Strasbourg, 25 September 2013

CEPEJ (2008)8 Rev 3[1]



Steering Group of the SATURN Centre for judicial time management (CEPEJ-SATURN)




This draft has been finalised by the CEPEJ-SATURN during its 14th metting

(25-27 September 2013).

It will then be examined by the CEPEJ during its 22nd plenary meeting

(5-6 December 2013) with a view of this adoption

Please note that Appendix II includes Excel sheets with mathematic formula which can be directly used by the courts from the electronic version of this document available on :, file "Judicial time management"



1.            All national court administrations, willing to apply such guidelines should undertake comparative analyses of the SATURN guidelines and the time management tools used by the courts in their jurisdictions, identify SATURN guidelines that are not implemented and develop efficient strategies on how to implement and improve them.

2.              The time management guidelines of SATURN must be translated and made available to all courts, judicial administrations, ministries of justice, local and national lawyers associations, public prosecutors and crime units in the police, victims’ organizations and other user organizations and enforcement agencies in all member states. All users should be encouraged  to implement them as appropriate.

I.             General principles and guidelines

A.           Transparency and foreseeability

1.            The users of the justice system should be involved in the time management of judicial proceedings.

2.            The users should be informed and, where appropriate, consulted regarding  every relevant aspect that influences the length of proceedings.

3.            The length of proceedings should be foreseeable as far  as possible.

4.            The general statistical and other data regarding  the length of proceedings, in particular per types of cases, should be available to the general public.

B.           Optimum length

1.            The length of judicial proceedings should be appropriate.

2.            It is particularly important and in the public interest that the length of judicial proceedings is not unreasonable. Cases should not be  excessively long. They should, under some circumstances, also not be too short, if this would unduly impact the users' right of access to court.

3.             The time management of judicial proceedings, if not determined by the behaviour of the users themselves, should be decided  in an impartial and objective manner, avoiding significant differences with regard to timing of similar cases.

4.             Particular attention should be given to the appropriateness of the total length of proceedings, from the initiation of the proceedings to the final satisfaction of the aims that the users wanted to obtain through judicial process.

C.           Planning and collection of data

1.            The length of judicial proceedings should be planned, both at the general level (planning of average/mean duration of particular types of cases, or average/mean duration of process before certain types of courts), and at the level of concrete proceedings.

2.             The users are entitled to be consulted in the time management of the judicial process and in setting the dates or estimating the timing of all future procedural steps.

3.            The length of judicial proceedings should be monitored through an integral and well-defined system of collection of information. Such a system should be able to promptly provide both the detailed statistical data on the length of proceedings at the general level, and identify individual instances at the origin of excessive and unreasonable length.

D.           Flexibility

1.            The time management of the judicial process has to be adjusted to the needs of the concrete proceedings, paying special attention to the needs of users.

2.             The normative setting of time-limits by legislation or other general acts should be used cautiously, having regard to possible differences in concrete cases. If the time limits are set by the law, their observance and appropriateness should be continually monitored and evaluated.

3.            If the law provides that particular types of cases should have priority or be decided urgently, this general rule has to be interpreted in a reasonable way, in the light of the purpose for which the urgency or priority was provided for.

E.            Loyal collaboration of all stakeholders

2.            Optimum and foreseeable length of proceedings[2] should be within the responsibility of all institutions and persons who participate in the design, regulation, planning and conduct of judicial proceedings, in particular by taking into account ethical rules.

3.             In particular, the actions needed to ensure the implementation of the principles and guidelines contained in this document should be undertaken by legislators, policy makers and the authorities responsible for the administration of justice.

4.            The central bodies responsible for the administration of justice have the duty to ensure that the means and conditions necessary for appropriate time management are available, and take action where appropriate. The bodies of court administration have to assist in the time management by collecting information and facilitating the organisation of judicial proceedings. The bodies that conduct the proceedings should actively engage in the planning and organisation of the proceedings.

5.            Framework agreements with lawyers regarding  timeframes and deadlines will be welcome in all jurisdictions where the cooperation of lawyers is important for  putting forward suitable calendars for each case.

II.            Guidelines for legislators and policy makers

A.               Resources

1.            The judicial system needs to have sufficient resources to cope with its regular workload in due time. The resources have to be distributed according to the needs and must  be used efficiently.

2.             There should be resources that can be utilised in case of unexpected changes in the workload or the inability of the system to process the cases promptly.

3.            The decisions on the utilisation of resources for the functioning of the judiciary should be made in a  way that stimulates effective time management. If it is necessary, it should be possible to reallocate the resources in a fast and effective way in order to avoid delays and backlogs.

B.               Organisation

1.            The judicial bodies should be organised in a  way that encourages effective time management.

2.             Within the organisation, the responsibility for  time management or judicial processes has to be clearly determined. There should be a unit that permanently analyses the length of proceedings with a view to identify trends, anticipate changes and prevent problems related to the length of proceedings.

3.            All organisational changes that affect the judiciary should be studied as regards the possible impact on the time management of judicial proceedings.

C.               Substantive law

1.            The legislation has to be clear, simple, in plain language and not too difficult to implement. The changes in substantive law have to be well prepared.

2.            When enacting new legislation, the government should always study its impact on the volume of new cases and avoid rules and regulations that may generate backlogs and delays.

3.            Both the users and the judicial bodies have to be informed in advance about changes in  legislation, so that they can implement them in a timely and efficient way.

D.               Procedure

1.            The rules of judicial procedures must enable to respect optimum timeframes. The rules that unnecessarily delay the proceedings or provide for overly complex procedures have to be eliminated or amended.

2.             The rules of judicial procedure should take into account the applicable recommendations of the Council of Europe, in particular the recommendations:

§    R(81)7 on measures facilitating access to justice,

§    R(84)5 on the principle of civil procedure designed to improve the functioning of justice,

§    R(86)12concerning measures to prevent and reduce the excessive workload in the courts,

§    R(87)18concerning the simplification of criminal justice,

§    R(95)5 concerning the introduction and improvement of the functioning of appeal systems and procedures in civil and commercial cases,

§    R(95)12on the management of criminal justice,

§    R(2001)3on the delivery of court and other legal services to the citizen through the use of new technologies.

3.            In drafting or amending the procedural rules, due regard has to be made to the opinion of those who will apply these procedures.

4.            The procedure in the first instance should be concentrated, while at the same time affording to users their right to a fair and public hearing.

5.            Further use of accelerated proceedings should be encouraged, where appropriate.

6.            In appropriate cases, the appeal options can be limited. In certain cases (e.g. small claims) the appeal may be excluded, or a leave to appeal may be requested. Manifestly ill-founded appeals may be declared inadmissible or rejected in a summary way.

7.            The recourse to the highest instances has to be limited to the cases that deserve their attention and review.

III.           Guidelines for authorities responsible for administration of justice

A.           Division of labour

1.            The duty to contribute to appropriate time management is shared by all the authorities responsible for the administration of justice (courts, judges, administrators), and all persons involved professionally in the judicial proceedings (e.g. experts and lawyers), each within his competences.

2.            All authorities responsible for the administration of justice have to cooperate in the process of setting standards and targets. In the elaboration of these standards and targets the other stakeholders and the users of the justice system should also be consulted.

B.           Monitoring

2.            The timeframes of judicial proceedings have to be scrutinised through statistics. There should be sufficient information with respect to the length of particular types of cases, and the length of the all stages of judicial proceedings.

3.            It should be made clear that the standards and targets for the specific types of cases and/or specific courts are being observed.

4.            The body in charge of individual proceedings has to monitor the compliance with the time limits that are being set or agreed with the other participants in the proceedings.

5.            The monitoring should be done in accordance with the European Uniform Guidelines for Monitoring of Judicial Timeframes – EUGMONT.

C.           Intervention

1.            If departures from standards and targets for judicial timeframes are being observed or foreseen, prompt actions should be taken in order to remedy the causes of such departures.

2.            Particular attention should be given to  cases where integral duration is such that it may give rise to the finding of the violation of the human right to a trial within reasonable time.[3]

3.            The monitoring should make sure that the periods of inactivity (waiting time) in the judicial proceeding are not excessively long, and wherever such extended periods exist,particular efforts have to be made in order to speed up the proceeding and compensate for the delay[4].

D.           Use of new technologies

1.         The use of new technologies within courts should be encouraged in order to reduce timeframes of judicial proceedings, in particular for the case management and during the proceedings, in particular:

-       telephone-conferences and video-conferences at different stages of the proceedings;

-       electronic communication between the court and the parties and more generally for all relations between participants to the proceedings;

-       consulting files at a distance;

-       codification of offences.

E.              Accountability

1.            Everyone who, by his act or omission, causes delays and adversely affects the observance of set standards and targets in the time management should be held accountable.

2.            In addition to the individual accountability for the ineffective time management, the state may be held jointly and severally accountable for the consequences caused to the users by the unreasonable length of proceedings.

IV.          Guidelines for court managers

A.           Collection of information

1.            Court managers should collect information on the most important steps in the judicial process. They should keep records regarding the duration between these steps. In respect to the steps monitored, due regard should be given to the Time management Checklist, Indicator Four[5].

2.            The information collected should be available, to inform the work of court administrators, judges and the central authorities responsible for the administration of justice. In appropriate form, the information should also be made available to the parties and the general public.

B.           Continuing analysis

1.            All information collected should be continually analysed and used for the purposes of monitoring and the improvement of performance.

2.            The collected information should be available for the purposes of statistical evaluation. Subject to the protection of privacy, the collected data should also be available to independent researchers and research institutions for the purposes of scientific analysis.

3.            The reports on the results of analysis should be produced at regular intervals, at least once a year, with appropriate recommendations.

C.           Established targets

1.            In addition to the standards and targets set at the higher level (national, regional), there should be specific targets at the level of individual courts. The court managers should have sufficient authorities and autonomy to actively set or participate in setting of these targets.

2.            The targets should clearly define the objectives and be achievable. They should be published and subject to periodical re-evaluation.

3.            The targets may be used in the evaluation of the court performance. If they are not achieved, concrete steps and actions have to be taken to remedy the situation.

D.           Crisis management

1.            In the situations where there is a significant departure from the targets set at the court level, there should be specific means available to rapidly and adequately address the cause of the problem.

V.           Guidelines for judges

A.           Active case management

1.            The judge should have sufficient powers to actively manage the proceedings.

2.            Subject to general rules, the judge should be authorized to set appropriate time limits and adjust the time management to the general and specific targets as well as to the particulars of each individual case.

3.            Standard electronic templates for the drafting of judicial decisions and judicial decision support software should be developed and used by judges and court staff.

B.           Timing agreement with the parties and lawyers

1.            In the time management of the process, due regard should be given to the interests of the users. They have the right to be involved in the planning of the process at an early stage.

2.            Where possible, the judge should attempt to reach agreement with all participants in the procedure regarding the procedural calendar. For this purpose, he should also be assisted by appropriate court personnel (clerks) and information technology. 

3.              The deviations from the agreed calendar should be minimal and restricted to justified cases. In principle, the extension of the set time limits should be possible only with the agreement of all parties, or if the interests of justice so require.

C.           Co-operation and monitoring of other actors (experts, witnesses etc.)

1.            All participants in the process have the duty to co-operate with the court in the observance of set targets and time limits.

2.             In the process, the judge has the right to monitor the observance of time limits by all participants, in particular those invited or engaged by the court, such as witnesses or experts.

D.           Suppression of procedural abuses

1.         All attempts to willingly and knowingly delay  proceedings should be discouraged.

2.         There should be procedural sanctions for causing delay and vexatious behaviour. These sanctions can be applied either to the parties or their representatives.

3.         If a member of a legal profession grossly abuses procedural rights or significantly delays the proceedings, it should be reported to the respective professional organisation for further consequences.

E.            The reasoning of judgments

1.            The reasoning of all judgements should be concise in form and limited to the essential issues. The purpose should be to explain the decision. Only questions relevant to the decision of the case should be taken into account.

2.            It should be possible for judges, in appropriate cases, to give an oral judgement with a written decision.

Appendix I





1. General data on courts and court proceedings

System of monitoring should have available and public information on the general design of the judicial system, with special attention to the information relevant for the time management of the proceedings. The information on the general level should include accurate information on:

-           the number and types of courts and their jurisdiction;

-           the number and types of proceedings in the courts;

-           the proceedings designated as priority (urgent) cases;

The data on judicial system should be regularly updated, and be available at least on the annual level (start/end of the calendar year). The following data on the number of proceedings in the courts should be available:

-           total number of proceedings pending at the beginning of the monitored period (e.g. calendar year);

-           new proceedings (proceedings initiated within the monitored period, e.g. in the calendar year);

-           resolved cases (proceedings finalized within the monitored period either through a decision on the merit, a withdrawal of the case, a friendly settlement, etc…);

-           total number of proceedings pending at the end of the monitored period.

The data on the finalized proceedings can be split according to the way how the proceedings ended. At least, the cases that ended by a decision on the merits should be distinguishable from the cases that ended otherwise (withdrawal of the claim, settlement, rejection on formal grounds).

Example I.

Courts of the State of Alpina

Court or branch of jurisdiction

Cases pending on 1.1.2008

New cases initiated

in 2008

Resolved cases

in 2008

Cases pending on



Court(s) A


Court(s) B


Court(s) C


N.B: "cases pending on 31.12.2008" = "cases pending on 1.1.2008" + "new cases initiated in 2008" – "resolved cases in 2008".

2. Information on types of cases

The information about the cases in the courts should be available both as the total, aggregate information, and as information divided according to the types of cases. For this purpose, some general and universal categories of cases should be utilized, such as division on civil, criminal and administrative cases.

Within the general categories, a more detailed types or groups of cases should be distinguished (e.g. labour cases; murder cases), and the same information should be available for the appropriate subtypes (e.g. employment dismissal cases within labour cases).

At this stage, each court can use its own case category. However the following four categories are mandatory for each court: litigious divorce, dismissal, robbery and intentional homicide.

§  Litigious divorce cases: i.e. the dissolution of a marriage contract between two persons, by the judgement of a court of a competent jurisdiction. The data should not include: divorce ruled by an agreement between the parties concerning the separation of the spouses and all its consequences (procedure of mutual consent, even if they are processed by the court) or ruled through an administrative procedure. If your country has a totally non-judicial procedure as regards divorce or if you can not isolate data concerning adversarial divorces, please specify it and give the subsequent explanations. Furthermore, if there are in your country, as regards divorce, compulsory mediation procedures or reflecting times, or if the conciliation phase is excluded from the judicial proceeding, please specify it and give the subsequent explanations.

§  Employment dismissal cases: cases concerning the termination of (an) employment (contract) at the initiative of the employer (working in the private sector). It does not include dismissals of public officials, following a disciplinary procedure for instance.

§  Robbery concerns stealing from a person with force or threat of force. If possible these figures should include: muggings (bag-snatching, armed theft, etc) and exclude pick pocketing, extortion and blackmail (according to the definition of the European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice). The data should not include attempts.

§  Intentional homicide is defined as the intentional killing of a person. Where possible the figures should include: assault leading to death, euthanasia, infanticide and exclude suicide assistance (according to the definition of the European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice). The data should not include attempts.

For the purposes of further comparison with other European systems, the precise definition and scope of the other case type used by the court (especially the non-common categories) should be appended.

Example II.

City Court of Danubia

Type of case

Cases pending on 1.1.2008

New cases initiated

in 2008

Resolved cases

in 2008

Cases pending on



Civil cases


Litigious divorces







Criminal cases


Intentional homicides




3. Information on timeframes of proceedings

3a. Information on court-based timeframes of proceedings per duration periods and average/maximum timeframes


Every court should collect data regarding the timeframes of proceedings that are taking place in the court. Pending and completed cases within the period (e.g. calendar year) should be separately monitored, and the data on their duration should be split in the groups according to the periods of their duration, i.e. cases pending or completed in less than one month, 1-3 months, 4-5 months, 7 to 12 months, 1-2 years, 2-3 years, 3-5 years and more than 5 years. In addition to the spread of cases according to periods of their duration, the average and mean duration of the proceedings have to be calculated, and an indication of minimum and maximum timeframes should be given as well. The time of processing should consider only the time that was needed to process the case within the particular court, i.e. the time between the moment when the case arrived to the court and the moment when the case exited the court (e.g. final decision, transfer to a higher court to be decided on appeal, etc). If possible, the information on timeframes of proceedings for the completed cases should be distinguishable for the cases completed after a full examination of the case (i.e. the cases that ended by a decision on the merits) and the cases that were completed otherwise (by withdrawal, settlement, lack of jurisdiction etc.). 

Example III:

City Court of Danubia

Duration of cases completed in 2008 (situation as per 31.12.2008.)

Number of resolved cases

Number of cases pending on at the end of the period

< 1 m.

1-3 m

4-6 m

7-12 m.

1-2 y

2-3 y.

3-5 y

5 y>

Disposition time, in days


Civil cases


Litigious divorces







Criminal cases


Intentional homicides




3b. Information on total duration of proceedings


It is particularly important that the cases in the court also can be distinguished according to their total duration. The total duration is the time between the initiation of the proceedings and the final disposal of the case (see the CEPEJ Time-management checklist and SATURN Guidelines). If possible, the time needed to enforce the decisions should also be appended to the information on total timeframes of proceedings.

4. Monitoring of intermediate stages of proceedings and waiting time

The monitoring of timeframes should not be limited to the collection of data regarding total timeframes between the start and the end of the proceedings. Information on duration of intermediate stages of the proceedings should also be collected. At the minimum, the stages to be monitored should include the duration of the preparatory stage of the proceedings (e.g. time between the start of the proceedings and the first hearing on the merits), the central stage (e.g. from the first to the last hearing on the merits) and the concluding stage of the trial (e.g. from the last hearing to the delivery of the decision on the merits). The data on duration of appeals proceedings, or duration of other legal remedies should also be available. Special monitoring should be provided for the periods of inactivity (waiting time).

This statistic must be completed at national level by the relevant body (Ministry of Justice, High Council for the Judiciary, etc.).

Example IV:

            City Court of Danubia

Type of case

Average duration of intermediate stages in the proceedings (situation as per 31.12.2008.)

Trial stage

Legal remedies

Preparation of the proceeding




Special recourse



Civil cases


Litigious divorces







Criminal cases


Intentional homicides




5. Analytical information and indicators

Based on the general data on courts, numbers of cases and their duration, as well as on the other relevant information on the courts and judicial system, further instruments may be used as indicators and benchmarks of performance in the courts.

Inter alia, the following indices can be used to analyse and monitor the duration and other factors important for the understanding of timeframes in the court:

1.     Clearance rate (CR indicator): Relationship between the new cases and completed cases within a period, in percentage.

Example: If in a calendar year 500 new cases were submitted to the court, and the court completed at the same time 550 cases, the CR is 110%. If the court would complete 400 cases, the CR would be 80%. A CR above 100 % means that the number of pending cases decreases.

2.     Case Turnover ratio: Relationship between the number of resolved cases and the number of unresolved cases at the end. This requires a calculation of the number of times during the year (or other observed period) that the standardized case types are turned over or resolved.

3.     Disposition time (DT indicator): it compares the number of resolved cases during the observed period and the number of unresolved cases at the end of the observed period. 365 is divided by the number of resolved cases divided by the number of unresolved cases at the end, so as to be able to express it in number of days. The ratio measures how quickly the judicial system (of the court) turns over received cases – that is, how long it takes for a type of cases to be resolved. This indicator provides further insight into how a judicial system manages its flow of cases.

Other indicators (for information)

4.     Efficiency rate (ER indicator): Relationship between the number of personnel used in a court in a year and the output of cases from the same court at the end of the year.

5.     Total backlog (TB indicator): Cases remaining unresolved at the end of the period, defined as difference between the total number of pending cases at the beginning of the period, and the cases resolved within the same period. Example: If there were 1000 cases pending at the beginning of the calendar year, and the court terminated 750 cases during the calendar year, at the end of the calendar period there would be 250 cases that are calculated as total backlog.

6.     Backlog resolution (BR indicator): The time needed to resolve the total backlog in months or days, calculated as the relationship between the number of cases and the clearance time. Example: If there are 100 cases considered as total backlog at the end of the period, and the court completed 200 cases in the same period, the BR indicator is 6 months or 180 days.

7.     Case per judge (CPJ indicator): Number of cases of a particular type per judge in the given period. Example: If a court has 600 pending civil cases at the end of the calendar year and 4 judges that deal with them, the CPC is 150.

8.     Standard departure (SD indicator): Departure from the set targets per type of case in the given period, in percentage or days. Example: If the target for completion of litigious divorce case in the first instance was set to be 200 days, and in the calendar year the average duration of such cases was 240 days, the SD indicator is 40 days or 20%.

Appendix II – Examples of synopsis

Please note that Appendix II includes Excel sheets with mathematic formula which can be directly used by the courts from the electronic version of this document available on :, file "SATURN Centre".

To use the document as an Excel calculation sheet, please double click on the relevant table.

[1] This version takes into account several amandments proposed by the Steering Group of the SATURN Centre following the 4th plenary meeting of Pilot Courts (Strasbour, 10 September 2009)

[2] See the Framework Programme: "A new objective for judicial systems: the processing of each case within an optimum and foreseeable timeframe (CEPEJ(2004)19Rev2) and the "CEPEJ Study N°3: Length of court proceedings in the member states of the Council of Europe based on the case law of the European Court of Human Rights" (F. Calvez, mise à jour 2012 par N. Régis – Council of Europe publishing) available on

[4] The duty to pay special attention to the periods of inactivity that can be attributed to the courts and other state authorities also arises out of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to Art. 6 of the European Human Rights Convention.

[5] Time management Checklist (CEPEJ(2005)12Rev).