EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR THE EFFICIENCY OF JUSTICE
4th plenary meeting
Strasbourg, 1 – 3 December 2004
1. Faced with the need to bring justice closer to citizens and to improve the efficiency and the functioning of judicial procedures, the Committee of Ministers, through Resolution (2002) 12, set up the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), so as to bring in a new phase of activity focusing on the actual implementation of existing European standards in the field of justice.
2. Against this background, and under Article 2 of its Statute, the CEPEJ is required to:
1. examine the results achieved by the different judicial systems, using common statistical criteria and means of evaluation,
2. define problems and areas for possible improvements, and to
3. identify concrete ways of improving the measurement and functioning of member states’ judicial systems, having regard to the specific needs of each country.
3. The CEPEJ works for all the member states on questions of common concern and also provides assistance to one or more member states, at their request. The aim, in both instances, is to be as effective as possible and receptive to individual countries’ practical needs.
4. Under its Statute, the CEPEJ is further required to co-operate and co-ordinate with other bodies, whether Council of Europe ones or other international institutions, concerned with the functioning of judicial systems.
5. The CEPEJ is also called upon to be a key channel of communication with civil society, whether citizens, judicial professionals or any institution directly involved in the functioning of the justice system. In order to increase public confidence in the judicial system, it is vital to take positive steps for the benefit of the public to make sure that individual citizens know how the system works. Legal professionals, universities and justice ministries might also be interested in having the CEPEJ examine particular topics through conferences, publications, general studies or best practice surveys.
6. On the basis of Resolution Res(2002)12, the CEPEJ has an extremely wide field of responsibility – namely, improved functioning of justice systems in general, regard being had to a number of basic principles (access to justice and proper and efficient functioning of courts/status and role of legal professionals/court administration and management/use of information and communication technologies). All of this may involve the CEPEJ in questions of civil, administrative or criminal justice, without, however, in any way encroaching on the competence of specialist committees.
7. The activity programme is implemented under the authority of the CEPEJ, in keeping with the competencies prescribed in Res(2002)12. Within the scope of its powers, the CEPEJ Bureau prepares the implementation of this work and proposes guidelines.
8. In order to implement its activities, the CEPEJ will meet twice in 2005, preferably in the second and fourth quarter of the year. The Bureau will meet twice, preferably before the plenary meetings.
9. This activity programme for 2005 is designed around the three areas of competence covered by the CEPEJ:
1. implementation of European rules and standards concerning the efficiency of justice,
2. co-operation with other competent bodies,
3. dealing with users of the justice system.
Programme of activity for 2005
I – Implementation of European rules and standards concerning efficiency and fairness of justice
A – Topics of common concern to all states
10. Further to the activities begun in 2004, and given the time and resources available, the CEPEJ proposes, in order to fulfil the task assigned to it by the Committee of Ministers and produce tangible results, to focus in 2005 on two themes of common concern to all member states and which help to bring justice as close as possible to individuals and their problems.
11. The CEPEJ is nevertheless aware that other areas of crucial importance for the efficiency of European judicial systems will have to be addressed later on.
1 – “Evaluation of judicial systems”
12. In 2003 and 2004, in keeping with the task assigned to it, the CEPEJ endeavoured to find a common tool that could be used to evaluate in an objective manner the functioning of the judicial systems of all its member states, bearing in mind the need to determine concrete indicators taking into account the expectations of users of the justice system.
13. The CEPEJ thus developed a Pilot-Scheme, containing around a hundred questions, which was used in the initial trial phase to make a quantitative and qualitative assessment of judicial systems according to criteria agreed by all the member states. The replies submitted by almost all members of the CEPEJ provided the basis for an initial Report entitled “European judicial systems – 2002” which was adopted by the CEPEJ at its fourth plenary meeting (1- 3 December 2004).
14. For the CEPEJ, the task now is:
· to ensure that the results of this pilot exercise receive due prominence,
· to draw conclusions from the situation described in the report in order to develop policies for improving the efficiency of judicial systems,
· to move from the pilot exercise to a permanent arrangement, based on a revised evaluation Scheme.
a – Publicity to be given to the first evaluation report on judicial systems
15. The evaluation of European judicial systems is the only exercise of its kind in Europe and one to which the CEPEJ wishes to give due publicity.
Publication of the report
16. The evaluation report should be made available to member states, the legal community and the general public through the appropriate channels, and in particular:
· through the CEPEJ web site, which must be organised in such way as to allow easy access to this information
· through a written publication of the Council of Europe.
Conference to present the report
17. It is proposed that the first evaluation report be presented at a European conference, open to the media, which would be held in [….] in the first quarter of 2005, on the eve of the first annual plenary meeting of the CEPEJ. This conference would also provide an opportunity to review the methods used and the problems encountered in the pilot exercise, and to prepare a new evaluation exercise.
b – Revision of the Scheme and implementation of the next evaluation exercise
18. In preparing the Scheme and in the course of the evaluation exercise itself, the following points emerged:
· the need to revise the questionnaire ahead of the next evaluation exercise in order to make the data collected more consistent and more relevant;
· the need for close, ongoing co-operation between all the individuals and bodies involved in the evaluation exercise (the national correspondents who answer the questions, the members of the CEPEJ-GT responsible for evaluation and the CEPEJ, the scientific experts processing the replies, the secretariat). Such co-operation should help create a “network”, in order to ensure that the resulting information is scientifically sound and completely reliable;
· the realisation that it is not enough to merely present the results of the evaluation and that there is also a need to identify trends and, on that basis, priority areas to be addressed by the CEPEJ itself and, in certain cases, by other competent bodies of the Council of Europe and the member states, in order to improve the efficiency of judicial systems;
· the need to make appropriate use of the results concerning the length of proceedings in other work being carried out by the CEPEJ in this area.
19. Once the questionnaire has been duly revised, therefore, a new evaluation exercise will have to be implemented. In the long term, some thought needs to be given to how the findings are to be used and to their implications.
2 – Implementation of the Framework Programme: "A new objective for judicial systems: the processing of each case within an optimum and foreseeable timeframe"
20. At their 895th meeting (15 September 2004), the Ministers’ Deputies took note of the Framework Programme “A new objective for judicial systems: the processing of each case within an optimum and foreseeable timeframe” (CM (2004) 119 Addendum 3) adopted by the CEPEJ at its 3rd plenary meeting (9 – 11 June 2004) and instructed the CEPEJ to implement this programme.
21. The CEPEJ is accordingly invited to translate the Lines of Action set out in the Framework Programme into practical measures, with due regard for member States’ comments as well as comments from the judicial community. In order to successfully complete this task, the CEPEJ first needs to be able to gauge the situation in Europe as regards timeframes.
22. Therefore the CEPEJ set up the CEPEJ Task Force on delay in judicial proceedings (CEPEJ-TF-Del).
23. In order to develop specific measures for implementing the Lines of Action set out in the Framework Programme on timeframes, it is important to:
· examine the timeframes for judicial procedures in the member states, namely to provide an analytical tool for use by member States with a view to possible reforms, in particular by studying cases dealt with by the European Court of Human Rights;
· examine member states’, Observers', etc. comments on the Framework Programme
· specify the Lines of Action regarded as priorities, and the work plan to be devised accordingly; in order to begin implementing the Programme, one option might be to give priority to measures which are more specifically concerned with procedures; this would make it possible to concentrate on practical measures with a direct impact on timeframes, paying special attention to users of the justice system.
24. The Task Force will make it sure that it articulates its work with the work of the Working Party in charge of the evaluation of judicial systems (CEPEJ-GT-EVAL) as regards timeframes of proceedings. It could usefully hold one joint meeting with this Working Party.
25. The Task Force should draw on pilot courts within the member states, to exploit innovative projects aimed at reducing and adjusting the timeframes operated by courts in member states. Such a network of pilot-courts could be regularly convened and/or surveyed by the Task Force in order to report on successful experiments and analyse failures.
26. On that basis, the Task Force could prepare a Guide of best practices in Europe for improving procedure timeframes.
27. In order to fully achieve its objectives, the Task Force could have more members and more meetings, in line with the resources available or, if necessary, sourced from a call for voluntary contributions to the member states or partner organisations.
B – Specific activities conducted by the CEPEJ at the request of one or more member states
28. Slovenia and Croatia: in the framework of the follow-up of the Report on “Practical ways of combating delays in the justice system, excessive workloads of judges and case backlogs”, a Conference will be organised in Ljubljana.
29. Upon written proposals by the delegations, the Bureau of the CEPEJ might decide, subject to available resources, on further activities to be implemented in 2005.
II – Co-operation with other bodies
30. The following co-operation arrangements are in addition to those already mentioned in the CEPEJ Statute (see in particular Articles 4.3, 4.4, 4.5 5.3 and 6.2) and in the statutes of the relevant committees.
A – Council of Europe bodies
1 – The Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
31. Following the exchange of views between the CEPEJ Bureau and the Chair of the CCJE, it is proposed that the CEPEJ and the CCJE work together as follows:
· an appropriate exchange of information: systematic forwarding of relevant documents; inclusion of an item on respective activities in meeting agendas; insertion of cross-references in the respective web sites; where appropriate, CEPEJ members could be invited to attend seminars, colloquies, etc. run by the CCJE and vice versa; where appropriate, the Chair of the CCJE and the CEPEJ Bureau could meet to exchange views;
· more direct and systematic involvement in each other’s activities: a representative of the CCJE could attend plenary meetings of the CEPEJ and a representative of the CEPEJ could attend plenary meetings of the CCJE; one or more representatives of one of the bodies could participate in a working group of the other body, on a case-by-case basis, to make that group’s work more effective; where appropriate, the CEPEJ could be asked by the CCJE to provide opinions, and vice versa.
2 – Other committees
32. The CEPEJ is represented on the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) and on the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER).
33. The CEPEJ co-operates, as appropriate, with the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) on possible new Council of Europe’s instruments aiming at promoting standards for judicial systems.
B – Outside bodies
1 - Observers
34. - The European Union,
- the World Bank,
- The Hague Conference on private international law,
- the European Association of Judges (EAJ),
- European Magistrates for Democracy and Freedom (MEDEL),
- the European Federation of Administrative Judges,
- the Council of the Bars and Law Societies of the European Union (CCBE),
- the European Union of Rechtspfleger (EUR) and
- the International Union of Bailiffs (UIHJ)
have observer status with the CEPEJ and are therefore involved in the CEPEJ’s activities.
2 – The European Commission and in particular its European Judicial Network in Civil and Commercial Matters
35. The CEPEJ secretariat holds two meetings a year with the secretariat of the European Judicial Network in Civil and Commercial Matters of the European Commission so that the two bodies can keep one another informed of their work and introduce joint activities.
36. The two main areas of co-operation are:
· European conferences: none planned in 2005 – negotiations under way for a conference to be held in 2006,
· European Day of Civil Justice (see paragraph 37 below)
III – Relations with the legal and scientific community and the general public
A – European Day of Civil Justice (EDCJ)
37. Since the EDCJ was first launched by the two organisations in 2003, the Council of Europe and the European Commission have sought to encourage initiatives and ensure that any activities organised are in keeping with the aims of the EDCJ, namely to bring justice closer to European citizens. States inform the CEPEJ of any national initiatives organised in this context, and details are then posted on the CEPEJ web site.
38. Every year, the Council of Europe and the European Commission also focus more directly on a particular national event which then becomes the “highlight” of the EDCJ. Any states interested in hosting this event in 2005 are asked to contact the CEPEJ.
B – National Services entrusted with the evaluation of the operation of the judicial systems
39. In order to organise a proper follow up to the Study Session on « dysfunctions within a court » (Strasbourg, 30 November 2004), appropriate exchanges might be organised with the bodies responsible, within the member States, for the evaluation of the functioning of judicial systems.
C – Relations with universities
40. Subject to finding an appropriate topic relating to the efficiency of justice, a team of teachers from at least two member states to oversee the work and a PhD student willing to carry out the research, the CEPEJ could sponsor a university thesis, under an arrangement to be agreed.
D – Information on the functioning of judicial systems
41. Steps should be taken to reinforce the CEPEJ as a reference body for information on the functioning of justice systems and as a source of expertise for member states and interested organisations.
42. The information to be disseminated by the CEPEJ should be such as to enable it to provide genuine added value for public decision-makers, the legal community and ordinary citizens. The initiative, however, should be aimed primarily at law practitioners.
43. A "CEPEJ newsletter" could be introduced. It would be sent to various to the networks to be gradually set up by the CEPEJ. The possibility of free subscription to the Newsletter could be explored.
44. The national correspondents responsible for replying to the Scheme for evaluating judicial systems should be organised as a CEPEJ's Network. This network could also draw on the international associations of procedural law.
45. The CEPEJ web site is a useful tool for helping the commission perform its tasks. Publication of the evaluation report on judicial systems will help to “pull in” visitors to the web site, thus affording the CEPEJ a valuable opportunity to establish itself as a benchmark for providing information in the judicial sphere.
The web site could also provide a general description of all the judicial systems across the member states, according to standardised criteria.
46. In addition, the CEPEJ could begin creating electronic “Files”. The CEPEJ, indeed, should act as a “clearing house” for relevant documents and studies on the efficiency of justice, according to a structured approach, in particular through its web site. The aim is to establish the CEPEJ files as a benchmark in the European legal sphere, thanks to the quality and relevance of their content as a genuine source of expertise for states.
47. The first CEPEJ file to be introduced in 2005 will focus on timeframes for judicial procedures. It should include the following documents, among others:
· Framework Programme on timeframes, preparatory reports (Fabri and Langbroek) and the reports and studies mentioned in the Framework Programme,
· case-law of the ECHR,
· relevant instruments of the Council of Europe and other international and European organisations,
· articles on legal doctrine concerning timeframes for judicial procedures.
48. Relevant contacts with the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters of the European Commission could be organised to strengthen the information policy of the CEPEJ.
Summary of CEPEJ meetings in 2005
5th meeting of the Bureau (Strasbourg or Paris): January
Conference to present the evaluation report on judicial systems (large European town, 2 days): April
5th plenary meeting of the CEPEJ (Strasbourg, 3 days): June
6th meeting of the Bureau (Strasbourg): September or October
6th plenary meeting of the CEPEJ (Strasbourg, 4 days including study session): December
Dates to be agreed:
1st meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-Del (Strasbourg, 3 days)
2nd meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-Del (Strasbourg, 3 days)
3rd meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-Del (Strasbourg, 3 days)
1st meeting of the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL (Strasbourg, 3 days)
2nd meeting of the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL (Strasbourg, 3 days)
3rd meeting of the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL (Strasbourg, 3 days)
N.B: one of the meetings will be organised as a joint event, at least partially
Under the authority of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), the Working Group on evaluation of judicial systems (CEPEJ-GT-EVAL) is instructed to carry out the common tool set up by the CEPEJ which aims at evaluating in an objective manner the functioning of the judicial systems in Europe.
In order to fulfil its tasks, the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL shall in particular:
a. make proposals for a communication strategy which ensures that the results of this pilot exercise for evaluating judicial systems receive due prominence;
b. revise the evaluation scheme in the light of the conclusions of the pilot exercise to ensure the relevance of the exercise of evaluation of the European judicial systems, as an ongoing process;
c. draw up a list of essential data for evaluation purposes and make recommendations so that States organise their statistics collection systems so as to be able to supply those data in future;
d. make proposals for appropriate exploitation of the results achieved through the evaluation exercise and formulate if possible concrete guidelines in order to improve the efficiency of judicial systems in Europe.
The CEPEJ-GT-EVAL shall be composed of 6 members of the CEPEJ or other experts appointed by the CEPEJ who have an in-depth knowledge in the field of the evaluation of judicial systems. Their travel and subsistence expenses will be borne by the budget of the Council of Europe. Other experts appointed by the member States might participate in its work, at their own expenses.
The relevant Council of Europe and European Union bodies might be represented to the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL without the right to vote or defrayal expenses.
The non governmental organisations granted with the observer status to the CEPEJ might be invited by the Bureau to participate in the work of the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL, on a case-by-case basis, if the Bureau considers their attendance relevant for the quality of the work.
3. Working structures and methods
The CEPEJ-GT-EVAL will organise 3 meetings in 2005, one of them being combined with one meeting of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL.
It will rely on particular the network of national correspondents entrusted with the fulfilment of the Scheme.
In carrying out its terms of reference, the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL may seek the advice of external experts and have recourse to studies by consultants.
These terms of reference expire on 31 December 2006.
Under the authority of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, the Task Force on timeframes of proceedings (CEPEJ-TF-DEL) is instructed to translate into practical measuresthe Lines of Action set out in the Framework Programme entitled "A new objective for judicial systems: the processing of each case within an optimum and foreseeable timeframe" (CEPEJ (2004) 19 Rev).
The CEPEJ-TF-DEL shall in particular:
1. Examine the timeframes for judicial procedures by:
a. analysing the situation of existing timeframes in the member States (timeframes per types of cases, waiting times in the proceedings, etc.);
b. studying the standards for reasonable time and the causes for delays, including by studying cases dealt with by the European Court of Human Rights;
c. providing an analytical tool with a view to possible reforms.
2. Specify the Lines of Action regarded as priorities and then define on this basis the work plan by giving priority to practical measures with direct impact on timeframes and paying special attention to users of the justice system;
3. Elaborate, on the basis of the experiences of Member States, a Compendium of best practices in Europe for improving procedure timeframes, to be regularly updated.
In order to fulfil its tasks, the CEPEJ-TF-DEL shall in particular:
· examine member States’ comments on the Framework Programme;
· articulate its works with the works of the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL as regards timeframes of proceedings, namely on the basis of the results of the evaluation exercises through the Evaluation Scheme;
· rely on appropriate networks allowing the integration of the works and reflections of the judicial community, in particular on a network of pilot courts within the member States, to exploit innovative projects aimed at reducing and adjusting the timeframes operated by courts in member States.
The CEPEJ-TF-DEL shall be composed of 6 members of the CEPEJ or other experts appointed by the Bureau of the CEPEJ who have an in-depth knowledge in the field of procedure timeframes. Their travel and subsistence expenses will be borne by the budget of the Council of Europe. Other experts appointed by the member States might participate in its work, at their own expenses.
The relevant Council of Europe and European Union bodies might be represented to the CEPEJ-TF-DEL without the right to vote or defrayal expenses.
The non governmental organisations granted with the observer status to the CEPEJ might be invited by the Bureau to participate in the work of the CEPEJ-TF-DEL, on a case-by-case basis, if the Bureau considers their attendance relevant for the quality of the work.
3. Working structures and methods
The CEPEJ-TF-DEL will held 3 meetings in 2005, one of them being combined with one meeting of the CEPEJ-GT-EVAL.
In carrying out its terms of reference, the CEPEJ-TF-DEL may seek the advice of external experts and have recourse to studies by consultants.
These terms of reference expire on 31 December 2006.
 In the light, inter alia, of the relevant resolutions and recommendations of the Committee of Ministers.
 Preferably a large European town.
 Subject to available resources.
 The Framework Programme will be sent again to the Member States for comments on the basis of specific questions, after the 4th plenary meeting of the CEPEJ.
 This would concern in particular Line of action 3: improving the foreseeability of the timeframes / Line of action 4: defining standards for an optimum timeframe for each type of case / Line of action 5: improving statistical tools and developing information and communication strategies
 In particular Lines of Action 7: allowing adjustment of timeframes / 8: acting on the number of cases dealt with by the court by ensuring an appropriate use of appeals and other applications / 9: acting on quality of proceedings / 10: defining priorities in dealing with cases / 11: better organising trials to reduce waiting time, while paying special attention to victims and witnesses / 12: setting up a procedure to revive a pending case / 13: making more flexible the rules on territorial jurisdiction of first instance courts.
 Line of action 6: identifying pilot-courts concerning the reduction of length of proceedings
 See also document CEPEJ-BU(2004)6
 4th meeting of the Bureau, Strasbourg, 20 October 2004.
 Conference “Towards better access to justice for citizens”, Brussels, October 2002; Conference “Towards an ideal trial: a few examples of the most successful judicial civil proceedings in Europe”, Brussels, November 2004.
See in 2003, Open Day at the Supreme Court of Hungary and in 2004, moot courts according to German, Czech and Polish procedures at the Court of Bautzen (Germany).
See Secretariat Memorandum CEPEJ - BU (2004) 3 “Setting up the “CEPEJ Files””.
 on the basis of the Line of action 6 of the Framework-Programme