Slovak Courts Slowed Down in 2016

(stock photo by TASR)

Bratislava, March 3 (TASR) – Slovak courts slowed down last year in deciding on cases in all three key areas, with the situation concerning civil and trade lawsuits deteriorating quite significantly, while a reform currently being drawn up by the Justice Ministry obviously won’t be enough to tackle this, said Judicial Council chair Jana Bajankova on Friday.

One necessary condition for speeding up court processes involves increasing the number of judges, stressed Bajankova, adding that the Judicial Council last year asked Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska (Most-Hid) to create 100 new judicial posts, but she rejected this, claiming that she wouldn’t have additional resources for it because the same number of judicial posts has been permanently vacant as of late due to protracted selection processes for new judges.

According to Justice Ministry spokesman Peter Bubla, the situation prompted Zitnanska to introduce specific measures, including an amendment to the Distrainment Order, new laws concerning judges and planned audits at courts.

“Everything that the minister managed to push through in 2016 has begun to enter into force gradually,” said Bubla, adding that the first effects of the reforms will be visible as late as in 2018, however.

Meanwhile, Bajankova praised the fact that despite a lack of personnel, courts last year recorded a third year in a row with a higher number of resolved cases than submitted ones.

“This means that the overall number of unresolved cases has also been falling,” noted Bajankova, adding that the length of proceedings last year was also partly due to several changes that required judges to adapt, including the electronisation of the judiciary.

According to the Justice Ministry’s statistics, general courts in Slovakia last year resolved almost 1,122,000 cases, around 47,500 more than they received. Nevertheless, the overall number of resolved cases fell by 13 percent compared to 2015.

Meanwhile, the average length of proceedings regarding civil legal issues grew from 14.4 months in 2015 to 17.94 months. The previous worst figure in the past ten years was recorded in 2007 – 15.1 months.

When it came to trade disputes, the average length of proceedings grew from 15.8 months in 2015 to 19.18 months in 2016, while the worst figure from the past was 17 months in 2007.

The situation in penal issues was relatively positive (4.53 months), but an acceleration seen in previous years was halted in this case.