A Treasure Trove of Information for Justice Reform

Ingo Keilitz
2015 International Journal for Court Administration  
Every two years over the last decade, member states of the Council of Europe --from Azerbaijan to Iceland --report on the efficiency and quality of their judicial systems, reports that are compiled and analyzed by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ). 2 The fifth biennial edition of CEPEJ's report, European Judicial Systems -Edition 2014: Efficiency and Quality of Justice (hereinafter "Report"), was made public late last year. It is an evaluation of the judicial systems
more » ... he judicial systems of 45 3 of the 47 countries in the Council of Europe (Lichtenstein and San Marino did not provide data). A significant advancement over previous CEPEJ's evaluations, the Report is a treasure trove of information that deserves the attentions of policy makers and justice professionals, academics and researchers, especially those that are reform-minded. Issues addressed in the Report include not only "supply" side questions (e.g., Numbers of courts within and across countries over time? Public expenditures for courts, prosecution, and legal aid per inhabitant?), but also "demand" side questions (e.g., Number of land registry cases handled by courts, if any? How are courts actually performing in terms of their case clearance rates and case disposition times?) These questions and many more are answered in 500-plus pages of text and over 250 figures and tables divided into 18 chapters, as well as two appendices containing the survey in its entirety and an extensive note with general comments and question-by-question explanations of each of the 208 survey items. The database for the Report consists of the responses to CEPEJ's 208-item survey by "national correspondents" of the 45 countries, supported by CEPEJ members, observers, and experts. CEPEJ has done extensive work to verify and to improve the quality of the data submitted by the member states including frequent contacts with the national correspondents to validate or to clarify the submitted data. The individual national replies --invaluable complements to the Report --contain more detailed descriptions and commentary on the individual justice systems entered in the "comments" area of most of the survey items. The national replies are available in their entirety on the CEPEJ website devoted to these "country profiles." 4 They include, for most countries, survey responses over time, detailed commentary to survey responses, as well as the names and contact information for the local CEPEJ member and the national correspondent, as well as the identity and locations of pilot courts in the countries. These last features suggest enhanced local "ownership" of the evaluations of the individual justice system. Interested readers can examine the Report at three levels of detail. First, they can begin at the highest level with the overview of trends summarized in Chapter 18 which include, for example, the following: (1) despite the recent economic and financial crisis, the development of judicial budgets remained a priority of public funds for a majority of governments,
doi:10.18352/ijca.172 fatcat:gcz67he4lzfvded3ae7juk7ywq