Strasbourg, 2 May 2006

CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2006) 2

EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR THE EFFICIENCY OF JUSTICE

(CEPEJ)

TASK FORCE ON TIMEFRAMES OF PROCEEDINGS

(CEPEJ-TF-DEL)

4th meeting

Bucharest, 3 - 4 April 2006

MEETING REPORT

At its 4th meeting, the CEPEJ-TF-DEL:

(i)   discussed the draft report on the situation of judicial timeframes in ECHR case law and indicated guidelines to the scientific expert in view of the finalisation of the report at their next meeting;

(ii)  discussed the draft report on "Time management in Nordic court" and indicated guidelines to the scientific expert in view of the finalisation of the report at their next meeting;

(iii)discussed preliminary proposals from the scientific expert in view of drafting a Compendium of best practices for the implementation of the CEPEJ Framework Programme, to be adopted before the end of the year.


1.    The Task Force on Timeframes of Proceedings (CEPEJ-TF-DEL) of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) held its 4th meeting in Bucharest, Ministry of Justice, on 3 - 4 April 2006.  The Task Force meeting was chaired by Mr Alan UZELAC (Croatia).

2.    The meeting took place after the Conference on "Remedies for unduly lengthy proceedings: a new approach to the obligations of Council of Europe member states" (see paragraphs 4 to 6 below) and before the first meeting of the CEPEJ Network of Pilot courts, organised in cooperation with the Romanian Ministry of Justice and the High Council of the Magistracy, within the framework of the Romanian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

3.    The agenda and list of participants appear in Appendices I and II to this report.

Conference on "Remedies for unduly lengthy proceedings: a new approach to the

obligations of Council of Europe member states" (Bucharest, 3 April)

4.    Before its meeting, the Task Force attended the Conference organised by the Venice Commission within the framework of the Romanian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Conference gave an opportunity to present an analysis of the assessment and the perspectives as regards remedies for lengthy proceedings at the level of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers, the activities of the CEPEJ as well as at the level of the legislation and judicial practice in Romania.

5.    The President of the CEPEJ, Mr Eberhard DESCH and the Chairman of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL, Mr Alan UZELAC, introduced the ongoing work of the CEPEJ for the concrete implementation of the Framework Programme on judicial timeframes.

6.    The discussion addressed in particular the Court judgment of Scordino v. Italy (29 March 2006) where the Framework Programme of the CEPEJ had been referred to among the relevant provisions considered by the Court for its Grand Chamber decision[1]. Judge Françoise TULKENS underlined namely the complementarity between the CEPEJ, working a priori to prevent violations of Article 6 of the Convention and the Court, acting a posteriori to sanction the violations.

I.              Information by the Secretariat

7.    On behalf of the Director General of Legal Affairs, the Secretariat thanked the Romanian Minister of Justice for hosting the meeting. The member of the CEPEHJ in respect of Romania, Mr Cristi DANILET, confirmed the strong support of his authorities on the work of the CEPEJ and indicated the specific interest of this work within the framework of the reforms of the civil and criminal procedure in Romania.

8.    The Secretariat informed the Task Force that the Secretariats of the CEPEJ and the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) had been re-grouped within the Division of the judiciary and programmes to facilitate appropriate synergies between both instances, in the respect of their own missions and specificities.

9.    The representatives of the European Union of Rechtspfleger (EUR) thanked the CEPEJ-TF-DEL for having agreed on their participation as observer in the meeting of the Task Force and stressed that the implementation of the Framework Programme on judicial timeframes concerned all judicial practitioners, including court clerks.

10.  The Secretariat presented to the Task Force the publication (5.000 copies) of the "Time management checklist" to be widely disseminated. He invited the Task Force members to submit to the Secretariat relevant mailing lists and e-mailing lists at national level to ensure that the main stakeholders receive the document.

Member states should be encouraged to translate the document. Translations would be made available on the CEPEJ Web site.

The representatives of the EUR indicated their readiness to disseminate the Checklist among their members and the Schools for court clerks.

II.            Study of the situation with regard to judicial timeframes in ECHR case-law

11.  The CEPEJ-TF-DEL commended on the work prepared by the scientific expert, Ms Françoise CALVEZ, and thanked her warmly for the excellent draft report on the situation with regard to judicial timeframes in Council of Europe member states based on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. 

12.  Ms CALVEZ indicated that the European Court of Human Rights does not give figures as regards timeframes of proceedings, but pays particular attention to the proceedings lasting for more than two years. However she underlined that the Court is more demanding for priority cases according to the issues at stake for the parties. Generally speaking, the Court focused more on inertia within the proceedings than on specific durations.

13.  She noticed that the cases addressed by the Court are pathological cases as regards length of proceedings and does not always reflect the volume and the nature of cases at national level: for instance, divorce cases are under-represented when some criminal cases (i.a frauds) are over-represented.

14.  The final version would have to be updated to take into account recent case-law, and in particular the judgment of Scordino v. Italy.

15.  It was agreed that in the final version of the report would have to present categories of cases, and in particular the cases considered as priorities and the most regular cases where violations of reasonable timeframe of proceedings are detected. If possible, typology of cases could be presented in tables (for instance labour cases, civil liability cases, drug trafficking, etc.). It was also proposed that the Report highlights cases where no violations of Article 6 have been found due to the elements given by the governments.

16.  The report could also present trends regarding total durations of proceedings as well as durations of first instance, appeal proceedings and possibly other proceedings.

17.  The balance between rapidity and fairness of cases could be considered within the framework of the study.

18.  Finally, the experts agreed that the Report should contain an executive summary, summarising the main findings, in order to make it more usable for practical purposes.

19.  It was agreed that once adopted, the Report should be, on the one hand, published as such – it was suggested to create a series: "the publications of the CEPEJ" – and, on the other hand, used by the CEPEJ-TF-DEL as a tool for developing concrete measures for implementing its Framework Programme, in particular to highlight measures enabling to avoid recurrent mistakes leading to delays in the proceedings. The findings of the study could be compared with the Framework Programme to assess whether the cases addressed by the Court are compatible with the Lines of Action of the Programme.

20.  It was agreed that Ms CALVEZ would finalise the draft report before the end of June 2006, so that the CEPEJ-TF-DEL members would have time to study it in view of its final discussion and adoption at their 5th meeting (20 – 22 September 2006).

III.        Study on “Time management in Nordic courts”

21.  The CEPEJ-TF-DEL commended on the work prepared by the scientific expert, Ms Mirka SMOLEJ, and the experts from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, coordinated by Mr Jon JOHNSEN. They thanked them warmly for the excellent document summarising existing studies and reports on judicial systems which contain in particular studies on existing time management systems ("desk policy practices") during the last 10 years and proposals for reform aimed at improving the calculation and management of timeframes. They noticed that this work was the result of a strong support from the countries concerned countries to the work of the CEPEJ.

22.  Once completed, as like Ms CALVEZ's report, the Report could be used at two levels:

§  as a CEPEJ publication (a second publication for the series "The publications of the CEPEJ");

§  as a tool of public policies on justice, thanks to the exploitations of the elements that it contains and the possible extrapolation of some of them to all member states.

23.  It was agreed that the Report could be a source for the Compendium of best practices as well as for the establishment of a typology of cases.

24.  Mr JOHSEN proposed to send the draft to the CEPEJ member in respect of Estonia, so that he can complete it with specific elements regarding his country. The representatives of the EUR proposed to send the draft to their members in the countries concerned, in view of including possible additional elements.

25.  The CEPEJ-TF-DEL agreed with the scientific expert that the report would be finalised and adopted at their 5th meeting (20 – 22 September 2006).

IV.       Compendium of Best Practices for implementing the lines of action set out in the Framework Programme on timeframes

26.  The scientific expert, Mr Marco FABRI, introduced the discussion paper prepared together with his colleague Mr Francesco CONTINI, regarding a possible structure and the main elements to be considered in the Compendium. This paper appears in Appendix III to this Report.

27.  He underlined that by "best practices" should be meant "practices successfully applied in a specific context".

28.  The CEPEJ-TF-DEL members recommended that the sources of the Compendium are not limited to the information provided for by the Pilot courts of the CEPEJ, but be extended to other documents, including the above mentioned reports, studies from the Venice Commission and the Steering Committee on Human Rights (CDDH). However some experts stressed that sources should not be multiplied in order to keep a coherent and practical document. They agreed to specify in writing to the scientific experts the other sources that could be taken into account.

29.  The experts stressed that the Compendium should present only practices which could be transposed to other courts in other countries. They underlined that practices selected should concern both civil and criminal justice systems.

30.  The scientific expert suggested that some few practices are selected to be the purpose on in-depth analysis, including more narrative descriptions.

 

31.  Mr Jon JOHNSEN introduced a proposal for an in-depth study of one specific practice on swifter criminal justice in Norway. The CEPEJ-TF-DEL agreed that this study could be used both in the Compendium and to complete the above mentioned study on "Time management in Nordic courts".

32.  The CEPEJ-TF-DEL agreed that, although the main aim of the Compendium was to propose concrete modalities for implementing those 15 Lines of action of the Framework Programme previously identified, the structure of the Compendium could differ from the structure of the Framework Programme. They took note of the structure proposed by the scientific experts and agreed to propose in written possible amendments to this proposal.

33.  In order to develop the Compendium, the scientific expert proposed to design "Pilot court cards" (see Appendix IV) to be, in a first stage, fulfilled by the Secretariat on the basis of the information already available from the Pilot courts, then sent for amendments to the courts concerned. The CEPEJ-TF-DEL agreed to address this issue with the Pilot courts at their first meeting (Bucharest, 5 – 6 April).

34.  The President of the CEPEJ, Eberhard DESCH, noted that the Compendium should not be a scientific document, but should remain a practical tool offered by the CEPEJ to the Committee of Ministers, national policy makers and judicial practitioners.

35.  The experts agreed on the need to draft the Compendium as a friendly use and practical tool for policy makers, with a specific attention paid to the indexation. They insisted on the necessary "maintenance" of the document, which could be regularly updated.

36.   Referring to itsterms of reference, the CEPEJ-TF-DEL confirmed that a draft Compendium must be prepared in due time to be adopted by the 8th plenary meeting of the CEPEJ (6 – 8 December 2006).

V.        Establishment of a typology of cases and the subsequent judicial timeframes

37.  The Task Force agreed to come back on this task at its next meetings, on the basis of a preliminary document to be prepared by the Secretariat.    


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

§    Discussion of the report in view of its adoption and submission to the CEPEJ plenary meeting

§    Proposals for the follow up to be given to the report

4.         Study: "Time management in Nordic courts" - exchange of views with the researchers

§    Discussion with the experts in charge of preparing the report

§    Proposals for the follow up to be given to the report

5.         Compendium of best practices: working session with Mr Marco FABRI (Italy), scientific expert

§    Structure of the Compendium

§    Selection of the best practices

§    Preparation of the meeting of the Network of Pilot courts

6.       Tool for measuring judicial timeframes

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

7.         Other business/Questions diverses


Appendix II

List of partipants / Liste des participants

Eberhard DESCH, Head of Division of International Law, Federal Ministry of Justice, Berlin, GERMANY, Chair of the CEPEJ/Président de la CEPEJ

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

Janny C. KRANENBURG, Vice-President, Court of Appeal of s’Hertogenbosch, Sector Civiel Recht II, The Netherlands 

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

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

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, Arsakeion Megaron, Avenue Panepistimiou 47, ATHENES, Grece, e-mail: nomodik@otenet.gr

Jana WURSTOVA, Head, International Department, Czech Bar Association, Prague, Czech republic  

***

OBSERVERS / OBSERVATEURS

WORLD BANK / BANQUE MONDIALE

Klaus DECKER, Counsel, Justice Reform Practice Group, WORLD BANK, Washington D.C, USA

EUROPEAN UNION OF RECHTSPFLEGER AND COURT CLERKS/UNION EUROPEENNE DES GREFFIERS DE JUSTICE (EUR)

Gabriele GUARDA, Présidente de l’UER, Greffier en chef du Tribunal de Première Instance de Padova, ITALIE

Jean-Jacques KUSTER, Représentant de l’EUR auprès du Conseil de l’Europe, Greffier en Chef du Tribunal d’Instance de Strasbourg, FRANCE

***

SCIENTIFIC EXPERT / EXPERT SCIENTIFIQUE

Françoise CALVEZ, Magistrat, Observatoire du droit européen, Cour de Cassation, Paris, FRANCE

Marco FABRI, Senior Researcher, Research Institute on Judicial Systems) National Research Council, Bologna, ITALY

Mirka SMOLEJ, Researcher at the Finnish National Research Institute for Legal Policies, National Research Institute of Legal Policy in Finland, Helsinki, FINLAND

***

CEPEJ SECRETARIAT - Fax: +33 3 88 41 37 43 - e-mail: cepej@coe.int

Stéphane LEYENBERGER, Secretary of the CEPEJ, Directorate General I - Legal Affairs, / Secrétaire de la CEPEJ, Direction Générale I - Affaires Juridiques, Tel : +33 3 88 41 28 41, e-mail: stephane.leyenberger@coe.int

Muriel DECOT, Co-Secretary of the CEPEJ, Directorate General I - Legal Affairs, / Co-Secrétaire de la CEPEJ, Direction Générale I - Affaires Juridiques, Tel : +33 3  90 20 44 55,  e-mail : muriel.decot@coe.int

Elisabeth HEURTEBISE, Administrative Assistant of the CEPEJ, Directorate General I - Legal Affairs / / Assistante administrative de la CEPEJ, Direction Générale I – Affaires Juridiques,

INTERPRETERS / INTERPRETES

Antoinette BOURDELET-GOFFINET

Marianne DE-SUSBIELLE


Appendix III

 

Structure of the draft Compendium

First draft March 31, 2006, to be discussed at the CEPEJ Meeting in Bucharest, Romania, 3-4 April 2006.

Marco Fabri and Francesco Contini

1. Introduction

Our task is to “prepare a draft Compendium of best practices on the court management of timeframes of judicial proceedings […] the draft Compendium will aim to provide policy makers and judicial professionals within the member states with concrete measures successfully applied in courts [taking] into account the information given by the members of the CEPEJ Network of Pilot courts [and] other materials submitted to him by the CEPEJ Secretariat”.

In order to do that, we are submitting to you our first draft of a possible structure of the Compendium, which is based on the documents that we have received from the CEPEJ Secretariat. In particular, at this stage, since we have to meet the representatives of the pilot courts, we mainly considered the Framework Programme, the Synthesis, the Responses of the pilot courts to the questionnaire, the CEPEJ Meeting reports.

We also received only one contribution from a CEPEJ expert, which briefly addresses the best practices reported from the pilot courts about two specific “Lines of action” (no. 3 and 10). We wonder if we were supposed to receive some other contributions of this kind, as foresaw in point 49 of the Report of the 3rd CEPEJ meeting held in November 2005.

We also need some clarification on the possible usage of other materials, such us the very informative “A best practice example: Norway’s Project on Swifter Criminal Justice”, but also all the other documents that do not directly deal with the pilot courts.

We also need to better understand from CEPEJ if the Compendium should concentrate on best practice to design, implement and monitor timeframes (court standards) or on policies (best practices, in general) to tackle the length of proceedings. It goes without saying that this makes a huge difference in the scope of the project and the amount of work to carry on.

The material is cumbersome, there are 15 Lines of action to consider, the questionnaire has many open questions, therefore answers are quite difficult to manage and to compare, the responses of the pilot courts are not always very informative, they often take into consideration general policies rather than specific (best) practices, but they certainly give, if well organized, a first important map.

Just to have an idea of some of the main features of the 45 pilot courts involved in this endeavour, we may classify them as follows:

a) kind of jurisdiction

37 courts of general jurisdiction

3 commercial courts

1 civil court

3 administrative courts

1 serious crime court

b) level of jurisdiction

36 courts of first instance

9 courts of appeal

c) Number of judges

16 courts have from 1 to 15 judges

14 courts have from 16 to 40 judges

10 courts have from 40 to 341

Given the complexity of the task, the variety and number of courts involved, first of all we need to share some basic assumptions, which should allow us to better understand how to proceed in the development of the Compendium.

In addition, we should also share a common meaning of some terms used, so we also propose to build a short glossary of terms.

This first draft needs to be explained and embeds several questions that need to be answered during the experts’ meeting.

2. Basic assumptions

Reading the material available and start thinking about the structure of the Compendium, we come up with the following basic assumptions.

a)    The so called unit of analysis of this project is the pilot court.

b)    45 countries to consider in a comparative Compendium is a difficult task and it is our understanding that the Compendium should not be only a barren list of policies or best practices.

c)    The interesting fifteen Lines of action are articulated into several other points and they look quite difficult to carry on in a comparative exercise, in addition some of them are highly intertwined, which means that the Compendium should try to simplify their description.

d)    Empirical research in Anglo-Saxon countries has showed that court “delay” does not seem to be related to the court size, the seriousness of the caseload, the caseload per judge, the existence of alternative dispute resolution programs, but some other factors such as: judicial commitment, leadership and adequate accountability mechanisms, the involvement of the different actors in the system, the court supervision of case progress, definition of goals and standards monitoring of cases by an information system, a case management approach, a policy against unjustifiable continuances, like a firm trial date and a ‘backup judge’ system for trials, an individual assignment system (Mahoney B., Changing Times in Trial Courts, Williamsburg, VA., NCSC, 1988; Steelman D. Case-flow Management: The Heart of Court Management in the New Millennium, Williamsburg, VA. NCSC, 2000, Fabri M. and P. Langbroek, Delay in judicial proceedings in Europe: a preliminary inquiry, Report to CEPEJ, 2003).

e)    We cannot consider court governance and different procedure of every country, (also at the broad level of criminal, civil or administrative procedures) due to the scale of the project. Maybe in the future, it may be useful to start exploring some variables in the different countries that may bring to the establishment of cluster of countries. This exercise will probably lead to a more significant comparisons among them.

Therefore:

f)     The Compendium is a descriptive exercise based mainly on the information made available by the pilot courts.

g)    The Compendium, to add value to the work already developed by the CEPEJ and to take the most from the pilot courts, should present an inventory of different policies undertaken in the different countries, but it should also give some new ideas and methods to approach the problem of the length of proceeding.

h)    The Compendium cannot give instructions on the transferability from country to country of the policies described.

i)      The Compendium cannot take into consideration the peculiarities of each jurisdiction.

j)      The Compendium will not give specific information on how to proceed to test the policies and practices described.

3. Draft of the structure of the Compendium

We suggest organizing the Compendium as follows:

Introduction

The introduction will explain the main steps of the project, its goals, the method used, the basic assumptions, its limits, its possible future developments, a short glossary of terms used.

Section One

This first section will present the information collected. They will be classified accordingly to two set of criteria, in the attempt to have a first comprehensive map of the initiatives reported by every pilot court.

The first criterion is related to each Line of action of the framework programme, consolidated by us in three main action areas:

1)    Timeframes (design, adoption and implementation).

2)    Procedures.

3)    Stakeholders.

The second criterion is related to the level (macro-meso-micro) of the actors that may design and implement a policy or a practice to tackle the length of proceedings. These three levels are defined as follows:

A)   State policies (macro level).

B)   Court policies (meso level).

C)   Judge’s practices (micro level).

These criteria will generate a table “Action areas and level of actors involved with thefollowing structure:

Action areas / Level of actors involved

State policies

Court policies

Judge’s practices

Timeframes

Procedures

Stakeholders

Each level has different stakeholders, who may be involved in the policy, and the information collected so far shows the different efforts of each country at these three levels.

We also have an international level (Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe recommendation and guidelines, European Commission) which will not be considered in the Compendium, but the pilot courts may be involved in defying the expectations that they might have from these institutions.

Some of the information collected are quite informative, some are much less. It depends on CEPEJ to decide to make a further investment in the collection of more detailed information from the pilot courts.

Below we have provided for a Synopsis of policies and practices as a first rough classification, based on the Synthesis provide for the CEPEJ Secretariat. The Synopsis follows these criteria, to show the complexity to manage, and the relatively low heuristic contribution of this kind of information.

However, this map should allow the identification of not less than three “In-depth case study”, one for each area (Timeframes, Procedures, Stakeholders), which should explore in-depth the development of the actions taken throughout the justice system chain, which means from the State level, through the Court policies, to the Judge’s practices. In this way, we should have a better qualitative understanding of successful or, at least, highly interesting policies and practices that had a real impact in the day-to-day court functioning.

Section 2

The second section of the Compendium will deal with these “In-depth case studies”, in order to increase the content of the information provided with the Compendium, and to sketch some conclusions.

CEPEJ will choose these case studies, and each of them will develop a more narrative in-depth description of the policy that succeeded based on some basic instructions. In this way, the Compendium will add value to the informative work done so far, and it will set the stage for further development and possible test beds in the pilot courts.

Conclusion

The conclusion should develop some new ideas and method drawn for the analysis of the pilot courts and the “In-depth case studies” to tackle the problem of the length of proceedings throughout the justice system chain (State, courts, judges).

4. What is next

If the above mentioned draft structure makes sense, we foresee the following actions:

1)    The CEPEJ’s experts or Secretariat should fill out a card (see below two examples of cards filled out) for each pilot court with the information that come from the responses given to the questionnaire by the pilot courts and from comments by CEPEJ’s experts.

2)    Pilot court cards will be sent to each pilot court to be checked and amended, and returned in due time to the CEPEJ Secretariat.

3)    In the meanwhile CEPEJ could choose the “In-depth case studies”.

4)    We prepare some instructions to guide the writing of the “In-depth case studies”.

5)    We collect all the information and draft a preliminary version of the Compendium not later than 1 September 2006, so all the above actions should be completed not later than June 15, 2006.

Example of glossary of terms

Backlog - generally speaking, it is considered the accumulation of uncompleted work or matters needing to be dealt with (The Concise Oxford English Dictionary). In case management, it is definied as the number of cases not decided within an established time standard.

We propose to use the latter definition. Therefore there is a difference between pending cases (cases to be dealt with), and backlog (pending cases that exceed the time standard).

Policy - a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organization (The Concise Oxford English Dictionary); a course of action or inaction chosen by authorities to address a given problem or interrelated set of problems.

Practice - practical actions undertaken by organisational actors (Suchman, 1983, Office Procedures as practical action, ACM, Vol. 1 pp. 320-328).

Timeframe - a period of time during which an action occurs or will occur. (The Oxford American Dictionary of Current English. Oxford University Press, 1999.).

Time standard - the time allowed to carry out a task. (A Dictionary of Business. Oxford University Press, 2002).

Time limit - a limit of time within which something must be done (The Concise Oxford English Dictionary).

We propose to use Timeframe and Time standard as synonyms, however it should be explained if and when it is set at the State, Court or single Judge level. We propose to use Time limit when the limit is set by a statute.

Synopsis of policies and practices at State, court and judge levels related with the lines of action of the framework programme.

This first rough classification is based on the information provided in the Synthesis of the replies on the situation of the timeframes of proceedings (CEPEJ-TF-DEL (2005) 4 Rev 6 28 February 2006)

Table 1 – Areas of actions and level of actors involved

TIMEFRAMES

State policies

Court policies

Judge’ s practices

Line of Action 3: Improving the foreseeability of the timeframes.

Average length of proceedings proposed by the Ministry of Justice with consent from the Parliament (Norway)

Statutory maximum timeframes (limits) for certain type of cases (ex. custody cases: 8 weeks for the appeal for the hearing to start) (Norway)


General targets

6 months for civil cases (Iceland);

18 months defined by the Court rules (Slovenia)

Calculated targets

58 % of the civil cases to be completed within 1 year from filing of the case; 63 % of the criminal cases to be completed within 2 months and 95% within 6 months. (Denmark)

Tagets established by the Court Service 80 % of small claims addressed within 15 weeks, 85 % of fast track within 30 weeks, 85 % of multi-track within 50 weeks (England & Wales)

Negotiated between the Ministry of Justice and the Court of Appeal during the budgetary negotiations (Finland).

All units within the court define their targets (Sweden)

Deadline given [by the court?] to the judge to undertake the first action as regards the procedure (Croatia).

Statistics published in the Official Gazette:  shows how many cases were settled each month by a judge in a given matter, which enables a benchmarking (Hungary)

Line of Action 3: Transparency of timeframes for the users.

Legal obligation for the judge to inform the parties of the estimated timetable of the procedure (Finland).

Parties informed of when they can expect the judgement to be pronounced when the appeal hearing is concluded; if this proves to be untenable, then the delay is notified to the lawyer with new date for pronouncement (Norway).

Line of Action 3: Enforcement of timeframes.

Monthly statistics, analysed by upper courts, which enables a benchmarking between the courts at the same level; regular visits by judges from upper courts to analyse the pending cases for a given timeframe (Germany)

Regular statistics and annual reporting from the courts of first instance to the Supreme Court (Cyprus).

Monitoring by the upper court on the monthly report of the lower judge (Hungary).

Statistics submitted to the Court Administration twice a year including the terms and the results of the adjudication of the case (Latvia)

IT integrated system ensuring a continuous monitoring of all cases and the time for processing each case (Denmark, Finland);

Annual court account and the statistics which may be printed from the systems on an ongoing basis are used internally by the court’s manager for evaluation and monitoring of the time of processing each case and the productivity of the court’s divisions (Denmark);

Computerised detection of long duration for cases (Hungary);

Reporting on the cases pending for 3 months through specific software (Lithuania);

Court's Informative System reflecting all data regarding concrete cases, including terms (Latvia).

Regular analyses of the pending cases by the court president (Albania, Austria, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom).

Monthly and annual statistics controlled by the registrar and the judge (Cyprus).

Control through statistics on the basis of deadlines for the first act to be taken by the judge (Croatia).

Judges’ portfolios surveyed every month; lengths of proceedings monitored and evaluated with statistical measures as a routine, at least every third month (Norway).

Regular assessment of all the pending cases (Bulgaria).

Progress report on the problematic cases [sent to upper courts] (Germany)

IT based checklist of registered cases for more than 3 months, handed monthly to the court president, the judges concerned and their secretaries (Austria);

Regular reporting by the judge (Iceland, Slovenia)

Systematic and regular reporting by the individual judges on the cases for which a decision has not been delivered for more than 2 months (Austria).

Monthly reporting by the judge on the pending cases (2 – 5 years)  he/she is responsible for (Hungary).

Weekly meetings of the judges to discuss cases (Latvia)

Line of Action 4: Defining and monitoring standards for an optimum timeframes for each type of case.

When a court is extraordinarily burdened by specific cases, sitting judges or extraordinary judges are appointed to this court (Norway).

Reports on the inactivity of the parties (United Kingdom)

Limits decided by the judges for the experts (Austria)

Postponing the adjudication of a case obligatory requests the determination of a new date for the hearing (Latvia)

Line of Action 7: Allowing adjustment of timeframes.

At appeal level, simultaneous letters sent to both counsels, which state the deadlines for new submissions, evidential lists and input on time and place for the appeal proceeding (counsels are asked if a given number of days are sufficient for the hearing and whether a given location is suitable); letters are followed by telephone calls from the court administration to decide on the date and duration of the hearing: when the preparation of the case starts, it is clear to everyone when the matter will come up (Norway).

Informal case preparatory conferences with the prosecutors for the most complex cases to discuss the scope of the evidence presentation, how the evidences should be presented, the need to appoint expert witnesses, […] how a reasonable and realistic timing schedule will appear, etc. (Norway).

A week or two before the appeal hearing, the judge contacts the counsel directly (e-mail) and orders them to prepare a detailed joint timetable for the appeal hearing (presentation of witnesses, etc); he/she also orders them to bring with them concrete arguments pleading for presentation at the appeal hearing. This alone is a real time-saver: obliges the counsels to talk to each other and agree on the practical arrangements; induces them to highlight their points, and thus avoids irrelevant and immaterial issues (Norway).

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

Complaints from a party to the Head of court result in a report by the judge concerned; on this basis that the Head of court can undertake certain actions to speed up the proceeding (Maribor, Slovenia).

The court president can take the necessary measures to cope with enquiries or complaints showing that a proceeding is too slow, including reassigning the case to another judge (Norway).

Complaints system enabling the parties to complain about a judge to the Supervisory Council for Judges (Norway).

Possibility of disciplinary procedure for a judge who doe not adjudicate the case in due time (Latvia)

Parties can set a request to the Court of Appeal fixing a time limit for special parts of proceedings, if they believe the judge’s activities are not on time (Austria).

PROCEDURES

State policies

Court policies

Judge’s practices

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

Possibility and scope for an appeal depends on the value in litigation (Austria). [from line 10]

Vetting system in second instance for criminal cases: when the High Court receives the appeals sparked by the District Court’s criminal judgments, the more serious cases are qualified for appeal proceedings, whilst the less serious go through a preliminary vetting process by three judges. (Norway)

Line of Action 9: Acting on quality of proceedings.

Time-limit for preparation of a written judgment set by the law (criminal cases: 10 days, civil cases: 30 days) (Czech Republic)

Forbidding sine die postponement of cases – even in second instance (Maribor – Slovenia)

Targets (number of pages, standard format etc) for the judicial decisions (in particular for criminal cases) and systematic approach in judgements (Norway):

Continuous work within the court to build awareness and motivate judges to write brief and precise judgements (Norway).

Large parts of the case preparations in civil cases are done electronically, which also helps to reduce the processing times (Norway).

Definition of fixed part of judicial decisions supplemented with parts for individual reasoning (Austria).

New office automation system, legal information and stenotype machines (Cyprus).

Computerised online correction of written pages, for decision writing (Austria).

IT integrated system for registering time limits, which ensures a continuous monitoring of all cases and the time for processing each case; such a system prevents long queuing times. (Denmark).

Lead Judge monitoring the processing of criminal cases: prepares the cases personally, assisted by a judge who has been given this task on a permanent basis. If one of them is absent, the other takes over automatically (Norway).

Line of Action 10: Defining priorities in

case management.

Simple cases that can be scheduled quickly get some degree of priority; priority also given to cases promoted by the legislator (Norway)

Courts divided in units of 2 – 3 judges who can share the amount of work according to the complexity of cases (Sweden).

Several criminal cases scheduled in a day; prosecutors swap cases among themselves to enable a re-scheduling of the order of cases (Norway).

Computer system assigns cases to individual judges according to time schedule (Czech Republic).

A judge can be relieved from all other cases if the difficulty of one case requires it (Austria).

Number of judges increased according to the number of criminal cases (Bulgaria).

Line of Action 11: Organising trials to reduce waiting time, while paying special

attention to victims and witnesses.

The Prosecution Service and lawyers are bound to call witnesses according to a prepared time schedule (Denmark).

Setting up of a witness support mechanism (Denmark).

Witnesses are invited to appear at different times at the hearing (Austria).

In civil cases lawyers will call their witnesses and decide when they will appear; in criminal cases, prosecutors call witnesses and set the attendance times (Norway).

Victims often have a specially appointed assistant counsel, who looks after the practicalities of attendance, in consultation with the Prosecution Service and court. (Norway).

Line of Action 13: Making more flexible the rules on territorial jurisdiction of first instance courts.

A case destined for another venue, is sent to the proper jurisdiction, with a copy of the transfer sent to the submitting party.  The routine for quickly identifying the case that has been wrongly sent lies first of all with the judge on duty to monitor incoming post and new cases (Norway).

STAKEHOLDERS

State policies

Court policies

Judge’s practices

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

Regular meetings of the court staff to increase the esprit de corps within the court; reduction of the gap between judges and officials – now called case handlers – towards a shared goal (Norway).

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

Training of admin. staff (Bulgaria).

Training and selection of judges with due regards to court administration and the quality of proceedings (Germany).

Continuous work within the court to build awareness and motivate judges to write brief and precise judgements (Norway).

Line of Action 16: Setting up "contracts of objective" between courts and lawyers –

Organising the relationships with lawyers.

Close contacts with attorneys: joint establishment of clerking rules for the court (Norway).

Negotiations and discussions between judges and local lawyers to set up common opinions and guidelines on how to improve efficiency of justice as regards the time of procedure. (Finland).

Guidelines for case handling set up in writing and signed by the Bar Association and the court, resulting from common discussions and consensus (Norway).

Continued dialogue between the courts and the lawyers and prosecutors (Norway).


Line of Action 17: Improving the monitoring of compliance with the time-limits by judicial experts.

The statutory Forensic Medicine Commission advises the courts and expert witnesses in forensic issues in criminal cases: all forensic statements must be sent to the Commission before disclosure in a court; the Commission checks that the work performed is within a good professional framework; the Commission is also concerned that these statements should not take excessive time - 45 days as a limit. (Norway).

Use of electronic correspondence (Austria).

Fine imposed by the court to any expert who does not respect the deadlines defined while appointing the expert (Czech Republic).

Limits decided by the judges for the experts (Austria).

Appointment of expert witnesses with systematic simultaneous stipulation of clear time limits for delivering their work, monitored by the court (Norway).

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

Quasi judicial tasks given to non judges (Rechtspfleger) (Austria).

Judges free from performing simple administrative acts (requests to pay judicial fees, requests to supplement statements and designation of the evidence) (Czech Republic).

Regular gatherings of all court staff to discuss new measures or change existing measures, which may result in more efficient court operation (Norway).

Extensive use of legal students who participate in court as court witnesses and minutes’ keepers: clerks get much more time to do their processing work (Norway).

Increased number of clerks, secretaries and assistant judge to prepare the cases so that the judge can focus on the more difficult and extensive cases (Sweden).

Line of Action 5: Developing information and communication strategies.

Every four years a survey of the satisfaction of both users and legal professionals takes place (Netherlands).

3 public surveys per year– Holders of Charter Mark, i.e. achieving a level of excellence in customer service gauged through consumer satisfaction surveys (United Kingdom).

Surveys carried out by the media (Cyprus).

Study by the National Research Institute of Legal Policy (Finland)

The Danish Courts effect users’ surveys on a regular basis: each district court hands out questionnaires to users (e.g. lawyers, parties prosecutors, witnesses in civil cases; defendants and witnesses in criminal cases); the answers are analysed by a management firm, and a general national result is published (Denmark).

Survey to criminal victims, lawyers, victims and prosecutors (Sweden).

Several courts organise regular meetings with the lawyers and the prosecutors (Germany, Finland).

The Spanish pilot court has organised a complaint mail box which is monitored by the court administration (Spain).

In Norway, a specific training session has been organised where Chief judges addressed the relationships with the users of the court and explored their level of satisfaction with the court (Norway).

Published list of cases to be addressed by the court in the current and next weeks (Latvia)

Court officer in charge of answering by phone and by individual discussions to the question of the users of justice (Lativa).

Publication of the statistics on the Court Web site, including the length of each case (Albania).

Pilot Court Card: Norway

TIMEFRAMES

State policies

Court policies

Judge’ s practices

Line of Action 3: Improving the foreseeability of the timeframes.

Average length of proceedings proposed by the Ministry of Justice with consent from the Parliament.

Statutory maximum timeframes (limits) for certain type of cases (ex. custody cases: 8 weeks for the appeal for the hearing to start).

Line of Action 3: Transparency of timeframes for the users.

Parties informed of when they can expect the judgement to be pronounced when the appeal hearing is concluded; if this proves to be untenable, then the delay is notified to the lawyer with new date for pronouncement

Line of Action 3: Enforcement of timeframes.

Regular analyses of the pending cases by the court president.

 

Judges’ portfolios surveyed every month; lengths of proceedings monitored and evaluated with statistical measures as a routine, at least every third month.

Line of Action 4: Defining and monitoring standards for an optimum timeframes for each type of case.

When a court is extraordinarily burdened by specific cases, sitting judges or extraordinary judges are appointed to this court.

Line of Action 7: Allowing adjustment of timeframes.

At appeal level, simultaneous letters sent to both counsels, which state the deadlines for new submissions, evidential lists and input on time and place for the appeal proceeding (counsels are asked if a given number of days are sufficient for the hearing and whether a given location is suitable); letters are followed by telephone calls from the court administration to decide on the date and duration of the hearing: when the preparation of the case starts, it is clear to everyone when the matter will come up.

Informal case preparatory conferences with the prosecutors for the most complex cases to discuss the scope of the evidence presentation, how the evidences should be presented, the need to appoint expert witnesses, […] how a reasonable and realistic timing schedule will appear, etc.

A week or two before the appeal hearing, the judge contacts the counsel directly (e-mail) and orders them to prepare a detailed joint timetable for the appeal hearing (presentation of witnesses, etc); he/she also orders them to bring with them concrete arguments pleading for presentation at the appeal hearing. This alone is a real time-saver: obliges the counsels to talk to each other and agree on the practical arrangements; induces them to highlight their points, and thus avoids irrelevant and immaterial issues.

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

The court president can take the necessary measures to cope with enquiries or complaints showing that a proceeding is too slow, including reassigning the case to another judge.

Complaints system enabling the parties to complain about a judge to the Supervisory Council for Judges.

PROCEDURES

State policies

Court policies

Judge’s practices

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

Vetting system in second instance for criminal cases: when the High Court receives the appeals sparked by the District Court’s criminal judgments, the more serious cases are qualified for appeal proceedings, whilst the less serious go through a preliminary vetting process by three judges.

Line of Action 9: Acting on quality of proceedings.

Targets (number of pages, standard format etc) for the judicial decisions (in particular for criminal cases) and systematic approach in judgements.

Continuous work within the court to build awareness and motivate judges to write brief and precise judgements.

Large parts of the case preparations in civil cases are done electronically, which also helps to reduce the processing times.

Lead Judge monitoring the processing of criminal cases: prepares the cases personally, assisted by a judge who has been given this task on a permanent basis. If one of them is absent, the other takes over automatically.

Line of Action 10: Defining priorities in

case management.

Simple cases that can be scheduled quickly get some degree of priority; priority also given to cases promoted by the legislator (Norway)

Several criminal cases scheduled in a day; prosecutors swap cases among themselves to enable a re-scheduling of the order of cases.

Line of Action 11: Organising trials to reduce waiting time, while paying special

attention to victims and witnesses.

In civil cases lawyers will call their witnesses and decide when they will appear; in criminal cases, prosecutors call witnesses and set the attendance times.

Victims often have a specially appointed assistant counsel, who looks after the practicalities of attendance, in consultation with the Prosecution Service and court.

Line of Action 13: Making more flexible the rules on territorial jurisdiction of first instance courts.

A case destined for another venue, is sent to the proper jurisdiction, with a copy of the transfer sent to the submitting party.  The routine for quickly identifying the case that has been wrongly sent lies first of all with the judge on duty to monitor incoming post and new cases.

STAKEHOLDERS

State policies

Court policies

Judge’s practices

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

Regular meetings of the court staff to increase the esprit de corps within the court; reduction of the gap between judges and officials – now called case handlers – towards a shared goal.

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

Continuous work within the court to build awareness and motivate judges to write brief and precise judgements.

Line of Action 16: Setting up "contracts of objective" between courts and lawyers –

Organising the relationships with lawyers.

Close contacts with attorneys: joint establishment of clerking rules for the court.

Guidelines for case handling set up in writing and signed by the Bar Association and the court, resulting from common discussions and consensus.

Continued dialogue between the courts and the lawyers and prosecutors.

Line of Action 17: Improving the monitoring of compliance with the time-limits by judicial experts.

The statutory Forensic Medicine Commission advises the courts and expert witnesses in forensic issues in criminal cases: all forensic statements must be sent to the Commission before disclosure in a court; the Commission checks that the work performed is within a good professional framework; the Commission is also concerned that these statements should not take excessive time - 45 days as a limit.

Appointment of expert witnesses with systematic simultaneous stipulation of clear time limits for delivering their work, monitored by the court.

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

Regular gatherings of all court staff to discuss new measures or change existing measures, which may result in more efficient court operation.

 

Extensive use of legal students who participate in court as court witnesses and minutes’ keepers: clerks get much more time to do their processing work.

Line of Action 5: Developing information and communication strategies.

In Norway, a specific training session has been organised where Chief judges addressed the relationships with the users of the court and explored their level of satisfaction with the court.

Pilot Court Card: Austria

TIMEFRAMES

State policies

Court policies

Judge’ s practices

Line of Action 3: Improving the foreseeability of the timeframes.

Line of Action 3: Transparency of timeframes for the users.

Line of Action 3: Enforcement of timeframes.

IT based checklist of registered cases for more than 3 months, handed monthly to the court president, the judges concerned and their secretaries.

Systematic and regular reporting by the individual judges on the cases for which a decision has not been delivered for more than 2 months.

Line of Action 4: Defining and monitoring standards for an optimum timeframes for each type of case.

Limits decided by the judges for the experts.

Line of Action 7: Allowing adjustment of timeframes.

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

Parties can set a request to the Court of Appeal fixing a time limit for special parts of proceedings, if they believe the judge’s activities are not on time.

PROCEDURES

State policies

Court policies

Judge’s practices

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

Possibility and scope for an appeal depends on the value in litigation.

Line of Action 9: Acting on quality of proceedings.

Definition of fixed part of judicial decisions supplemented with parts for individual reasoning.

Computerised online correction of written pages, for decision writing.

Line of Action 10: Defining priorities in

case management.

A judge can be relieved from all other cases if the difficulty of one case requires it.

Line of Action 11: Organising trials to reduce waiting time, while paying special

attention to victims and witnesses.

Witnesses are invited to appear at different times at the hearing.

Line of Action 13: Making more flexible the rules on territorial jurisdiction of first instance courts.

STAKEHOLDERS

State policies

Court policies

Judge’s practices

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

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

Line of Action 16: Setting up "contracts of objective" between courts and lawyers –

Organising the relationships with lawyers.

Line of Action 17: Improving the monitoring of compliance with the time-limits by judicial experts.

Use of electronic correspondence.

Limits decided by the judges for the experts.

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

Quasi judicial tasks given to non judges.

Line of Action 5: Developing information and communication strategies.



[1] The Court quoted in particular the CEPEJ Framework Programme: "the mechanisms which are limited to compensation are too weak and do not adequately incite the States to modify their operational process, and provide compensation only a posteriori in the event of a proven viloation instead of trying to find a solution for the problem of delays".