by Olympia K. Anastasopoulou, Attorney-at-law, LLM, MBA, Accredited Mediator, former Secretary-General for Tourism Policy and Development-Hellenic Republic, October 16, 2023
The issue of justice acceleration is multifactorial and resembles to an equation formed mainly by the following factors:
A) the volume of the flow of cases into the judicial system
B) the quantity and quality of the judiciary resources
C) the way in which this volume is managed, i.e. the organization of the material infrastructure and human resources employed in the area of justice.
Actions at all three of these levels can result in an improvement in the pace of justice:
Α. With regard to the volume of cases and applications filed for trial, certain measures have been taken from time to time to raise the cost of going to court . However, these measures were considered to affect, to some extent, the constitutionally guaranteed (Articles 8 and 20 of the Constitution, Article 6 of the ECHR) right of the citizens to unhindered access to justice and subsequently a thorough and holistic proposal is required.
As the only rational and immediate method to reduce the volume of cases that reach the Court, the amplification of extrajudicial dispute resolution mechanisms is proposed. In this direction, the introduction of the institution of mediation (Law 4640/2019) is considered successful and it would be advisable to seek ways to further strengthen it (e.g. by expanding the procedures that are subject to it). The fortification of the role of supervisory or independent authorities (e.g. the Labor Inspectorate, the Ombudsman, the Consumer Ombudsman), with provision for their more binding intervention to resolve disputes, would also contribute to this direction.
Β. The issue of quantitative sufficiency is directly linked to budgetary factors and it would be advisable to increase the number of admissions to the Magistrates’ School, as well as to carry out recruitment of judicial officials to fill the vacant posts.
Particular attention should be attributed not only to the academic qualifications for the selection of new judges, but also to their physical, mental and moral qualities in order to be considered capable of carrying out the multifaceted and demanding judicial function.
Furthermore, a mechanism for the timely monitoring and control of the competence of judges throughout their careers must be activated, so that they can be inactivated in time, if necessary, and thus prevent the continued accumulation of cases stagnating in their hands.
As a means of investing in quality competence, the reform of the National School of Judicial Officers via the recent Law 4871/2021, which established mandatory continuous training for judges, is deemed appropriate. Likewise, the regulations introduced by the recent Law 4938/2022 in the Code of the Courts’ Organization stating that judicial officers are promoted only if they have completed the mandatory training programs are deemed advisable.
In addition, it is critical to equip the judicial services with modern electronic means, which will make possible the complete computerization and transition to the digital era. Finally, in the context of logistics’ improvement, the gradual upgrading of the building infrastructure of the courts throughout the country is also critical.
C. Regarding the improvement of the infrastructure and human resources employed in the field of Justice, provided the aforementioned increased availability of space is attained, it will be possible to accommodate parallel operating courtrooms and judges in offices, in order to make more efficient use of their time, since this will allow them to actually work within court premises.
The changes introduced by the recent Law 4700/2020 (Article 359) regarding the establishment of special divisions in the major civil courts of the country are moving in the right direction, and the peripheral courts of the country should follow their path.
FINALLY, the digitalization of all judicial services is proposed: the Council of State and the Administrative Courts already possess an Integrated Information System (IIS), and the same applies for the Court of Auditors’ IT system, while for the country’s civil/criminal courts and public prosecutors’ offices, the relevant system already operates in 19 District Courts, 4 Courts of First Instance, 4 Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Given the critical role of the acceleration of justice, it is deemed advisable (as included in the proposals submitted by the Justice Sector of the New Democracy) to establish a Special Secretariat in the competent Ministry with exclusive administrative target the promotion of digitalization and acceleration of justice.
Also, the introduction of an ad hoc platform on which judges will draft their decisions shall provide them with both support in the above task (e.g. through models, case law and interactive cooperation with their colleagues) and a control method for compliance with the tolerable time limits for the issuance of decisions.
In addition, through the digital evolution of the Office for the Collection of Justice Statistics (JustStat), it will be possible to monitor the case flow and workload of courts throughout the country.
In conclusion, the amplification of extrajudicial dispute resolution mechanisms, the digitalization of procedures and the strategic employment of human resources along with an improved infrastructure could contribute to the acceleration of justice. A decisive response to the denial of justice, the immediate filling of this institutional gap, is a primary obligation of the Greek government and a fundamental prerequisite for the social and economic development of the country, the attraction of investments, and, ultimately, the well-being of a state that is actually governed by law.