THE FINNISH JUDICIAL SYSTEM
The Finnish Constitution guarantees everyone the right to have his case heard appropriately and without undue delay by a court or other public authority. Everyone also has the right to have a decision affecting his rights and duties reviewed by a court or other judicial body.
In addition the Constitution contains the basic provision on fair trial and good governance. The main guarantees of these are the publicity of proceedings, the right to be heard, the right to receive a decision containing the grounds, and the right to appeal against the decision.
The independence of the judiciary is constitutionally guaranteed. The courts are under the sole obligation to apply the law in force, without further restrictions. The provisions of the Constitution and other Acts of Parliament determine that judges shall act independently in deciding each individual case. Neither the executive branch nor any other authority can instruct the courts as to how they should decide specific cases, and the decisions of the Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court cannot be reviewed by any other authority. Moreover, the Constitution sets limits for what the legislative or executive powers can decide.
The professional judges must have a higher university degree in law. They are appointed by the President of the Republic. A judge cannot be dismissed except by court order, e.g. if he has been convicted for an offence. The courts of first instance also have some locally elected lay judges.
Jurisdiction in Constitutional Matters
In Finland, the constitutionality of laws is examined in advance. This mainly takes place in Parliament, and especially in its Constitutional Law Committee. The goal of this parliamentary control is to prevent in advance that laws which are in conflict with the Constitution are enacted in the ordinary legislative procedure.
No constitutional court exists in Finland, but the courts and other authorities are under an obligation to interpret legislation in such a way as to adhere to the Constitution and to respect human rights. According to the Constitution, the courts should give preference to the Constitution when they decide a case if the application of an act would be in manifest conflict with the Constitution.
An Overview of the Current Organisation of the Courts in Finland
The courts of law in Finland consist of the Supreme Court, six Courts of Appeal, and 27 District Courts. The District Courts and the Courts of Appeal are presided over by professional judges. In criminal cases - and in some civil cases - lay judges elected by the municipal council also take part. In these cases, lay judges are in the majority in relation to professional judges. The Supreme Court is presided over by professional justices only. In addition to the courts with general jurisdiction Finland has 8 Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court.
The special courts in Finland are the Labour Court, the Market Court, the Insurance Court, the High Court of Impeachment is also a special court, but it deals only with matters of criminal liability involving the members of the Council of Ministers and the Parliament, and Supreme Court Justices.
General Courts in Civil and Criminal Matters
Finland is divided into a number of judicial districts, each with a District Court. The districts vary greatly in size, both in terms of population and of area. A District Court is made up of a Chief Judge and a number of other professional judges.
In civil cases the proceedings start with the pre-trial phase of the procedure, after which the case is adjourned to the main hearing. The case also can be resolved already in the course of the partly written and partly oral pre-trial procedure.
Also in criminal procedure the principles of orality, directness and concentration of the trial are stressed. The main hearing is divided into the opening statements of the parties, the presentation of evidence and the conclusions.
The rights of the accused are respected as stated in the European Convention of Human Rights. In Finland the victim has the right to claim damages from the accused in connection with the criminal proceedings and it is the public prosecutorīs duty in certain situations to present the claim for damages on behalf of the victim.
In ordinary civil cases the court consists of three professional judges. One single judge, however, presides over the pre-trial procedure of a civil case. In criminal cases (and in some cases concerning family law) the court is composed of one presiding professional judge and three lay members (volunteers elected by the municipal councils). Minor cases are tried by one judge alone.
The greatest volume of cases dealt with by the district courts is that concerning petitionary matters. These include e.g. divorce, registration of titles and mortgages over real property, bankruptcies and the adjustment of the debts of private individuals. Such matters are normally decided in chambers without a hearing being held.
Courts of Appeal
The second instance in an ordinary case is the Court of Appeal. These courts hear civil and criminal appeals. Nearly all decisions by the District Courts may be appealed to the Court of Appeal. In minor criminal cases and in civil cases that concerns only debt one usually needs a leave to get the case handled in the Appeal Court (e.g. screening procedure). The leave is granted if the decision of the District Court might be false or it is necessary for the correct application of the law or there is some other special reason. The parties have a right to refer both questions of fact and questions of law.
In the Courts of Appeal the cases are heard by three judges. The appeal procedure is similar in both civil and criminal cases. After preliminary preparation the case can be resolved either after hearing or in written procedure. The Courts of Appeal have to arrange an oral hearing if the evidence of the case has to be evaluated again or when a party so requests unless the appeal is e.g. clearly without merit.
The Supreme Court
The third and final instance is the Supreme Court, which has its seat in Helsinki. Its most important task is to establish precedents, thus giving guidelines to the lower courts on the application of the law.
The Supreme Court hears both civil and criminal appeals, but cases are admitted only under certain conditions.
The Supreme Court may grant a leave to appeal in cases in which a precedent is necessary for the correct application of the law, a serious error has been committed in the proceedings before a lower court or another special reason exists in law.
Normally two members decide whether leave should be granted. If leave is granted, the case is decided in a composition of five members. If the matter is important in principle and has far-reaching consequences, it is decided in a plenary session or in a reinforced composition of eleven members.
Usually, the cases are decided on the basis of written materials; the Supreme Court may, however, also conduct oral hearings and inspections.
A general right of administrative appeal exists in Finland. This right can only be restricted with a specific legislative provision to that effect. The administrative courts hear appeals of private individuals and corporate bodies against the acts of the authorities. In certain cases the State and municipal authorities also have the right of appeal.
An appeal is usually first heard by a regional Administrative Court. The administrative courts hear tax, municipal, construction, social welfare, health care and alien cases as well as other administrative cases. In certain of these the appeal must be preceded by a complaint to a separate lower appellate body.
The administrative court consists of three judges. The procedure is mainly written. The administrative courts also conduct oral hearings. They have to be held whenever it is necessary for the resolution of the case or when a party so requests.
The Supreme Administrative Court finally decides the legality of the acts of the authorities. The bulk of its case-load consists of appeals against the decisions of the Administrative Courts.
Usually no leave to appeal is required. The main exception to this rule is an appeal against a decision in a tax case, for which leave is required. The Supreme Administrative Court itself grants the leave. The cases are heard by five judges. The Supreme Administrative Court may conduct also inspections or oral hearings.
In addition to its purely judicial tasks, the Supreme Administrative Court supervises the lower judicial authorities in the field of administrative law.
The Market Court hears i.a. disputes regarding public acquisition, competition between firms and improper marketing. Depending on the nature of the case, the rulings of the Market Court are open to appeal before the Supreme Administrative Court or the Supreme Court.
The Labour Court hears disputes relating to collective agreements on employment relationships and on civil service relationships. Its decisions are not subject to appeal. Disputes relating to individual employment relationships are heard by the general courts and individual civil service relationships by the administrative courts.
The Insurance Court considers certain cases falling within the field of social insurance, e.g. occupational accident insurance and pensions. Such cases are usually first heard by an appellate board, whose decisions are then subject to appeal to the Insurance Court. In certain cases related to accident insurance, the decisions of the Insurance Court are open to appeal before the Supreme Court, subject to leave by the Supreme Court.
The High Court of Impeachment, which has been convened only a few times, hears criminal cases relating to offences in office allegedly committed by a member of the Council of State, the Chancellor of Justice, the Parliamentary Ombudsman or a member of either the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court. In such cases the prosecution is the responsibility of the Prosecutor General, the Chancellor of Justice or the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
The highest prosecuting authority in Finland is the Prosecutor General, who is appointed by the President. As the director of the prosecution service, the Prosecutor General manages and supervises its operation and work.
The State Prosecutors who work in the Office of the Prosecutor General, appraise the evidence and decide whether charges should be brought in cases with wider national significance. The State Prosecutors have the right to act throughout the country. They are appointed by the Government.
The local prosecuting authorities are in Finland District Prosecutors. They are appointed by the Prosecutor General.
The prosecutors make their decisions to bring charges on the basis of preliminary investigations carried out by the police; it is their duty to appraise the available evidence and determine whether there is a prima facie case. If not, the prosecutor will make a decision not to prosecute. Prosecution may similarly be refused e.g. in cases in which the alleged offence is of minor significance.
Finland is a member of Eurojust, established by the European Union Member States in 2002 to support cooperation between prosecuting authorities and investigation of serious international crimes.
Advocates and Legal Aid
A party to proceedings before a court usually uses the services of a counsel, even though this is strictly speaking not required by law. The duties of counsel are performed by an advocate, a public legal aid attorney, or another lawyer. Public legal aid attorneys are employed by the State to assist people in their legal affairs.
Legal aid is there to give individuals the possibility to obtain assistance for legal matters fully or partially at the expense of the State. It is granted on the basis of the applicant's income, expenditures and wealth. When these exceed a certain amount, legal aid will not be granted. Legal aid will not be granted if the applicant has legal expenses insurance covering the matter at hand.
Legal aid can be given both in court proceedings and in other matters.
In criminal proceedings, the defendant is under certain circumstances provided with a public defender at the expense of the State, regardless of his or her financial status.
The victim of domestic violence or sexual crime may be provided with a trial counsel at the expense of the State, regardless of his or her financial status.
In Finland a crime victim can receive compensation from the State for damages caused by the crime, for instance for costs of medical care. If the victim has received compensation from the offender or an insurance company, it will be deducted from the compensation paid by the State.
Enforcement of Judgements
In Finland the enforcement of civil judgements is the duty of the District Bailiffs, who are administratively within the ambit of the Ministry of Justice.
The bailiffs have general jurisdiction to ensure compliance with obligations laid down in court judgements. In practice these most often take the form of judgement debts. If the judgement is not heeded voluntarily, it is carried out compulsorily, by way of enforcement. Due taxes and public fees, as well as certain comparable civil debts, are executable without need for a judgement.
Also criminal sanctions of a monetary nature, such as fines, are collected by way of enforcement. In addition, the enforcement authorities are charged with the carrying out of evictions, court-ordered asset seizures and court orders on child custody and right of access.
The decisions of the bailiffs are subject to appeal in a District Court.
System of Sanctions
In Finland, the punishment imposed on a convicted criminal takes the form of imprisonment, fine, fixed-sum fine or community service. Community service can be imposed instead of unconditional imprisonment for at most eight months. Community service places are offered by various non-profit public or voluntary organisations.
A special juvenile punishment can be imposed on a young person, if a fine is considered insufficient and unconditional imprisonment too severe. Juvenile punishment consists of supervision and work and an educational program.
Mediation is still an unofficial system in Finland. Successful mediation may result in a decision not to prosecute or less severe sentencing by a court. Notwithstanding mediation, serious offences are likely to be considered by a court of law.
A sentence of imprisonment is passed either for a fixed period or for life. The minimum fixed period is fourteen days and the maximum twelve years. Under certain circumstances the sentence can be made conditional. In addition, there is an opportunity for parole after a given proportion of the sentence has been served. An offender serving a term of imprisonment for life can only be released by Presidential pardon.
The Prison Service enforces prison sentences and fine conversion sentences passed by the courts and takes care of the enforcement of remand imprisonment. The enforcement of community service and juvenile punishment is carried out by the Probation Service. The Probation Service also sees to the supervision of conditionally sentenced young offenders and prisoners out on parole.
The Criminal Sanctions Agency is in charge of the direction, administration and final enforcement of sentences.
Supervision of the Administration of Justice
The Chancellor of Justice of the Council of State monitors the legality of the operations of the Council of State and other authorities, as well as of other public agencies. He also monitors the activities of the members of the Finnish Bar Association. The Chancellor of Justice is appointed by the President of the Republic.
The Finnish administrative machinery is also overseen by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The duties of these senior authorities differ in practical terms only in that the overseeing of the legality of the activities of the Council of State is entrusted mainly to the Chancellor of Justice. Matters pertaining to conscripts and convicts are within the ambit of the Ombudsman.
The overseers of legality have no jurisdiction to alter the decisions of other authorities, nor to award damages on the basis of complaints. Their rulings are not subject to appeal.
In addition to the senior overseers of legality, there are certain specialised authorities who have similar duties in more limited fields. These include the Consumer Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Equality, the Data Protection Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Minorities and the Bankruptcy Ombudsman.
The Finnish Judicial Administration
As a government department, the Ministry of Justice draws guidelines for legal policy and develops legislative policy. According to a Strategy Paper published last year, the goal of the Ministry of Justice is an active and safe society where people may rely on that their rights are respected. Every individual, not just citizens, as well as every corporate entity must have effective means to realise their rights. The quality of the judicial system and the enforcement of criminal justice are core elements.
Many of the duties and responsibilities of judicial administration and the development of courts of law still fall primarily within the jurisdiction of the Department of Judicial Administration within the Ministry of Justice. The main duty of the Department is to ensure that the preconditions for a functioning judicial system exist in Finland. In this regard, the Department aims to provide for the necessities of a fair trial and people’s effective means of realising their rights. To make all this happen, we at the department must ensure that the courts have:
- sufficient financial resources,
- sufficient staff,
- proper premises,
- communications, and
- sufficient training to maintain the professional skills of the staff at a high level.
The staff of the Department of Judicial Administration also takes part in the drafting of new legislation, especially concerning the organisation of the courts. The Department also follows up that a legislative reform has been properly implemented.
Quantitative Evaluation of Judicial Work and Financial Administration
Great progress has been made in Finland in terms of evaluation of judicial work and modern financial administration. In Finland, the judicial system in its entirety switched to the management by results system in 1995. Through the extensive delegation of authority to the individual courts in this regard the role of a chief judge has become more significant.
The State Budget Act and accompanying decree provide the statutory background to the introduction of this system. According to these statutes, the ministries must prepare among other things an operating plan and a financial plan not only for one year in advance but also for five years ahead (budgetary framework). These plans must include operational targets, the achievement of which is set as an objective measurement for the courts.
The management by results system is one aspect of the political accountability of the courts. Every year when confirming the state budget parliament sets specific results targets for each and every administrative sector including the courts. Targets incorporated in the budget of the judicial system include, for example, handling time targets for different types of cases and different courts. The budget entry for the judicial system also includes a description of the main focal points of the judicial system earmarked for development.
The ministry of justice is responsible for drafting the budget proposal for this administrative sector and cooperates with the courts during the drafting stage. According to the decree governing the state budget the results targets of the offices and departments of an administrative sector are approved in connection with the implementation of the budget.
After parliament has announced the state budget, the responsible ministry (in this case the Ministry of Justice) must approve and publish the results targets of the sector without delay. As part of the system the Ministry of Finance, the external auditors and the State Auditors Office are informed of the results targets. The annual report drawn up by the Ministry of Justice shows, among other things, whether or not these targets have been achieved. The courts with general jurisdiction and the administrative courts produce their own separate annual reports.
Annual Budget and Targeting - Negotiations Between the Ministry of Justice and the Courts
The Department of Judicial Administration negotiates “face to face “on annual basis with almost 50 court entities in order to set targets and objectives for the next calendar year. The discussions start with a general review of the present state of the judicial system, a look at what reform projects are being considered, and an analysis of the extent to which the objectives of different projects have been realized and so on.
The discussions then move on to an examination of the present work situation in the court in question; i.e., how many different cases are expected to come to court the following year, how many of them the court will resolve, and the length of proceedings for different kinds of cases. Of course a prerequisite for such discussions is the production of good statistics on the cases handled by the courts.
Permanent staff numbers and possible additional judges or other staff for a temporary period are decided upon through negotiation. In addition time targets are set, for example, for civil, criminal and insolvency cases. Issues and problems associated with developing the activities of the courts are also discussed within the framework of the results discussions. Finally, the appropriation to cover the cost of court operations is agreed through negotiation. With this appropriation, the court can buy certain furniture, equipment, pay rent and staff salaries, etc.
A protocol is kept during the negotiation, which includes the results targets and estimated workloads. It is signed by the representative of the ministry of justice and the head judge of the court in question. The negotiation usually takes 2-4 hours.
The transition to a management by results system has meant that the court itself must actively monitor its own operations and the progress of cases, and both plan and examine the use of resources more closely than before. As preparation for the results negotiations the courts should have internal discussions of their work loads and working practices. The system has confronted in particular the judges responsible for court operations with new kinds of challenges. They are expected to have more administrative expertise than before, and should participate in the development of their work and their jurisdiction.
Indicators to Assess the Operational Performance of the Courts
The Department of Judicial Administration together with the courts establish indicators to assess the operational performance of the courts. Their performance is assessed by indicators that measure the productivity, economy and authority of the courts.
1. Productivity of the courts
Productivity means either the number of judicial decisions per judge or the number of judgements made by the court divided by the number of personnel working in that court.
2. Economy or operational efficiency of the courts
This key figure is arrived at by dividing the expended appropriation by the number of judicial decisions the court has made.
3. The effectiveness of the court system
The first two indicators are based primarily on mathematical calculations. Effectiveness as a concept is considerably more difficult to define and quantify. It could mean the qualitative criteria governing the operations of the court. The problem is, however, that it is very difficult to set qualitative criteria for a court in its administration of justice. In Finland one measure of the effectiveness of the court is the length of court proceedings. From the point of view of due process and citizens` rights, it is of key importance that courts cases are settled within a reasonable time frame.
Criticism of the Management System and the Position of the Chancellor of Justice.
In theory the role of the ministry as an influencing agent may cause conflict with respect to the independence and autonomy of the judicial system. In practice, however, the ministry does not interfere in the way the law is applied by the courts.
However, on certain occasions criticism has been levelled against the system. Some judges consider the setting of results targets by administrative officials to be in contravention of the independent position, which the courts enjoy under the constitution. It has also been said that measurable targets can not be set for the courts. What is more, the claim has been made that transition to a management by results system has led to attention being paid primarily to the number of cases and handling times with the outcome that it is not possible to devote sufficient time to the quality of judicial decisions.
The supreme overseer of legality in Finland, the Chancellor of Justice, in his response to such criticism stated the following: “The judiciary through its management by results system may not interfere with the objective and subjective independence of the courts in their decision-making and other application of the law, which is the real essence of the independent judicial power safeguarded in the constitution. The fact that general information about handling times, the number of cases to be resolved or similar data is written in the documents of individual courts dealing with management by results does not in itself lessen or endanger the independence of the court in reaching a decision in individual court cases. Even at the level of individual courts it is after all a question of documents expressing targets and measures to be undertaken at a still rather general level."
Both the Ministry of Justice and the courts have found the experiences gained from the management by results system to be fairly positive. The system has influenced the planning of work in the courts, and for it to function properly the courts and especially the head judge and administrative staff must closely follow the volume of cases and identify potential problem areas. The system has also increased the knowledge the Ministry of Justice has about court operations and the degree to which legislative reforms have been implemented.
Frank and open discussions to set targets for the following year also require a good relationship between the ministry and the courts. Regular meetings between representatives of the ministry and heads of courts or their administrative staff have helped the parties get to know each other and have been instrumental in fostering a positive relationship. It must be emphasized that the setting of results targets does not happen by fiat from the ministry, but is done on the basis of a common perspective.
The Finnish method, the “results-based” management system, has served well so far. However, there are plans to intensify the resource allocation system and there might be a need for the development of a more finely tuned quality measurement and resource allocation mechanism for the courts. In order to secure the independence of the judiciary, the judges and the courts will most certainly be involved in the development of that mechanism.
Timeliness of Court Proceedings - Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
Comparatively speaking Finnish courts function relatively quickly. In courts of first instance the average handling time for summary procedure cases, most of which were undisputed debt collection cases, was 2 months and for extensive civil cases (involving a full-scale trial with preliminary hearings and a main hearing) 8 months. In criminal cases the average handling time was about 3 months.
The average handling time for appeals in courts of appeal is about 7 months, but the handling time really depended on whether the case was resolved through a trial procedure or on the basis of minutes. An oral hearing is time-consuming and lengthens handling times. There were also big differences between courts of appeal.
The handling time for appeals in the Supreme Court is about 4 months for cases in which leave to appeal was not granted and 17 months when it was. One of the duties of the Supreme Court is to guide the decision-making of lower courts by establishing precedents, so the longer handling time was for cases where a totally new evaluation of the substantive evidence was made.
The average handling time in administrative courts in 2010 was under 8 months and 11 months in the Supreme Administrative Court. In the Insurance Court it was 10 months, in the Labour Court 4,5 months and under 9 months in the Market Court.
In summary one can state that compared to many European countries Finnish courts are capable of resolving legal issues quite quickly. For this reason it has been surprising that on the European Court of Human Rights has rendered a few condemnatory decisions against Finland for excessively long legal proceedings. These cases illustrate rather well that even though average handling times in Finland compare favourably with those of other countries, there are to some degree individual cases being dealt with by the courts, the handling time of which is considerably longer than the statistical average.
The Qualitative Evaluation of Court Work
Different branches of the state administration in Finland have tried to develop different kinds of quality models. The judiciary can not divorce itself from such development work. In 1998 a working group headed by the permanent secretary of the ministry of justice submitted a report entitled: “Quality and Operational Performance in Courts of Law“. The working group proposed that the management by results system should be supplemented and developed by setting qualitative targets for the courts in addition to the quantitative targets outlined earlier.
It has been said that the courts have always tried to do quality work. But what is meant by quality in this context? Of course the starting point must be the primary function of the courts, which is to render high quality judgements and decisions. This presupposes that the judgement is legal and given within a reasonable space of time and at reasonable expense. The operative question is: How does a court achieve high quality decisions? That question presupposes that judges are highly skilled and know the law. A secondary requirement is that judges manage proceedings and parties effectively in accordance with procedural law.
The Quality Project of the Rovaniemi Court of Appeals
The jurisdiction of the Rovaniemi Court of Appeals consists of 7 district courts and one court of appeal. The quality project was launched in 1999, when quality targets for 2000 with respect to the administration of justice were set for the courts in this appellate district. The setting of quality targets in this matter was seen as the specific task of the judges and of the courts alone. The Ministry of Justice did not participate in the setting of these targets. Final reports were given in 2008.
The quality targets for the administration of justice were drafted by four working groups which were set up in a conference held in the Court of Appeals of Rovaniemi, with all District Courts in its appellate jurisdiction participating. All judges in this jurisdiction were involved in one or other of these working groups. The working groups produced reports on their assigned fields. The reports were then taken up for discussion in a seminar. The quality targets for the following year were set on the basis of the discussions in the seminar.
In general the quality of the work done in a court can be examined from three perspectives:
1. Quality of court proceedings
What are good court proceedings? What is a good trial? The whole purpose of the exercise from the point of view of the judge or the court is to determine substantive truth. Thus, the proceedings must be in accordance with procedural rules. The judge must get to the bottom of the matter by procedural means and so a substantive conduct of proceedings is emphasized. The proceedings may not conflict either with the norms set in the European Convention on Human Rights. The foundations for a good judgement/decision should be laid during the trial.
2. Quality of the judicial decision or judgement
Of course a high quality decision must be legal. Because laws and statutes often leave judges with some leeway to interpret the law, decision-making is guided by doctrine on sources of law and case law. Making decisions therefore requires great professional skill on the part of judges. To develop their professional skills judges must be active and undergo continuous training. A high quality decision must also be underpinned with sound reasoning.
3. Organization and quality of customer service
Compared with the first two quality factors this third factor is more traditional and to a certain extent easier to conceptualize. A modern-day court must be able to provide good customer service. That requires court staff to be well trained and motivated. The public must be provided with appropriate and courteous guidance and counsel, which means among other things that the special features of providing customer service over the phone through call centres or other comparable means must be taken into account.
A court of law is a working environment or community encompassing different groups of people handling or involved in different kinds of matters. For this reason, it is incumbent upon court staff in a leadership positions to actively develop the information services and work flow of the court and to monitor how different work volumes are developing in court units or departments.
Public Confidence and Customer Satisfaction
Two surveys have been published in Finland about public confidence in the court system. One survey was done by the Faculty of Law at the University of Turku, the other by the National Research Institute of Legal Policy subordinate to the Ministry of Justice.
The latter research was part of a broader project entitled “The legal situation in Finland. “ Its fundamental perspective was to examine to what extent parties are able to solve their legal problems and enforce their rights, and how the practices of the authorities meet the objectives of the legislator. In addition, customer satisfaction was measured by random interviews of customers conducted on a court by court basis as they were leaving the courtroom. In the main, the feedback in these two national studies was positive. The Turku research indicated that on the whole 68 % of citizens considered the courts to have been successful in their operations, whilst 17 % considered them to have failed. With respect to the National Research Institute study, one can consider as problematic the discovery that confidence in the judicial system was less among those who had had dealings with a court of law than it was among those who had not any personal experience before a court. Admittedly, the statistical difference was not great.
The Turku research indicated that perspectives as to the even-handedness of court proceedings and judicial decisions can be considered the most serious matter for redress. A mere third of our citizens consider court judgements to be fair, whereas 57% consider them unfair. The general attitude, however, towards the fairness of judicial decisions and the actions of judges is to some extent more positive than this. Court bureaucracy was considered a problem for those who had dealings with the courts, and most citizens were of the opinion that access to and use of the court system should be simpler than it is today. In this respect, legal expenses and ignorance with regard to how to transact one’s affairs in a court of law were considered to be the biggest problems. On the other hand over 60% of the respondents said they would be willing to collect a designated claim of 1600 euro in a court of law.
One can therefore say that customer and public satisfaction has been researched in recent years rather amply and will be monitored in the future as well. Trust and satisfaction have clearly become the new elements of a social yardstick with which to assess the functioning of the judicial system. It is intended that the above-mentioned studies will be continued in the future, but at the present time other, more focused satisfaction surveys are being implemented.