJ-TF-DEL expressed its satisfaction that so many courts had answered the invitation by the CEPEJ, and voiced the hope that they could be associated in an appropriate capacity with its work as soon as possible.

24.    It was proposed to send all the pilot courts the summary prepared by the Secretariat on the situation of timeframes of proceedings (Document CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 4 rev) so that they could check the data and comment as desired on the whole document.

25.    It was also decided to contact the States that had not yet designated pilot courts to encourage them to do so.

26.    Furthermore, with a view to optimum network efficiency, the Task Force expressed the wish that CEPEJ members organise meetings with representatives of the pilot courts in their countries.

27.    Subject to available funds, a Conference of all the representatives of these pilot courts might be organised in spring 2006.

28.    At the suggestion of one expert, the Secretariat would, in the interests of greater consistency, draw up a recapitulatory list of all the pilot courts classified by judicial level and court type rather than by State.

VII.  Coordination of the work of the Task Force with current work by other competent Council of Europe bodies

29.    The CEPEJ-TF-DEL held an exchange of views with two representatives of Directorate General II – Human Rights, namely Mr Fredrik SUNDBERG and Mr Alfonso de SALAS.

30.    Mr Fredrik SUNDBERG explained that the Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was responsible for considering general measures to prevent the recurrence of violations noted in individual States.  Synergies might be developed between this activity and the work of the CEPEJ, particularly in connection with judicial timeframes.

31.     It was stressed that the results obtained by the CEPEJ might be useful for the execution of ECHR judgments on excessive length of judicial proceedings.  For instance, the work of the CEPEJ might help provide responses to the questions put during supervision of the execution of the relevant judgments:

i)    identifying the causes of any delays noted: the CEPEJ could encourage national authorities to establish or reinforce mechanisms for observation and analysis (including statistical analysis) of the functioning of their judicial systems;

ii)   defining solutions to the problems pinpointed: monitoring the implementation of the CEPEJ Framework Programme, which could be enriched by the specific experience of the Department for the Execution of Judgments;

iii) assessing the impact of the measures adopted by States to reduce the length of proceedings: the CEPEJ could help develop homogeneous evaluation reports compatible with those of the ECHR to appraise the reasonability of judicial timeframes.

32.    It was also pointed out that general measures adopted by member States under the supervision of the Committee of Ministers might be of interest to the CEPEJ for its work on promoting optimum and foreseeable timeframes, eg in connection with:

i) the organisation of the judicial system: increasing human or financial resources, opening new courts, reorganising the territorial division of courts, concluding contracts of agreed objectives, and adopting administrative measures on court management;

ii) procedural reforms: rules governing the running of proceedings, enforcement of judgments, the powers of specific courts and expediting current proceedings;

iii) pecuniary compensation for excessive length of proceedings;

iv) in connection with special measures to cope with serious structural problems: creating specialised courts to deal with cases that had been pending for a very long time or adopting ad hoc measures geared to exceptionally striking certain cases pending off the list.

33.    Mr Alfonso de SALAS, Secretary of the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), and Ms Gioia SCAPUCCI explained that the CDDH had more general responsibilities geared to reducing the Court’s workload by means of upstream action to improve the implementation of the Convention and downstream action to ensure more efficient enforcement of decisions.

34.    In addition to Protocol No. 14 to the ECHR, the Committee of Ministers had adopted five recommendations to member States, including Recommendation Rec(2004)6 on the improvement of domestic remedies.  The CDDH and its Committee of Experts for the Improvement of procedures for the Protection of Human Rights (DH-PR), which would be dealing with remedies and mechanisms provided for litigants facing problems of unduly protracted proceedings, were responsible for monitoring the implementation of this Recommendation.  The activity report should be submitted to the Committee of Ministers in April 2006.

35.    Both the interpretation under national legislation of the concept of excessive length of proceedings and the implementation of Article 6 of the Convention in civil cases necessitated proper coordination and effective working co-operation between the DH-PR and the CEPEJ-TF-DEL.

36.    The participants decided to continue appropriate information exchange through the Secretariat, in particular  so that member States would not receive contradictory messages on these issues.

37.    The CEPEJ-TF-DEL also welcomed the representatives of the Secretariat of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission).  Ms Simona GRANATA and Ms Dubravka BOJIC presented the draft report on "national remedies in respect of length of proceedings", which had been launched by the Venice Commission and which used a questionnaire to analyse the situation in the various States in terms of such remedies, their effectiveness and the prospective means of improving the running of proceedings.  It was stressed that national mechanisms for appropriate reparation in cases of violation of the reasonable timeframe requirement were confined to pecuniary compensation and subsequent just satisfaction in cases of proven violation of the aforementioned time requirement; they did not remedy the dysfunction in the system or pinpoint any solution to the problem of judicial timeframes.

38.    The members of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL and the Secretariat of the Venice Commission noted the complementarity between their approaches to the problem of judicial timeframes, and decided to work in close cooperation and engage in regular information exchange.


         VIII.                  Other business

39.    The members of the Task Force suggested posting a substantive file on timeframes of proceedings on the CEPEJ website as soon as possible, thus making it a genuine reference site for this whole judicial problem.  The Secretariat was asked in due course to classify the documents in its possession in accordance with the lines of action in the framework programme.

40.    The third meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL would take place in Strasbourg from 7 to 9 November 2005.


APPENDIX I

AGENDA

1.         Adoption of the agenda

2.         Information by the Secretariat

3.         Study of the situation of judicial timeframes in the ECHR case-law /

Working document

Terms of reference of the scientific expert

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 8

4.        Launching of the study: « Time management in Nordic courts » /

Working document

Research proposal: “Time management in Nordic court” (English only)

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 7

5.        Preparation of a Compendium of best practices

§    Analysis of the comments from the Pilot Courts

§    Organisation of the work of the experts and working timetable

Working documents

Compendium of the replies of the Pilot-courts on the situation of the timeframes of proceedings

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 5

Synthesis of the replies of the Pilot-courts on the situation of the timeframes of proceedings

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 4

(English only)

Comments received from Member States  on the Framework Programme

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005)1 Rev2

Synthesis of the comments received from Member States  on the Framework Programme

(English only)

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 9

6.      Tool for measuring judicial timeframes

§    Draft check list of indicators concerning the measuring of timeframes of proceedings

Working document

Draft check list of indicators

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 6

(English only)

§    Establishment of a typology of cases and the subsequent judicial timeframes/

7.         Cooperation with the Network of the pilot courts

Working document

Composition of the Network of Pilot-courts

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 3 Rev 3

(English only)

8.      Coordination of the work of the Task Force with the on-going work of other relevant bodies within the Council of Europe

§    Exchange of views with representatives of the Directorate General II - Human Rights

Information document

Improvement of domestic remedies – Follow-up to the implementation of the Recommendation Rec(2004)6

DH-PR (2004) 12

§    Exchange of views with the Secretariat of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission)

Information document

Preliminary draft report on national remedies in respect of excessive length of proceedings

CDL (2005) 013

(English only)

9.        Organisation of the future work of the Task Force

           

10.      Other business

Information documents

Framework Programme: “A new objective for judicial systems:

the processing of each case within an optimum and foreseeable timeframe”

CEPEJ (2004) 19 Rev

Report on European judicial systems 2002

CEPEJ (2004) 30 Final

Revised Scheme for evaluating judicial systems

CEPEJ (2005) 2 Rev

Explanatory Note to the Revised Scheme for evaluating judicial systems

CEPEJ (2005) 3 Rev

Report of the 5th plenary meeting

CEPEJ (2005) 6

Report of the 1st meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 2

Programme of activities for 2005 adopted by the CEPEJ

CEPEJ (2004) 27 Rev 3

Célérité et qualité de la justice – la gestion du temps dans le procès – Rapport au Garde de Sceaux du 15 juin 2004 (France)

(Français seulement)


APPENDIX II

List of participants

Jon T. JOHNSEN, Professor in Law, Dean of the Faculty of law, University of Oslo,  NORWAY

Janny C. KRANENBURG, Vice-President, Court of Appeal of s’Hertogenbosch, THE NETHERLAND

Gabor NAGY, Conseiller Référendaire, Directeur du Bureau des Droits de l’Homme à la Cour Suprême,  HONGRIE

Alan UZELAC, Ph.D. Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb, CROATIA (Chair of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL/Président de la CEPEJ-TF-DEL)

Michael VRONTAKIS, Vice-Président du Conseil d’Etat, GRECE

Jana WURSTOVA, Head, International Department, Czech Bar Association, CZECH REPUBLIC

John STACEY, Head of Civil and Family Procedures Branch, Customer Services Directorate, The Court Service HQ, UNITED KINGDOM

SCIENTIFIC EXPERT

Françoise CALVEZ, Magistrat, Directrice de l’Observatoire du droit européen,  Cour de Cassation, FRANCE

OBSERVERS

Klaus DECKER, Counsel, Justice Reform Practice Group, World Bank

SECRETARIAT

Directorate General I - Legal Affairs

Stéphane LEYENBERGER, Secretary of the CEPEJ/ Secrétaire de la CEPEJ,  Tel : +33 3 88 41 28 41, e-mail: stephane.leyenberger@coe.int

Muriel DECOT, Co-Secretary of the CEPEJ/ Co-Secrétaire de la CEPEJ, Tel : +33 3  90 21 44 55,  e-mail : muriel.decot@coe.int

Jean-Pierre GEILLER, Administrative assistant / Assistant administratif, Tel : +33 3 88 41 22 27, e-mail : jean-pierre.geiller@coe.int

Marie MORGAN-WELS, Assistant / Assistante, Tel. +33 3 90 21 5059, Fax : +33 3 88 41 37 45, e-mail: marie.morgan@coe.int

Interpreters

Mr Philippe QUAINE

Mr Christopher TYCZKA

Mr Nicolas GUITTONNEAU


APPENDIX III

Preparation of a compendium of best practices for the implementation of the CEPEJ Framework-programme on timeframes of judicial proceedings

Repartition of tasks

Experts of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL agreed to take the responsibility of studying, selecting and detailing good practices aimed to translate some Lines of Action of the Framework-Programme into concrete measures, with a view to preparing a Compendium of good practices.

The experts will base in particular their work on the information provided for by the Network of Pilot-courts[1] as well as the comments made by the Member States on the Framework Programme[2]. They will work in close contact with the Pilot Courts to study in depth the relevant practices and complement the available information. Other sources might also be used. 

The CEPEJ Secretariat will ensure the coordination and the overall coherence of the work and provide the experts with the appropriate assistance to organise the necessary contacts with the Pilot courts.

On the basis of the Framework Programme[3], tasks will be divided between the TF-DEL experts as follows (names in brackets are indicated as resource persons for the leading expert): 

Line of Action 1: Acting on resources 

K. Decker

Line of Action 3: Improving the foreseeability of the timeframes - Ensuring the transparency on timeframes for the users 

          a. Performance indicators and targets

b. Obligation of information

c. Evaluation and monitoring of judicial timeframes

J. Kranenburg (A. Uzelac)

Line of Action 4: Defining and monitoring standards for an optimum timeframes for each type of case - Reducing queuing times

A. Uzelac (J. Johnsen (establishment of norms on timeframes))

Line of Action 5: Developing information and communication strategies

a. Specific surveys

b. Direct contacts with court users

c. Specific projects

A. Uzelac


Line of Action 7: Allowing adjustment of timeframes 

A. Uzelac (J. Wurstova: role of lawyers)

           

Line of Action 8: Acting on the number of cases dealt with by the court by ensuring an appropriate use of appeals applications 

M. Vrontakis (J. Kranenburg)

Line of Action 9: Acting on quality of proceedings

          a. Legislative tools (legal procedures)

b. Specific judges

c. Systematisation of court decisions and use of IT tools

d. Transparency and information

e.   Implementation of comprehensive projects for improving court efficiency

M. Vrontakis (J. Johnsen) (A. Uzelac) (J. Wurstova: lawyers)

Line of Action 10: Selecting cases according to their complexity – Defining priorities in case management

a. Criteria for selecting cases

b. Flexibility in court administration

c. Use of IT Tools

J. Kranenburg

Line of Action 11: Organising trials to reduce waiting time, while paying special attention to victims and witnesses

         a. Queuing time

b. Witnesses and victims

J. Johnsen

Line of Action 12: Setting up a procedure to revive a pending case

A. Uzelac (practice) - M. Vrontakis (legislation)

Line of Action 13: Organisation of the transmission of a case from a non competent court to the competent court - Making the rules on territorial jurisdiction of first instance courts more flexible

K. Decker

Line of Action 14: Involving the relevant categories in the administration of the courts

G. Nagy

Line of Action 15: Developing the training of judges and prosecutors and, more generally, all the professions concerned

G. Nagy (J. Wurstova)

Line of Action 16: Setting up "contracts of objective" between courts and lawyers - Organising the relationships with lawyers

J. Wurstova (A. Uzelac)

Line of Action 17: Enhancing the responsibility of judicial experts as regards judicial timeframes - Improving the monitoring of compliance with the time-limits by judicial experts

K. Decker

Line of Action 18: Involving judicial professions in the efforts towards optimum and foreseeable timeframes

Observers with the CEPEJ (EUR – UIHJ)



[1] See updated versions of CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 4 and CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 5.

[2] See updated versions of CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 1  and CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 9.

[3] CEPEJ (2004) 19 Rev 2