Excessive caseload in courts is an obstacle to efficiency of justice

The courts of law have a very heavy amount of work. The judges, some of whom can have by more than ten hearings a day, continue to work outside hours so as to avoid penalties for late examination of cases. These and other topical subjects related to Moldovan justice were discussed by the participants in the virtual edition of “EU Debates Cafe” that was staged by the Institute for European Policies and Reforms and was held under the theme “Disproportionate caseload in courts as an obstacle to efficiency of justice”.

Under such circumstances, the performance of the system and quality of justice decrease, generating negative effects in the public sphere. In the Netherlands, a judge examines 28 – 30 cases a year, while in Moldova – over 500 cases on average, said Aliona Miron, acting president of the Centru branch of the Chisinau City Court. During the pandemic, the figure rose. The cases are being redistributed following the suspension of some of the judges and the workload of the active judges increases as a result. Many young specialists do not cope and quit in half a year. There are a lot of technical issues and the situation can be changed by increasing the number of assistants, clerks, by involving retired judges during periods of high intensity.  

Dorel Musteață, acting president of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, agreed that the heavy workload is the major problem that reduces the efficiency of the justice sector. Attention is concentrated on the arguing of court judgments, but the process involves also the compilation of a large volume of documents. The facets of the accessibility of Moldova justice can also be debated. There are enough citizens who abuse the right to justice, burdening the system with cases that do not have an ending, but that imply time, knowledge and nerves. It was believed that mediation will free the courts from disputes that can be settled outside them, but this hasn’t happened yet. Increasing charges is a solution for stopping some from going to court to punish their opponents. The discussed problems are not new and are well-known and their solving requires systematization and a complex approach.

Mediator Victor Cojocari spoke about his experience in the area that was introduced in the Moldovan justice sector in 2007, saying the number of reached agreements is very low, of only about 0.35% of the total number of cases examined in court. The pandemic doubled the number of agreements reached in his office and this is a good tendency that can be strengthened by introducing the service of mediators near judges, who can take over and finish simple cases. He made reference to an interminable case where a person on a principled basis claims US$113, while an airline ignores the hearings on the same basis. The solving of the dispute can be stimulated by introducing fines for non-appearance in court. 

There are courts with two cases and also with 1,000 cases per judge, but the salary is the same, said Petru Vârlan, vice director of the Courts Administration Agency. He also presented other statistical data that affect Moldova’s image, including before the Council of Europe, which considers the system can operate more effectively if there are 23 judges per 100,000 people, as in Romania. In Bulgaria, the figure is higher than 31, not to mention the Western countries. The issuing of executory titles should be within the remit not of courts, but of bailiffs. This will reduce the judges’ workload. The period for examining a case rose to 140 days in 2020 from 96 days earlier.

The debates “EU Debates Cafe” are covered by IPN with funding provided by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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