Judicial systems of the European Union countries
Analysis of data
by the European Commission
for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ)
Council of Europe
Advocate General at the Court of Cassation
Associate Professor at the University of Poitiers
Expert on European Union law
Associate expert in the CEPEJ
(please refer to .pdf version of the report Judicial systems of the European Union countries, as analysed by the European Commission
for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ)
Council of Europe )
his study is based on the data collected during the preparatory work carried out by the CEPEJ?s Working
Group on Evaluation of Judicial Systems (GT-EVAL)1 with a view to preparing the latest, 2012 report on
?European judicial systems? by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice.
The fourth edition of the CEPEJ?s report (2010 data), presented in Vienna on 20 September 2012 to the
Conference of Ministers of Justice of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, provides public
decision-makers and legal professionals with a data base and an analytical tool to learn more about the
functioning of Europe?s public judicial service so as to be able to increase its efficiency and quality.
This study makes use of the methodology devised by the CEPEJ?s expert group on evaluation, chaired by
Jean-Paul Jean. Readers therefore are referred to the report for all the details on methodological aspects
which are described in particular in this context. The aim of the study before you is to make a specific
comparative analysis of the 27 European Union member states. With a view to the future, Croatia was
included in the list of member states to take account of the fact that it is joining the European Union on 1 July
20132. The candidate countries (Iceland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia,
Turkey) and potential candidates (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina) were also added. The quality of the
data available makes it possible to compile and analyse some significant sets of statistics in important areas
to assess the major trends in Europe?s judicial systems and tie these in with reform processes that are
needed or already under way. Drawing on these data, the CEPEJ proposes tools to help with the process of
devising, implementing and assessing public policies to improve the efficiency of judicial systems in the
European Union, based on the principles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights
and Fundamental Freedoms and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
All the data sent in by member states, which were used as the basis of this report are available on the
CEPEJ website at www.coe.int/CEPEJ.
They should be read in conjunction with the national replies, which are also freely available and include
descriptions of judicial systems and explanations which help to understand more about some of the data and
To avoid hasty judgments and meaningless parallels, it should also be stressed that this comparison of
quantitative and qualitative data comes from states with varying historical, geographical, economic and
judicial situations. Although the whole development of the European Union as a legal and judicial area is
directed towards bringing together justice systems on the basis of shared values, the comparison must
always take account of specific national characteristics such as size, levels of wealth, or judicial culture and
traditions, particularly the differences between states with systems based on Roman law and common law
and states in transition.
1. DEMOGRAPHIC REPRESENTATIVENESS AND LEVELS OF WEALTH
The countries have been divided into two groups, the first made up of the EU 28, including Croatia, and the
second of the candidate and the potential candidate countries.
Data on population and wealth (GDP and average gross wage) make it possible to establish ratios with
which to adjust raw data, particularly budgetary data and data linked to the activity of courts.
1.1 Demographic representativeness and levels of wealth in the EU member states and candidate
1.2 Map showing populations and levels of wealth
1.3 Populations and wealth in the eurozone countries
1.4 Populations and wealth in the non-eurozone countries
2. STATE BUDGETS FOR JUDICIAL SYSTEMS
2.1 State budgets for judicial systems in the member states and candidate countries
There are major disparities between the member states where it comes to the budget they allocate for the
functioning of the judicial system. It is for this reason that comparisons are only meaningful if they are made
between comparable states in terms of wealth levels. On average, there is a tendency for budgets allocated
to judicial systems to increase. In many countries the share of the budget has grown considerably since
2008, as in Cyprus, Lithuania, and Portugal, particularly as a result of investments in buildings or computer
applications. By contrast, some EU member and candidate countries have reduced their judicial budget
because of the economic and financial crisis including Albania, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Romania,
Serbia, Slovakia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
2.2. The per capita annual budget allocated to all courts, legal aid and public prosecution in 2010
2.2.1. Per capita budget for the eurozone countries
Eurozone average : ? 74,6
Eurozone median : ? 69,5
The average per capita budget allocated to judicial services was ?74.60 in 2010 in the eurozone countries,
with a gap of only one to two euros between 11 out of 15 comparable countries (in a range from ?60.50 for
France to ?118 for the Netherlands). By comparison, the average was ?65.70 per capita in the EU member
states and ?58.40 including candidate and potential candidate countries. The median value for the budget
allocation was ?61.10 in the EU countries (and ?55.10 including the candidates and potential candidates).
Nearly half of the EU countries have per capita budgets above the European average.
2.3.2. Per capita budget for the non-eurozone countries
Non-eurozone average : ? 43,1
Non-eurozone median : ? 36,3
2.3. Correlation between per capita GDP and total budget (courts, legal aid and public prosecution
On the whole, there is a strong correlation between the per capita state budget allocated to the judicial
system and per capita GDP (the level of investment increases as GDP rises). However, this correlation is
somewhat less obvious between some groups of countries with comparable GDPs (such as Austria,
Belgium, France, Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden); in this case the
comparison highlights countries? real budgetary efforts (the Netherlands and Germany invest most in their
judicial systems whereas France invests far less).
2.4. Real per capita budgets compared to GDP
2.5. Allocation of the state budget to different budget headings
On average, wages account for about two-thirds of public spending on judicial systems. The tendency for
certain countries to outsource services can mean that this spending is allocated to service contracts.
Common law countries, which make wide use of magistrates, who are paid allowances but not wages, have
lower staff costs. Some countries have invested a great deal in ICT (Austria, Belgium, Netherlands) and/or
training (France, Netherlands).
- Wages: 65.7%
- ITC: 2.9%
- Court fees: 7.3%
- Buildings: 7.6%
- Investments: 3.4%
- Training: 0.6%
3. ACCESS TO JUSTICE
3.1. Per capita annual state budget allocated to legal aid in 2010 (in euros)
All the EU member states or candidate or potential candidate countries now have a legal aid system and
therefore at least satisfy the requirements of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights
concerning the provision of free legal defence for anyone charged with a criminal offence. Nonetheless, the
data collected still do not make it possible to ascertain whether the states concerned all provide the
necessary financial support for the effective access to justice provided for by Article 47 of the Charter of
Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The overall sums allocated to legal aid systems vary substantially. The United Kingdom allocates by far the
largest sums (over ?45 per inhabitant), followed by the Netherlands (?21.60), the other northern European
countries (?10.80 to ? 20.80) and then another group made up of Germany, Portugal, Spain, France and
Belgium (?4.70 to ?6.90).
3.2. Awards of legal aid in terms of the number of cases per inhabitant and average amounts
The detail of sums awarded shows that only some states pay lawyers large amounts for each case and open
up legal aid to many people. The United Kingdom and Ireland pay the highest amounts and the Netherlands
is the country in which legal aid is granted for the largest number of cases. Other countries have very
restrictive requirements for entitlement to legal aid but pay large amounts to lawyers who take such cases
3.3. Share of court fees in the budget allocated to courts, legal aid and the prosecution service
For most EU states court fees are a key financial resource and parties to proceedings are increasingly seen
as consumers of a public service, who are expected to contribute to its cost unless they are entitled to legal
aid. Only Luxembourg has established free access to justice for all its citizens (France amended its
legislation in 2011). The countries with the largest resources are those where the courts are also responsible
for real estate or company registers, for which users pay fees for administration, access to information and
formalities. As things stand, it is impossible to distinguish these receipts from those deriving from judicial
3.4. Numbers of lawyers (not including legal advisers) and the average variation between 2006 and
?Legal Europe? is on the rise and this is the result not only of increased access to justice but also of the
increase in the number of lawyers, particularly in the countries of the former Eastern bloc.
3.5. Number of lawyers (not including legal advisers) per 100 000 inhabitants in 2010
If we discount the very specific situation of Luxembourg, the number of lawyers per inhabitant (not including
legal advisers) is highest by far in the southern European countries, where the public shows a highly litigious
tendency (Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, which have between 260 and 370 lawyers per 100 000
inhabitants). The northern European countries, apart from Iceland, have the lowest levels (35 to 59 in
Finland, Sweden and the Baltic states).
3.6. Number of lawyers (not including legal advisers) per professional judge
The ratio of lawyers per professional judge is inevitably very high in common law countries because of the
major role played in these countries by magistrates, who deal with over 95% of cases. For historical reasons
it is the eastern European countries which have the lowest ratio (ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 lawyers per
professional judge). If we discount the particular situation in the Mediterranean countries (see above), the
other comparable countries have ratios ranging from five to ten (Austria, Netherlands, France, Germany,
4. JUDICIAL STAFF
To cater for the diversity of statuses, judges were divided into three categories: professional judges (with a
further distinction between those that are permanently active and those that serve as judges only
occasionally) and non-professional judges (volunteers who are only paid allowances).
4.1. Number of professional judges serving in courts (on full-time equivalent posts) per 100 000
The ratio of professional judges to inhabitants is highest in the east European countries, particularly Croatia,
Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia, all of which have over 30
judges per 100 000 inhabitants as compared to 10 to 15 in France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Belgium and the
Netherlands. The central European countries have an intermediate level (17.8 in Austria, 24.3 in Germany,
24.9 in Slovakia and between 27 and 29 in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic). The common-law
countries inevitably have a very low ratio when taking account of professional judges alone (see above).
4.2. Respective proportions of non-judge staff and professional judges per 100 000 inhabitants
4.3. Ratio of non-judge staff and Rechtspfleger to professional judges
Non-judge staff working for courts can be divided into four categories. The first very specific one, inspired by
the German system, is that of the ?Rechtspfleger?, who have quasi-judicial powers and are found in 14
states. The other categories are staff whose task is to assist judges directly, staff responsible for various
administrative matters and the technical staff employed by courts (caretakers, drivers, etc.). In most member
states, most non-judge staff working at courts are responsible for assisting judges directly. The ratio lies very
predominantly between 2.5 and 4 officials per judge (map 4.3) but the eastern European countries have a
combination of a very high number of professional judges and court officials per inhabitant (table 4.2)3.
3 France and Greece were not able to separate out the figures for the different categories of officials assigned to the
prosecution service and the courts, so the ratio for these two countries is that of professional judges and prosecutors to
total judicial staff.
4.4. Number of public prosecutors per 100 000 inhabitants
The public authority whose main responsibility is to carry out prosecutions has a highly varying status from
one state to another and may perform other functions (see below).
The public prosecution service still has a patently important role in eastern Europe, where ratios range from
14.8 to 25.7 prosecutors per 100 000 inhabitants in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and
The lowest ratios (less than 5 prosecutors per 100 000 inhabitants) are found in France, Italy, Austria,
Greece and Ireland but, for these countries, these data must be placed in context, as they have a large
number of other staff or persons with statuses close to that of prosecutors who perform similar functions or
4.5. Distribution of men and women and access to positions of responsibility among judges and
4.5.1. Distribution of male and female professional judges within the total number of professional
There are now more women than men (53%) serving as judges in the European Union. However, there are
major disparities between states, and recent changes in recruitment patterns appear to be significant.
In three countries (Turkey, Malta and Iceland) 68 or 69% of professional judges are men and in three others
the proportion is higher (76 to 79% in Ireland, England and Wales, and Scotland).
On the other hand, in another six countries women account for 67% (Croatia) or more (Hungary, Serbia,
Romania up to 73%, Latvia and Slovenia 78%) of all professional judges.
The proportion of women judges in the 21 other states surveyed lies between 65% (Greece, France) and
41% (Albania, Cyprus, Sweden, Belgium).
4.5.2. Distribution of men and women employed as presidents of courts of first instance
The data on access to posts of responsibility, as reflected by the gender distribution in posts of presidents of
courts of first instance, show that women are only in the majority in such posts in five countries, namely
Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia and Slovenia.
4.5.3. Distribution of men and women employed as presidents of courts of second instance
At the higher, appeal court level, women are only in the majority in posts of president in Latvia and Slovenia
(and equal with men in Greece). In 2010, women presided alone in the Supreme Courts in Montenegro,
Austria, Luxembourg, Albania, Romania and Iceland and in equal numbers to men in Sweden and in Finland.
The ?glass ceiling?, which impedes the hierarchical progression of women, also seems to exist among
judges, although this is a profession in which women are increasingly represented.
4.5.4. Distribution of men and women employed as presidents of supreme courts
4.5.5. Distribution of women and men among public prosecutors
There are now more women than men (51%) serving as public prosecutors in the European Union. However,
there are even greater disparities between countries for prosecutors than for judges, which are probably
related to the major recruitment of women in most countries in recent years.
Whereas Italy, Albania and Turkey still have a large proportion of male prosecutors (from 62 to 93%), in 17
countries, over half the prosecutors are women and in Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus, over two-thirds.
Here again, a large majority of countries (25) lie in the range between 65% of women prosecutors (Denmark,
Sweden) and 41% (Germany).
However, the ?glass ceiling? is even more obvious among prosecutors as there is no single European
country in which the majority of heads of public prosecution services are women.
5. STATUS AND POWERS OF JUDGES AND PROSECUTORS
5.1. Guarantees of judges? independence
5.1.1. Methods of recruitment and appointment of judges
The main but not the sole means of recruiting judges is through competitive examinations. Only the United
Kingdom, Ireland and Malta recruit judges exclusively from among highly experienced lawyers. In the Nordic
countries, judges are appointed after a period as a trainee (Finland, Sweden) or as a temporary judge
Most commissions in charge of the recruitment of judges are mixed (comprising judges and non-judges).
Only in Austria, Cyprus and Latvia is recruitment organised by a body made up exclusively of judges while
only in Luxembourg, Slovenia and the Czech Republic is it organised by a body comprising no judges at all.
5.1.2. Training of judges
Types of compulsory training according to state
The initial and further training of judges is a decisive factor in the quality of the work they do. Initial training is
provided everywhere save in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland and Montenegro. General further
training is not compulsory in half of the EU countries and specialist training in management and information
technology is compulsory in only a minority of countries (9 and 7 respectively).
Nature and frequency of training for judges
5.2. Judges? and prosecutors? pay
Gross pay at start of career compared to the national gross average annual wage
Judges? wages and their ratio to the average wage are also an indication of their place in society. For judges
at the start of their careers, this depends on the way in which they are recruited and the age at which they
take up their duties. On this point common law countries cannot be compared with those that recruit law
graduates through competitive examinations.
NB: Candidate countries in yellow, eurozone countries in grey
Gross pay at career end compared to the national gross average annual wage
By contrast, the ratio of a Supreme Court judge?s gross wage to the national gross average annual wage is a
useful indicator of the differences between countries, which is not influenced by factors such as recruitment
methods, age, professional background, exchange rates or GDP. The common law countries and Romania,
Italy and Bulgaria are the countries where the wages of judges at courts of last instance are proportionately
highest compared to the national gross average annual wage (7 to 8 times higher). For prosecutors, this
applies only to Italy and Bulgaria.
NB: Candidate countries in yellow, eurozone countries in grey
Pay of judges at the end of their careers (at Supreme Courts and courts of last instance) compared to the
average national wage
The smallest difference between judges' pay and the average wage can be found in Germany, Iceland,
Sweden, the Netherlands and Malta (1.7 to 2.7 times). In a large majority of countries judges earn 3 to 5
times the average wage.
Judges? wages, like those of civil servants, have been cut in some countries as the result of structural
adjustment programmes (Greece, Portugal, Spain).
5.3. Independence and powers of prosecutors
Recruitment methods and independence of prosecutors
The status of prosecutors depends on their method of recruitment and appointment and their relationship
with the executive. The method of recruitment through competitive examinations and/or on the basis of
professional experience is generally similar to that of judges and supervised by mixed bodies made up of
prosecutors and other qualified individuals. The information provided by countries as to whether prosecutors
are independent (21) or work under the authority of the Ministry of Justice (13) makes it possible to identify
an initial trend. This picture, as in other spheres, must be fleshed out by studies looking more thoroughly into
a complex subject area, where traditions and actual practices (for example the principle that there should be
no political interference in the processing of criminal cases) are sometimes more important than written rules.
Number of countries in which prosecutors exercise certain powers
In most states, prosecutors conduct or supervise police investigations, with the exception of countries with
common law traditions and Finland.
In some countries prosecutors may have significant powers in areas other than criminal law such as
protecting fundamental rights and the principle of legality in civil and administrative proceedings, particularly
in the area of the civil law of the family and persons, bankruptcy, work accidents, protecting minors and
vulnerable persons, and compensating victims.
Prosecutors? powers vary considerably from country to country. In all states the main task of the prosecution
service is to bring proceedings, lay charges in court and appeal (the system is different in the United
The role and powers of the prosecuting authorities in criminal proceedings
6. EFFICIENCY AND QUALITY OF JUDICIAL SYSTEMS
6.1. Number of courts per 100 000 inhabitants
In many European countries, planned or current reforms to the judicial map are tending to reduce the
number of courts with the aim of cutting budgets or increasing efficiency by grouping courts together or
making them more specialised. This applies to England and Wales, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland,
France, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Sweden.
Greece has set up new appeal courts but it has also merged its lower courts.
6.2. Computerisation of courts
6.2.1. Trends in the annual state budget allocated to computerisation between 2008 and 2010 (as
In the European Union, budgets allocated to computerisation of the courts increased substantially between
2008 and 2010 (27.3% on average). They doubled in Turkey and Cyprus and increased even more in the
Czech Republic, Spain, Albania and Montenegro. In 14 countries, investment under this heading decreased.
However, these figures need to be placed in the context of variations in the exchange rate and the fact that
some states have invested heavily already (Romania) to equip their courts satisfactorily in this field.
6.2.2. The level of computerisation in courts
The growth of e-justice and e-courts is a major trend in the European Union. However, only a sustained
effort in the areas of investment, maintenance and training make for significant gains in efficiency.
The level of computerisation given above reflects the installation of computer equipment for three distinct
purposes: firstly, for the direct assistance of judges or other court staff (office automation software, e-mails,
Internet connections, etc.), secondly, for case processing and management systems (registration,
videoconferences, etc.) and, thirdly, for communication between the courts and the outside world (Internet
sites, on-line applications, electronic case monitoring, etc.).
Everywhere there are growing numbers of computerised case registration and processing systems,
databases, electronic case management processes, electronic signatures and systems for the electronic
supervision of simplified procedures, particularly in the areas of traffic offences, payment orders, minor
offences and small claims.
6.2.3. Use of videoconferencing in criminal cases
Videoconferencing is now used by most European countries in criminal cases to reduce the cost of
transporting or transferring prisoners or to enable victims, witnesses or experts to be questioned in faraway
or protected places. England and Wales have conducted experiments with videoconference hearings by the
courts of suspects arrested by the police before they appear in court.
More and more frequently, children who have been subjected to or witnessed violence are heard in specially
equipped rooms. However, not all countries have specific legislation on the subject. Among those that do not
are Belgium, Iceland, England, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Montenegro and Bulgaria.
Use of videoconferencing is less widespread in civil and commercial proceedings.
Alongside arbitration and conciliation, mediation plays a key role in the alternative dispute resolution
arrangements advocated, implemented or officially approved by judicial systems.
There has been a particularly large increase in the European Union in the number of countries which use
mediation and the number of mediators being trained and certified. The phenomenon is difficult to quantify
when the mediation does not take a judicial form. Mediation is used successfully in family cases, commercial
disputes and criminal proceedings. A large majority of member states award legal aid for people to make use
of judicial mediation services which prevent the need for a trial.
6.3.1. Judicial mediation in civil and commercial cases
6.3.2. Judicial mediation in family disputes
6.3.3. Legal aid for mediation procedures
6.4. Length of proceedings
The CEPEJ has set up two performance indicators which enable it to measure the efficiency of courts in
The clearance rate is obtained by dividing the number of cases decided in the year by the number
of new cases submitted over the same period then multiplying the result by one hundred.
It highlights the potential for the judicial system to deal with the influx of new cases. A clearance rate
approaching 100% means that the system is in a position to finish off about as many cases as it receives in
the course of a year. A clearance rate of over 100% means that the balance is positive and that the initial
backlog has been reduced.
Disposition time is a projective indicator which makes it possible to assess the capacity of judicial
systems to cope with the flow of incoming cases. This predictive ratio compares the number of cases
decided in the year to the number of pending cases and measures the estimated number of days needed for
a pending case to be finished off.
6.4.1. Clearance rate of pending criminal and contentious civil cases in the EU member states and
6.4.2. Changes in the clearance rate of criminal and contentious civil cases
6.4.3. Clearance rate and disposition time for contentious commercial and civil cases
An analysis of the raw data shows that, for contentious civil and commercial cases in courts of first instance,
the EU members states just about coped with the flow of incoming cases in 2010.
Nine states have a clearance rate of over 100%, meaning that they were able to settle more cases than the
number of new cases for the year. They are the Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Lithuania, Portugal,
Croatia, Hungary and Germany, to which Luxembourg and Italy can be added because they had unusual
results in 2010. This clear variation can be accounted for, in particular for Italy, by the fact that it established
a tax on incoming cases, which reduced the number.
Five states appeared to be having problems in this sphere, reflected by a clearance rate of under 90%,
namely Romania (89.8%), Malta (88.7%), Latvia (85.8%), Cyprus (84%) and Greece (78.9%).
Disposition time figures over the same period show that, structurally, some judicial systems have a very large
backlog even though they attempted to reduce it in 2010, such as Italy (493 days) or Portugal.
The countries with the greatest problem are Slovenia (417 days), Croatia (462 days) and Cyprus (493 days)
but, above all, Malta (849 days) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (826 days). Those that can easily deal with
their backlog of civil cases in a reasonable time are Denmark (185 days), Germany (184 days), Poland (180
days), Hungary (160 days), Norway (158 days), Austria (129 days) and the Czech Republic (128 days).
Of the 10 states with the highest disposition times (over 300 days), only three (Italy, Portugal and Croatia)
have a clearance rate higher than or equal to 100%, meaning that their situations improved, albeit only
slightly, in 2010.
Seven other states (Serbia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Malta) fail to
reach a clearance rate of 100% for contentious civil cases, meaning that the backlog of unsettled cases in
these judicial systems is ever larger and their disposition time, and hence their structural situation, is
If these figures are combined with the clearance rate in first instance criminal cases, it is clear that in 2010,
some countries' activity indicators were positive right across the board (with clearance rates close to 100 in civil and criminal cases and disposition times in civil cases equal to or lower than 200 days) and this reflects
a highly satisfactory situation in terms of case processing. The best results were in Austria and the Czech
Republic. The figures were also good for Sweden, Germany, Hungary and Denmark.
It would seem that citizens are more litigious in the southern European countries, which also have the
highest number of lawyers per inhabitant and the least efficient case management systems.
6.4.4. Average length of contentious divorce proceedings in first instance courts in 2006, 2008 and
2010 (in days)
The length of contentious divorce proceedings in first instance courts in European countries which were able to provide us with these statistics varies according to specific national procedural features. For instance in
France and the Netherlands, measures to facilitate divorce through mutual consent meant that in 2008 only the most difficult cases were decided by contentious proceedings, accounting in part for the length of such cases. However, a reduction in the number of new cases in France made it possible to reduce lengths of proceedings in 2010, as in Italy and in Sweden.
For countries which have not amended their legislation, it is useful to see how average times have evolved
over three cycles (2006, 2008 and 2010). For instance, in Finland these times have remained stable, while in
Spain they have risen (although the number of new cases has decreased) and in Austria they have
decreased, and these examples provide material for more general interpretations in this publicly sensitive
6.4.5. Average length of dismissal proceedings in first instance courts in 2006, 2008 and 2010 (in days)
Dismissal proceedings are also an area where delays are very long for people who have lost their job. Few
European countries were able to provide full data for the three years.
The available data seem to confirm the major disparities between countries with lengthy proceedings (Italy,
France) and those where, in this case and more generally speaking, cases take less time to process
(Finland, Austria). Processing times can depend both on the functioning of courts and on the procedural
framework that applies in each national system. The very short times in Spain are a good illustration of these
Nonetheless, there are still too few European states which are capable of providing data on rates of appeal
and the length of pending cases (whether or not they have lasted three years or more), which, when divided
up according to case category, are good indicators, complementing the data on clearance rate and
6.5. Users and the judicial system
6.5.1. Information for users and lengths of proceedings
Members of the public or legal professionals must have free and simple access on public websites to any
legal information they may need, to procedures to assert their rights and to information on the activities of
courts. However, only some countries have set up specific provisions to inform the public about the predicted
lengths of judicial proceedings. Often, such information is only available for particular types of criminal
proceedings (activities of investigating judges in France, criminal cases in Hungary). In some countries
reforms are being introduced which make provision for this in civil cases (Romania, Serbia). Other systems
provide such information but are not legally obliged to do so (Scotland).
Specific victim advice and information services seem to be being set up in all European countries. Norway,
for instance, has set up a highly developed system to deal with cases of sexual violence. Vulnerable people,
rape victims and minors are the categories which are most protected by special arrangements for advice,
information and the organisation of hearings. Practically all EU member states now all have procedures for
the compensation of victims.
6.5.2. Compensation for victims of offences
Number of states/entities (out of 35) in which users can claim compensation, by type of situation
In response to miscarriages of justice, the EU member states have set up compensation procedures. While
all provide for compensation for wrongful arrest or conviction, the same does not yet apply to excessive
length of proceedings under Article 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms, or non-execution of judicial decisions.
6.5.3. Satisfaction surveys
Surveys of court users have become one of the main means of assessing the quality of the way that the
justice system operates in a growing number of EU states and candidate countries. They make it possible, in
particular, to adopt a view of the judicial system which is centred more on the user and provide a key means
of implementing a high-quality policy in courts.
The European Union and satisfaction surveys
Some member states already conduct such surveys, either occasionally or on a more regular basis. Only
some states are really committed to a comprehensive programme to improve the quality of the judicial
system (the Netherlands, Finland). While most member states say that they conduct satisfaction surveys
covering both citizens and legal professionals (26 states out of 35), only some do so regularly and monitor
the measures taken to improve the quality in response to survey findings4.
With this goal in mind, the CEPEJ?s working group on quality (GT-QUAL) has discussed means and methods
which would enable member states to be assisted in introducing measures to improve the quality of justice
systems, focusing on users? needs. A methodological guide or ?handbook? and a model questionnaire which
users can tailor to their needs have been drawn up for the courts of the Council of Europe member states5.
This methodological tool draws on CEPEJ resources, capitalising on experiments already carried out and good practices observed in member states to develop means of improving the quality of justice systems
October 13, 2014 12:02 pm
Italian leader Matteo Renzi targets legal profession for reform
by James Politi in Rome
Gianmatteo Nunziante, a senior corporate lawyer in Rome, was recently working for a few foreign hedge funds taking stakes in big Italian companies when they suddenly pulled out of their investments.
It was not a purely financial decision, he recalls from his frescoed conference room in a 17th century palazzo in the heart of the Italian capital. The reason was that the civil justice system was so slow, cumbersome and uncertain that it became too risky to keep those positions.
?They explained that Italy was equal to Romania in terms of certainty of justice, but in Romania the returns were better,? said Mr Nunziante, the managing partner of the Nunziante Magrone law firm. ?This was humiliating. And we have the arrogance of saying that justice was born in Italy?.
Matteo Renzi, Italy?s 39-year old reformist prime minister, last week prevailed in his first big political battle since taking office in February as he clinched Senate approval of contentious labour market reforms. This week he will present his economic and budget plan, which is sure to be scrutinised in Brussels. But he has also made streamlining the country?s byzantine justice system one of his top priorities, recognising it as one of the biggest structural problems afflicting the eurozone?s third-largest economy.
According to the World Bank?s 2014 Doing Business report, it takes 1,185 days to enforce a contract through commercial litigation in Italy, more than double the average of the OECD?s high-income countries, which is 529 days. Moreover, there is a severe backlog of more than 5m unresolved disputes, some dating back as far as the 1990s, a figure the government is desperate to reduce.
Reforming Italian justice has for many years been seen as a recipe for catalysing more foreign investment in the country, as well as giving more confidence to domestic businesses. But the legal troubles of Silvio Berlusconi, the former centre-right prime minister and media tycoon, while he was in office, made the political climate surrounding sweeping change exceedingly noxious as politicians sparred with the judiciary over their powers. Moreover, Italy?s army of lawyers, and magistrates, who have powerful interests in the current system, have been sceptical, if not opposed to any change, making them harder to push through.
But Mr Renzi is attempting to change that dynamic. He is seeking an expansion of mandatory mediation ? to ensure that lawyers are forced to seek a settlement rather than prolong a legal fight, a faster implementation of electronic filing of court documents across Italian courts, and a reduction in vacation days for judges, among other measures to increase the efficiency and speed of proceedings.
?There has never been such an ambitious approach,? Andrea Orlando, the justice minister, said in an interview. ?All the thorniest issues that could be tackled without constitutional changes are in the horizon of our reform,? he added.
Mr Orlando said that over the next three years the goal was to slash the timing of civil trials to about one year from between three to five years.
One of the biggest challenges in pressing ahead with the justice reforms is addressing the unevenness of the efficiency of Italian courts. Some, particularly in the north and central parts of the country, are quite advanced, while others, especially in the south, trail far behind.
Italian justice officials have pointed to Turin and Florence, where Mr Renzi was mayor, as models for a more streamlined civil court system ? especially in the implementation of efiling for legal documents, which will become mandatory this year across Italy and has already produced an acceleration in trial times in some spots.
?It has all become easier,? says Claudia Nuti, a Florentine lawyer who has worked on behalf of several clients including UniCredit, the large Italian bank based in Milan.
?It?s a Copernican revolution,? added Enrico Ognibene, president of the tribunal in Florence, referring to the Renaissance mathematician who formulated a model of the universe.
But Mr Renzi?s vision may not necessarily be enough to secure the political backing for the reform package that he needs. The judges are up in arms at their planned cut in vacation days ? from 45 to 30 days per year ? and the prime minister?s push for magistrates to be subject to civil liability if they commit mistakes, which is especially important in criminal cases.
Meanwhile, lawyers are split on the merits of the reform, with some seeing it as essential and others worried that faster proceedings could mean lower fees, in a legal culture where success bonuses are less developed compared with other countries.
For Mr Nunziante, there is no other option. ?When I explain to foreign clients how our system works, if they don?t start crying, they laugh,? he says. ?If we want to change our country, we all have to question ourselves.?