Strasbourg, 8 December 2011

CEPEJ-SATURN(2011)9

EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR THE EFFICENCY OF JUSTICE

(CEPEJ)

IMPLEMENTING THE SATURN TIME MANAGEMENT TOOLS IN COURTS

A GUIDE

This Guide is aimed at courts and court practitioners willing to implement concretely the tools designed by CEPEJ for improving time management in courts and thus optimising timeframes of judicial proceedings.

It has been designed by the CEPEJ's SATURN Centre on judicial time management, from a preliminary implementation study carried out by Jon T. JOHNSEN (Norway), member of the Steering group of the SATURN Centre, together with the other members of the Steering group and seven pilot courts from six member states.

    1. PURPOSE OF THE GUIDE

    MOTIVATION

    1. Excessive duration of court cases is a major problem in most European states. Various surveys1 have shown that judicial delay is perceived as the number one problem not just by public opinion as a whole but also by those with direct experience of the courts. This situation does a disservice to all users, whatever their “position” in the judicial system: litigants, accused persons, victims, witnesses, members of the jury, etc. (with the exception of those who have an interest in seeing the proceedings lasting a long time).

    2. Courts must be able to organise their work and procedures aiming to process each case within an optimum and foreseeable timeframe. The concept of “reasonable time” provided for in Article 6.1 of the European Convention of Human Rights is a “lower limit” (which draws the border line between the violation and non-violation of the Convention) Courts should, however, aspire at further optimizing their time use also when the minimum level set in the Convention is achieved.

    3. Achieving optimal and foreseeable judicial timeframes might involve many bodies, from the authorities at national level to the level of the courts themselves: proposals relating to length of judicial proceedings must be drawn up with the active involvement of those concerned. The specific nature of the judiciary is not an argument for allowing delay to endure. Therefore this Guide is mainly aimed at the court level and the professionals working within the courts.

The CEPEJ's SATURN Centre

The CEPEJ's SATURN2 Centre observes how courts manage time in Europe. A main purpose is to collect information on judicial time use that can help member states in implementing measures that prevents violations of the “reasonable time” standard in European Court of Human Rights (Article 6 ECHR). The Centre also develops tools for bettering the member states' own monitoring on their judicial timeframes and encourages and evaluates the implementation of proper time management tools by the member states. Through the SATURN Centre, CEPEJ has developed a range of tools and measures aimed to improve time management in courts (see chapter 3 below).

    4. Two main ideas behind the implementation programme are:

    § to find out why relevant SATURN tools are not implemented in the courts in member states although the need for improvements clearly exists;

    § to identify tools that courts could implement on their own, encourage them to do so and study the process of identifying relevant tools and the implementation of them.

    5. It is essential to learn more about the courts' grounds for wanting to implement some tools before others, the obstacles that the courts meet during the implementation process, the outcomes and to what extent the experiences of the single court are transferrable to other courts - both within the same jurisdiction and outside.

    6. One obvious advantage of using an implementation programme as an additional way of mapping the relevance and usability of the CEPEJ tools is that all successful implementations will improve the time management of the participating court. It also contributes to the overall objective of the CEPEJ's SATURN Centre, namely to improve the time management of the courts at large. Reports might have model impacts on other courts in the jurisdiction and also on policy makers and judicial administrators. They might also bear on other jurisdictions.

    7. Studying individual and planned implementation processes might also produce a rich and detailed picture of the challenges, obstacles and remedies necessary to be overcome if the tools shall work in practice. Implementation projects therefore open for a very useful dialogue beetween the SATURN Centre and individual courts in Europe.

A PROVED FRAMEWORK

    8. This simple Guide aims to help courts and court professionals in evaluating the proper implementation of selected SATURN tools and in improving their implementation when lacuna are identified. It also aims at learning from such implementation projects by proposing guidelines for reporting them to the CEPEJ so that the SATURN Centre as well as national judicial authorities can take the results into account for a wider benefit.

    9. The methodology in this Guide was first trialled and discussed in the seven following pilot courts (from six member states):

    § First instance court of Nedre Romerike, Norway
    § District Court of Prague 1, Czech Republic
    § Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice and Central London Civil Justice Centre, England and Wales (United Kingdom)
    § Tbilisi Appeal Court, Georgia
    § First Instance Court of Turin, Italy
    § Judicial district Court of Dorneck-Thierstein, Switzerland

    10. The results from the test projects are reported on in the document "Implementation of SATURN time managament tools - Synthesizing report from seven test projects" (CEPEJ-SATURN(2011)2)3. The methodology proposed below has then been amended and completed from the experiences of the seven test projects.

    2. METHODOLOGY FOR TESTING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SATURN TOOLS IN COURTS

SATURN PRIORITIES

    11. CEPEJ has produced a significant number of tools for better time management in European courts (see chapter 3 below). Among them, the "SATURN Guidelines for judicial time management" (CEPEJ 2008)8Rev) have been chosen for the Guide. Out of the more than sixty guidelines, the SATURN Centre has selected fifteen of them as the starting point. They are labelled: "SATURN priorities" in this Guide. All of them are supposed to be implementable from the courts' own autonomy. None of them presuppose any active involvement from other judicial authorities, only their consent, although exceptions might occur.

    12. They are:

Planning and collection of data

Guideline 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 proceedings4. (Guideline I.C.1 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

      Guideline 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. (Guideline I.C.2 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

Intervention

Guideline 3

      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. (Guideline III.C.1 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

      Guideline 4

      Particular attention should be given to the 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 time5. (Guideline III.C.2 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

      Guideline 5

      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 delay6. (Guideline III.C.3 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

Collection of information

      Guideline 6

      The 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 Four7.(Guideline IV.A.1 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

      Guideline 7

      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 public8.(Guideline IV.A.2 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

Continuing analysis

Guideline 8

      All information collected should be continually analysed and used for the purposes of monitoring and improvement of performance. (Guideline IV.B.1 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

Guideline 9

      The reports on the results of analysis should be produced at regular intervals, at least once a year, with appropriate recommendations. (Guideline IV.B.3 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

Established targets

      Guideline 10

      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 targets9. (Guideline IV.C.1 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

      Guideline 11

      The targets should clearly define the objectives and be achievable. They should be published and subject to periodical re-evaluation. (Guideline IV.C.2 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

      Guideline 12

      The targets may be used in the evaluation of the court performance. If they are not achieved, the concrete steps and actions have to be taken to remedy the situation. (Guideline IV.C.3 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

Crisis management

      Guideline 13

      In the situations where there is a significant departure from the targets set at the court level, there should be specific means to rapidly and adequately address the cause of the problem. (Guideline IV.D.1 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

Timing agreement with the parties and lawyers

      Guideline 14

      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. (Guideline V.B.2 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

      Guideline 15

      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. (Guideline V.B.3 of document CEPEJ(2008)8).

    13. The SATURN priorities are the focus of the implementation methodology.

    Step 1 – Evaluation of the existing implementation of the SATURN Guidelines in the courts’ practices

Saturn priorities: as the first step, courts are advised to focus on the SATURN priorities.

Evaluation: the first step for the court is to thoroughly compare each of the fifteen SATURN priorities to its existing time management practises and evaluate to what extent they are implemented to day. The court staff should first of all examine the level of implementation of the fifteen selected guidelines within the court. This analysis should enable to see whether the selected guidelines are:

    - not implemented at all;

    - partially implemented;

    - fully implemented;

    - not implemented as such, but there is another practice / procedure which enables to achieve the same result;

    - not implemented so far, but implementation is already planned.

The court staff should then analyse the obstacles for implementing (or fully implementing) each of the fifteen guidelines in the SATURN priorities.

The experiences from seven test projects, show that almost all courts find some deficits in the implementation of the fifteen guidelines.

The SATURN Guidelines build on the practices of the European Court of Human Rights. If done properly, the evaluation will provide the court with a precise picture of what the risks of violations of the ECHR are in the field covered by the SATURN priorities. It is paramount to a proper evaluation that the court has a well developed understanding of the goals and functions of the fifteen Guidelines.

Translation: since the SATURN priorities must be clearly understood by all the actors involved at the court, it is of the utmost importance for the court to have them translated, where appropriate, into national languages. For producing the translation, cooperation might be organised with the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The court can also see with the CEPEJ Secretariat possible ways for having such essential translations organised.

Expert assistance: as an alternative to doing the evaluation on its own, courts may ask CEPEJ for the support of an expert. The expert will then carry out a thorough discussion with the court to what extent their practices and routines are in accordance with the SATURN priorities. See Appendix II and document CEPEJ(2011)2 as examples from the test projects.

Step 2 - Implementation of the SATURN priorities

When courts find that one or more of the Guidelines are not fully implemented, the next step is to put up projects for implementing them. According to their capacity and priorities, courts should choose one or more of the Guidelines not implemented. They might emphasize the possible gains for the users, the available resources and the prospects of success.

An individualized implementation plan containing the necessary steps for each tool selected should be developed. Such plans ought to point out the guidelines selected and the different steps considered necessary to make them operational – like upgrading the computer system, new routines for involving the parties in time planning, measures for shortening queuing, etc.

Plans should also include a timetable for the different steps. The implementation process might last several months or even years. Obviously it will differ between courts how demanding a Guideline is to implement.

Expert assistance: for the development of an implementation plan, courts may also ask CEPEJ for the support of an expert instead of doing it on their own.

Step 3 – Reporting

Reporting is indispensable if the SATURN Centre shall better understand what the practical obstacles are to the implementation of the CEPEJ tools. Reporting is also important to other courts and to judicial administrations that might consider similar reforms. It should run parallel to the two other steps.

Reports should be well structured and preferably follow a common template in all courts (see Appendix I and document CEPEJ-SATURN(2011)2). They should contain the following elements:

      - General description of the court.

      - Detailed description of the process of selecting CEPEJ tools for implementation.

      - Description of the implementation process.

      - Outcome.

      - Time use.

      - External cooperation.

      - Recommendations.

A template with further guidance is added in Appendix 1.

The court might itself provide for reporting. Another possibility is to ask the national judicial administration for assistance. As for the other steps, the SATURN Centre might also be asked for assistance with reporting. A CEPEJ member, a SATURN expert or an independent expert hired by CEPEJ might provide the necessary assistance and improve its relevance for the work of the SATURN Centre.

Reports should be translated into English or French, if necessary with the support of the CEPEJ Secretariat.

CEPEJ understands that reporting is an extra burden on a court and not strictly necessary for improving practices in that particular court. However, the experiences from the test projects show that such reports provide with extremely valuable information. Improvements in the Guidelines and the ways they might be implemented from what has been learned from them are being considered. Similar gains are expected for the development of better judicial systems in Europe from implementation projects carried out according to this guide and courts should not hesitate to consult with the SATURN Centre on any aspect of doing implementation projects as described.

For any request or question, the court can contact the CEPEJ Secretariat: Council of Europe – F 67075 Strasbourg Cedex - cepej@coe.int – tel: 33 3 88 41 35 54.

    3. IMPLEMENTATION PROJECTS ON OTHER SATURN TOOLS

    14. CEPEJ has developed a range of tools and measures aimed to improve time management in courts. If the evaluation foreseen within the first step mentioned above shows that the court’s practices conform well to the SATURN priorities, it might consider the implementation of other time management techniques from the SATURN toolbox.

    The SATURN toolbox

§ The "Time Management Checklist" (CEPEJ(2005)12Rev), adopted in 2005. It is a tool for internal use of its stakeholders whose purpose is to help justice systems to collect appropriate information and analyze relevant aspects of the duration of judicial proceedings with a view to reduce undue delays, ensure effectiveness of the proceedings and provide necessary transparency and foreseeability to the users of the justice systems.

§ The Study: "Time management of justice systems: a Northern Europe study" (CEPEJ Studies No. 2, 2006), which contains a broad collection of time management strategies described in governmental reports in Northern European states. Most of the tools address policy makers and administrators of justice systems, but several of them also address the courts. Part II contains tools developed for time management in criminal cases at the police and prosecution, but most of them might be adoptable by the courts.

§ The report "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", by Martine Calvez (CEPEJ Studies No. 3, 2006). It analyses the major considerations behind the “reasonable time” standard (Article 6 ECHR article) and spells out the deadlines that can be extracted from the judgments of the European Courts of Human Rights.

§ The "Compendium of “best practices” on time management of judicial proceedings" (CEPEJ(2006)13), adopted in 2006. In addition to the courts, the compendium also contains “best practices” for policy makers and administrative authorities in the judicial systems.

§ The "SATURN Guidelines for judicial time management" (CEPEJ(2008)8Rev), adopted in 2008.They contain measures both for the courts and for policy makers and administrative authorities. The Guidelines include an essential appendix on time management statistics – European uniform guidelines for monitoring of judicial timeframes (EUGMONT).

Taken together, these documents offer a wide variety of tools that courts can use to improve their time management (a "SATURN toolbox"). All courts that experience delays of some significance and are found in violation of the " reasonable time" criterion (Article 6-1 ECHR) by the European Court of Human Rights will find that several of the SATURN time management tools might be useful if they decide to implement reforms.

    15. The method detailed in the guide can be adapted also to such other time management tools. CEPEJ-SATURN wants to encourage projects on any of the SATURN tools. All courts are very welcome to consult with CEPEJ about such implementation projects.

Appendix I

Model Report

Courts are encouraged to follow this model for reporting on their experience, including to the CEPEJ.

1. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE COURT

Name:

Type:

    § General jurisdiction

      - Civil

      - Criminal

      - Other

    § Specialised court: which field?

Location:

Staffing:

    § Number of professional judges (fte)

    § Number of non professional judges

    § Number of occasional judges

    § Number of prosecutors attached to the court

    § Number of court clerks attached to the judges

    § Number of court clerks attached to the prosecution office

    § Number of other administrative staff (technical staff, drivers, security officers, etc)

Equipment and infrastructure:

Constituency:

Caseload structure (pending cases, incoming cases, etc), backlog etc.:

2. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PROCESS OF SELECTING CEPEJ TOOLS FOR IMPLEMENTATION

The reasons both for including and excluding tools should be thoroughly recorded.

Explanation on the selection process: [how and why have you chosen to give priorities to specific guidelines and tools?]

Description of the implementation process: [the different steps necessary should be mapped, elucidating questions as: What were the challenges and what went smoothly? To what extent was the implementation successful? What were the reasons behind failures?]

Outcome: [to what extent did successful implementations result in actually improvements of the court’s time management? Please answer for each of the selected guideline]

As regards the planning and collection of data

      § Guideline 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.

      § Guideline 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.

As regards the intervention

      § Guideline 3: 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.

      § Guideline 4: Particular attention should be given to the 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.

      § Guideline 5: 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.

As regards the collection of information

      § Guideline 6: The 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.

      § Guideline 7: 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.

As regards the continuing analysis

      § Guideline 8: All information collected should be continually analysed and used for the purposes of monitoring and improvement of performance.

      § Guideline 9: The reports on the results of analysis should be produced at regular intervals, at least once a year, with appropriate recommendations.

As regards established targets

      § Guideline 10: 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.

      § Guideline 11: The targets should clearly define the objectives and be achievable. They should be published and subject to periodical re-evaluation.

      § Guideline 12: The targets may be used in the evaluation of the court performance. If they are not achieved, the concrete steps and actions have to be taken to remedy the situation.

As regards crisis management

      § Guideline 13: In the situations where there is a significant departure from the targets set at the court level, there should be specific means to rapidly and adequately address the cause of the problem.

As regards timing agreement with the parties and lawyers

      § Guideline 14: 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.

      § Guideline 15: 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.

3. CONCLUDING COMMENTS

Time use: [how long did the successful implementations take? Factors that influenced time use ought to be listed and ways to reduce time used on implementation discussed.]

External cooperation: {to what extent did the implementation of each tool involve collaboration with central judicial authorities? How did such collaboration work?]

Recommendations: [major findings on factors that influence the implementation and use of CEPEJ time management tools ought to be evaluated for the purpose of possible reforms: How do the implemented tools influence time management? What are the gains? Are the findings applicable to other CEPEJ time management tools? Are they applicable to other courts in the jurisdiction of the court and to courts in other jurisdictions?]

Other comments:

Appendix II

Example of a report

Only one pilot court has been taken as an example here. Other models can be found in document CEPEJ(2011)1.

Pilot test of a protocol for the implementation of CEPEJ SATURN tools.

Nedre Romerike tingrett, Norway.

Wednesday March 17, 2010

Participants:

Sorenskriver (Chief Judge) Bernt Bahr

Administrasjonssjef (Chief administrator) Heidi Bruvoll

Professor Jon T. Johnsen, CEPEJ Expert.

1 INTRODUCTION

At the SATURN meeting on September 9 and 11, 2009, Jon T. Johnsen was commissioned to identify relevant time management tools in various CEPEJ's documents which could be the subject to "in court tests", and to prepare a pilot protocol with a given court in a Nordic country. Johnsen has drafted a proposal on the methodology for the selection of such tools and for the development of implementation projects with the pilot courts, see “Implementation test of SATURN tools in selected pilot courts.” (REF) Johnsen also have prepared an abridged version especially for the Pilot courts. (REF)

The present report builds on this document and describes the outcome of a pilot test of the proposed methodology carried out in Norway by Johnsen and Nedre Romerike tingrett, one of the two Norwegian pilot courts. The report is written by Johnsen and builds both on his own recording of the meeting and the court’s summary after the meeting of its considerations of each guideline in the protocol. Time pressure made it impossible to have an extensive exchange on the final text of the report. Although the intention is to give an accurate picture of the court’s reactions and considerations, it should be kept in mind that the report expresses the experts observations and reasoning and not necessary the opinion of the court. Some inaccuracies also might occur. Since the purpose of the pilot test is to receive feedback on the proposed methodology for further considerations by CEPEJ, Johnsen thought the procedure acceptable.

When the draft for the methodology proposal10 was ready, Johnsen sent it to the National court administration in Norway and asked for assistance in testing the methodology with one of the pilot courts in Norway. He asked for Nedre Romerike tingrett mainly because of its location close to Oslo were Johnsen lives which would make travel time and costs insignificant. The National court administration and the court helpfully arranged for the test as Johnsen had asked for.

Nedre Romerike tingrett is a first instance court located in the South-Eastern part of Norway in a mixed urban-rural area. Its jurisdiction covers 8 municipalities with 160 000 people. The staff counts 29 people, 12 judges and 17 administrative employees. The court has a chief judge and a chief administrator. Yearly caseload is somewhat above 2 000 – depending on the counting method. The meeting took place on March 17, 2010 at the localities of the court.

Johnsen first gave a brief overview of why the European Commission on the Efficiency of Justice became established, its organizational structure and main challenges. He then told about the tasks of SATURN and the role of the pilot courts. He shortly explained the ideas behind the “in court tests” and his agenda for and purpose with the meeting. The court had received his draft document on “Implementation test of SATURN tools in selected pilot courts” before the meeting.

The court, which is new to its role as a pilot court, told about its experiences with CEPEJ tasks so far and said that it found the work with the EUGEMONT statistics a bit toilsome.

The exchange was appreciated both by the court and the CEPEJ expert. The discussion then turned to the fifteen time management tools proposed by Johnsen in his draft proposal section 6 pp 12-14 for selection by the court.

2 CONSIDERATIONS OF THE FIFTEEN GUIDELINES

    Guideline 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.

The pilot court schedules planning meetings in all civil cases shortly after the case has arrived at the court. The lawyers of the parties and the handling judge – but not the parties – participate and the meetings are supposed to plan all necessary steps until the disposal of the case. The meeting clarifies the claims of the parties, their main supportive arguments and the evidence they offer. During the meeting, the progress of the case is planned, deadlines put up and the dates and number of days needed for the main hearing set. In Norway it is exceptional to schedule more hearings than the major hearing. All evidence must be ready before a set date, and the parties therefore must plan their collection and presentation of evidence accordingly. The hearing dates are set according to the general standards for time use by the courts which is 6 months for ordinary civil trials and 3 months for small claims.11 Scheduling at a later date demands special justification and is expected to be done rarely.

Planning in almost all criminal cases is carried out by the prosecution and is outside the court’s responsibility. The prosecution summons the accused and the witnesses and produces the technical evidence. The court oversees the preparations of the prosecution and might order alterations. Also criminal cases are disposed of during one major hearing and the judgement should be written immediately afterwards.

National standards for the court’s time use in criminal cases also exist, and the court schedules the main hearings accordingly. In a few exceptional cases the main hearing might go on for weeks and even months. Then the judge will organize a planning meeting with the prosecution and the defender participating.

Planning meetings are not held in cases on the division of estates, bankruptcy and enforcement, see further discussion under guideline III B 1 and IV B 1 below.

Conclusion: Time planning instruments already existed for ordinary civil and criminal cases. National deadlines exist and deemed sufficient at the pilot court, see under guideline III B 1 below. Together they form an efficient planning system. Although its structure might differ somewhat from the ideas behind the CEPEJ guideline, they produce outcomes as intended with the guideline.

      Guideline 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.

As mentioned above, the court calls planning meetings in civil cases and the prosecution performs similar planning functions in criminal cases. In addition to the lawyers, also the expert witnesses participate in the meetings. It appears, however, that the planning of the court does not include consultations the parties themselves unless they are unrepresented. The lawyers are expected to consult with the parties and forward the interests of their clients according to the lawyer’s code of good practice.

We discussed why the SATURN guidelines did not entrust the lawyers to represent the parties in this matter, and Johnsen suggested that the interest of the lawyers and their clients might conflict on time use. Lawyers have an interest in filling up their capacity with profitable commissions from clients for a significant time slot ahead and avoid running idle and losing income. Most clients prefer to have their case finished as soon as possible, and if they sometimes do not, their counterparts do.

The court argued, however, that according to Norwegian understanding, swift progress of cases is for the public good. Even when both the parties and their lawyers agree that it would be beneficial for them to delay the case, the public interest mean that the conflict should be brought to an end and the parties motivated to go on with their lives. Scheduling all cases within short limits leaves little space for negotiation about the time table between the lawyers and the parties. The point with time planning in Norway is not to negotiate the length of the trial, which is given by the time standards set by the national authorities, but only to plan how the proceedings must be conducted to conform to the standards set. Such planning tasks are mainly technical and the parties might have little to contribute.

Conclusion: Due to the limited space for delaying cases both for the parties and their lawyers, the intentions of the guideline is met without bringing in the parties.

      Guideline 3: 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.

The national, electronic case handling system (LOVISA) produces a set of landmarks in civil cases as soon as the case is registered. The landmarks are:

    - Time limit for sending off the plaintiff’s writ to the defendant

    - Time limit for receiving the defendant’s pleading

    - Deadline for scheduling the planning meeting

    - Time limit for scheduling the main hearing

    - Deadline for writing the judgment

The court then demonstrated how it used the landmarks during the processing of civil cases and how the progress of each case according to the landmarks was monitored through monthly reports generated from the electronic case handling system. These reports are checked by the chief judge and the chief administrator and also sent to each judge for keeping them updated on the progress of their cases. The judges found them useful, although some mildly remarked that they felt the reports a bit stressing and that the quality of the decision mattered more than the speed. The chief judge has the power to intervene if a significant deviance from the landmarks should occur and had not experienced any need for more extensive powers for intervention.

In criminal cases, the national electronic case handling system only produces statistics on average case handling time, which the court uses for quarterly monitoring

We also discussed landmarks in cases on the division of estates, bankruptcy and enforcement. The national electronic case handling system contains some landmarks on bankruptcy, but far less detailed than for ordinary civil cases. Johnsen therefore asked whether it might be an idea for the court to adapt the time planning regime used in the civil cases to the division of estates and enforcement cases.

However, the national electronic system allows each court to put in its own deadlines in addition to the national ones. The pilot court makes use of this opportunity in all three types of cases. In cases on enforcement, for example, the court has added deadlines for:

- the enforcement officer’s notification to the party (debtor)

- the debtor’s one month’s respite for fulfilling the claim

- making the decision on involuntary sale of confiscated property

- the four month limit for the enforcement officer to sell it

- the two week limit for the parties to protest on the sale

The electronic system issues warnings when the deadlines are exceeded.

We also discussed whether the national landmark system needed modifications.

Conclusions: The national landmarks and the additional landmarks set by the court satisfy the guideline for all civil cases. The average case handling time used for monitoring criminal cases might seem insufficient and landmarks similar to the ones used in civil cases ought to be introduced. More landmarks also might be introduced to the national landmark system but such a remedy is outside the autonomy of the court.

      Guideline 4: Particular attention should be given to the 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.12

The court thought that its short average time use both in civil and criminal cases probably would protect it from “reasonable time” infringements. It also asked for an updated interpretation of the standards of the European Court of Human Rights.

Johnsen recommended the Calvez study available at the CEPEJ website. He also confirmed that the Court’s evaluation depended on a complex analysis which is discretionary in character. The study thoroughly indentifies the criteria used, and also puts up some fixed time limits which, if exceeded, will make the case vulnerable of violating the “reasonable time” criterion.

The discussion also helped focusing on the fact that statistics that mainly focus on average time use do not by necessity reveal exceptional long duration in a few atypical cases. Cases must be checked individually.

We also discussed the implications of the fact that the court did not monitor the time use at the police and prosecution in criminal cases. Pointing to the practice of the European Court of Human Rights that said that the “reasonable time” measurement starts when the investigation focuses on an identified suspect, we found out that the best practice of the court would be to ask the prosecution to provide information about the duration until the arrival at the court. The pilot court might then speed up its handling of criminal cases that had progressed slowly at the pre trial stage. The strategy would prevent unintended violations due to incomplete measurement of and information about the total time use.

Conclusion. The individual monitoring of the civil cases already described is deemed sufficient for detecting durations that might violate the “reasonable time” standard in ECHR article 6. On the other hand only monitoring the average time use in criminal cases seems somewhat insufficient although the strict national deadlines on the final disposal of criminal cases significantly help. This SATURN guideline is another argument for consulting the National court administration about introducing more national landmarks into the electronic case handling system. The pilot court also considers requesting more information about the time use during police investigation and prosecutorial decision-making when the prosecution forwards the case to the court.

      Guideline 5: 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.13

Johnsen clarified the “waiting time” concept and told that the European Court of Human Rights puts special emphasis on the amount of “waiting time” or “standstill” time – periods when nothing happens to a case – when considering alleged violations of the “reasonable time” criterion. We discussed the idea of standstill time and the assumption that it probably is less complicated to reduce standstill time than working time.

At present the court had no procedure that explicitly focused on standstill time. It considered the idea interesting and would look into its tools to check if they might be used for indentifying waiting time. Due to the short overall time use, however, it seems reasonable to assume that the periods of waiting time cannot be excessively long. The electronic case handling system provides backlog lists that tell how fast main hearings are scheduled and how far the unfinished cases have progressed. The case administrators use them to check case progress. They also might be used for estimating waiting time.

Conclusion. The court will consider a more thorough mapping of waiting time.

      Guideline 6: The 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 Four14.

As described above, the pilot court – as other Norwegian courts – uses the nationwide electronic system for tracking case progress. The information is available both to court administrators and judges.

In ordinary civil cases, the electronic case handling system registers all the first eleven points of progress (or stages) described in indicator four of the Time management checklist. It probably also contains the other points on the list, but the pilot court, which is a court of first instance, does not concern itself with the later stages of the proceedings. As mentioned the system also provides electronic warnings when deadlines are exceeded.

Conclusion: The existing landmarks conform to the guideline in civil cases, but are in need of improvement in criminal cases, see above.

      Guideline 7: 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 public15.

Both the court personnel and the National court administration have access to the information as described above. The court publishes a yearly report in print that also is downloadable from the Internet:16

In addition, the court’s website contains an overview of the average case handling time and the national standards set by the Norwegian parliament which is translated below:17

Case progress18

 

The case handling of the court progresses with satisfactorily speed, No backlogs of any significance exist. It is a main goal for the court to keep the case handling time at the court as low as possible. The court’s case handling time is measured from the time of arrival in the court until the case has been decided by the court. Average time use for the major categories of cases is:

Type of case

Number of cases (2009)
arrived/handled

Case handling time

National

Target figures

Civil

351/343

137 days

180 days

Mixed court

300/293

68 days

90 days

Single judge

1412/1413

12 days

30 days

We discussed whether a yearly update on average case handling times was sufficient. The court suggested a quarterly updating of its website figures.

Conclusion: The substantive information provided to the public is in accordance with the guideline. The court will consider more frequent updating of the average case handling time.

    Guideline 8: All information collected should be continually analysed and used for the purposes of monitoring and improvement of performance.

Reports on ordinary civil cases and criminal cases are discussed monthly in leader team meetings at the court. Reports on estate and enforcement cases are discussed quarterly or more frequently when special circumstances substantiate. An example is the present economic crises that might generate an increase in bankruptcy cases. If significant deviances from the time use targets are discovered, action is taken – for example by reallocating cases among the judges.

Since swift case handling is a prime goal for the pilot court, efforts is made to analyse statistics and other information to pursue this goal. As mentioned in the example, analysis is not limited to statistical information. Another example: A nationwide police strike on overtime work in 2009 significantly slowed down the investigation of criminal cases and resulted in a huge backlog within the police. To be prepared if a huge bulge in the flow of criminal cases appears, the court tries to update itself on how the dismantling of the backlog progresses in the local police and prosecution.

Conclusion. The court’s practice is in accordance with the guideline.

    Guideline 9: The reports on the results of analysis should be produced at regular intervals, at least once a year, with appropriate recommendations.

Conclusion: The court produces monthly statistics and yearly reports, see above.

    Guideline 10: 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.19

The court explicitly adheres to the national standards for case handling time in its annual plan and also to some extent further specifies them. When national standards are lacking, the court supplements with its own goals for time use. According to the target in the annual plan of the court, 95 percent of all ordinary civil cases shall be disposed of within 180 days and 75 percent of the all small claims within 90 days. The pilot court also has an overall ambition of being among the best first instance courts in Norway in swift disposal of cases. National statistics is used to compare with other courts.

Conclusion. The court use targets as suggested in the guideline.

    Guideline 11: The targets should clearly define the objectives and be achievable. They should be published and subject to periodical re-evaluation.

National goals for time use are confirmed or revised regularly by national authorities (Parliament, Ministry of Justice, National Court administration). The National court administration generates reports on all first instance courts every six months. The court also reports once a year to the National court administration on the fulfilment of the targets set in its annual plan and comments and explains the figures in the text. The annual report also comments on other issues.

Conclusion. The court practices the guideline.

    Guideline 12: The targets may be used in the evaluation of the court performance. If they are not achieved, the concrete steps and actions have to be taken to remedy the situation.

As described above, the court regularly reports both on fulfilment of the national targets and on the targets set by itself in its annual plan. Significant deviance might lead to actions.

Conclusion. The court practices the guideline.

      Guideline 13: In the situations where there is a significant departure from the targets set at the court level, there should be specific means to rapidly and adequately address the cause of the problem.

A crisis will be handled by reallocating resources internally and, if insufficient, by applying for supplementary judges for a period from a national pool, or for a permanent increase in staffing. The court is presently well staffed and also helps other courts by lending them judges. The present leadership had not experienced a crisis of a significance that could not be handled by internal resources.

Conclusion. The court has a crisis preparedness that seems reasonable compared to the foreseeable challenges.

    Guideline 14: 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.

As described under guideline 1C2, the national deadlines are obligatory in Norway. Neither the court, nor the lawyers or the parties are supposed to deviate from them. Sometimes cases are handled speedier than the parties would prefer, although they usually favour swift handling.

Conclusion: Time use in Norwegian courts is governed by official deadlines with limited space for deviation according to agreements among the actors.

    Guideline 15: 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.

The court’s case administrators work actively on scheduling cases within the set deadlines and targets. A lawyer who instigates proceedings or represents a defendant is supposed to be able to conduct the case within the official time limits. If the lawyer is unavailable, the administrators pressure for a transfer of the case to another lawyer at the firm. The court’s practice on adjournments is restrictive and mainly limited to illness documented from a doctor’s certificate.

Conclusion: The court practices the guideline.

3 SOME CONCLUDING COMMENTS

The discussion of the proposed protocol had to be done fast and more time should be spent if the methodology is accepted by CEPEJ and applied in a larger scale. Neither time permitted any follow up from the court on the conclusions of the meeting since the present report had to be written immediately after the meeting.

Still I think the present report provides a better and more accurate picture of the usefulness of the selected time management tools for Norwegian courts than SATURN had before. As might be expected, the implementation test does not reveal any gross deviance from the selected guidelines, but there are some results worth noting:

    - For most of the guidelines, the court already had a practice established that conforms with the guidelines selected – obviously not due to the effect of the guidelines, but to national practices adopted independently of the guidelines.

    - For some of the guidelines the national practice is different, but still estimated to produce results equal to the CEPEJ tools.

    - For a few guidelines, the national practice seems insufficient, and the court expressed an interest in better adapting to the guidelines and also proposed some possible lines of action.

The report only describes the first stage in the implementation process proposed in Johnsen’s document “Implementation test of SATURN tools in selected pilot courts.” According to the methodology proposed in section 7 of the document, the implementation process of the CEPEJ tools selected by the pilot court also is supposed to be recorded with descriptions of the outcome, duration of the implementation process and external cooperation. The major factors that influence implementation should be identified and analysed and recommendations on the applicability of the findings on other CEPEJ tools and other courts both in the same jurisdiction and in other jurisdictions should be made.

The court did not use the CEPEJ guidelines in its daily work. The national time management ideology dominated its way of thought. It should be said that the court is new as a pilot court and have not participated in the previous CEPEJ meetings of the pilot courts.

The efficiency of our exchange was promoted by the fact that the CEPEJ expert is a Norwegian with particular knowledge of the national judicial system. Norwegian was used in the communication and the relevant English concepts used by CEPEJ could easily be translated and explained.

The court reported that the dialogue was very helpful in meeting the expectation from CEPEJ and understanding the tasks of a pilot court. The separate discussion of each guideline with some deepening of the ideas behind was extremely useful. The freedom to select and focus on guidelines that the court itself found it worthwhile to implement, is clearly more motivating than reporting for statistics that might seem of limited use to the court.

The exchange helped Johnsen as a CEPEJ expert to understand more about how the courts in Norway think and how the guidelines might be communicated to them. As a “pilot test” of the methodology, the depth of the discussion was very satisfactorily. On behalf of CEPEJ Johnsen would like to honour the pilot court for its willingness to participate in the process and for the openness it showed to the CEPEJ ideas during the discussions.

1 See, for example, La qualité de la justice, Marie-Luce Cavrois, Hubert Dalle, Jean-Paul Jean, La Documentation Française, Paris, 2002, page 30: “for the majority of French citizens, the judicial system functions weakly (66%) and too slowly (73%)”.

2 Study and Analysis of Timeframes Unit Research Network

3 This document is on line: www.coe.int/cepej.

4 The Guideline refers both to the courts and other judicial authorities. The part of the guidelines that the courts should be able to implement independently is highlighted.

5 See CEPEJ Studies No. 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”.

6 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.

7 Time management Checklist (CEPEJ (2005)12Rev).

8 For instance on the court's web site.

9 The guideline refers both to the courts and other judicial authorities. I have highlighted the part of the guideline that I suppose pilot courts to be able to implement independently.

10 “Implementation test of SATURN tools in selected pilot courts”

11 The small claims’ limit applies to claims with a value less than 15 000 euro.

12 See CEPEJ Studies No. 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”.

13 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.

14 Time management Checklist (CEPEJ (2005)12Rev).

15 For instance on the court's web site.

16 See http://www.domstol.no/DAtemplates/Article____13797.aspx?epslanguage=NO

17 Visited March 19, 2010.

18 See http://www.domstol.no/DAtemplates/Article____10474.aspx?epslanguage=NO

19 The Guideline refers both to the courts and other judicial authorities. I have highlighted the part of the guideline that I suppose pilot courts to be able to implement independently.



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