The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice


EUROPAN COMMISSION FOR THE EFFICIENCY OF JUSTICE (CEPEJ)

File : Impact of the publication of the 2012 edition of the CEPEJ evaluation report of European judicial systems

France

20th CEPEJ plenary meeting, 6 and 7 December 2012 in Strasbourg

    Tour de table: how has the CEPEJ Report “European judicial systems –2012 edition” been received and used in the member States?

A very important mediatic cover followed the publication of the report: many articles were published in the written press, press releases from press agencies and articles on weekly websites or specialised institutions were also published. The articles are mainly about the French situation, but many of them underline the serious work carried out by the CEPEJ. The spreading in the judicial community has been massiv, in particular concerning judicial professionals through the judicial professional institutions. Concerning actions of the stakeholders, France has lent its support to CEPEJ to the creation of a European permanent Observatory of judicial systems within the CEPEJ; this demonstrates the interest France attaches to the Commission’s work. Budgetary elements for 2013 have been underlined: 4.3 % growth of payment credits, efficiency of justice being considered a priodity, which is evidenced especially by the creation of 142 jobs in judicial services, in addition to a redeployment of 150 jobs (creations should continue during the coming years, in particular for the public services); a particular effort in the field of court costs and legal aid.

    Thematic analysis of the Press review on the occasion of the publication of the CEPEJ Report “European judicial systems – 2012 edition”

    The evaluation process of the CEPEJ

One article and several professional organisations’ or public organisms’ websites describe the evaluation process of the CEPEJ and the different topics addressed in the report.

    Public Expenditures: courts, prosecution system and legal aid

All articles report data relating to the budget allocated to justice and underline its insufficiency vis--vis other member states of the Council of Europe. Moreover, some articles mention the penitentiary budget which is higher than the budget allocated to justice.

    Access to justice

        Legal aid

A majority of press articles mention the legal aid system in France, underlying the important number of cases in which legal aid is granted. Moreover, it is often made reference to the low amounts allocated under legal aid.

        Taxes and court fees

Only three articles refer to court fees and taxes and mention the 35 Euros  tax stamp  (timbre fiscal de 35 Euros) established in France in 2011. Thus, France is part of a general trend of states which derive their main resources from the taxes and court fees.

    Users of the courts : rights and public confidence

An article states that France is at the forefront in terms of compensation for victims.

    Courts

Some articles deal with the number of courts and emphasise its diminution.

        Information and communication technology (ICT) in the courts (e-justice and e-courts)

An article refers to the information and communication technologies and defines them as tools permitting to relieve courts.

    Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Only one article mentions Alternative Dispute Resolution. According to the journalist, they are developing in order to relieve courts and to reduce the length of proceedings.

    Judges

The number of judges was widely covered by the press which makes critics about its insufficient number compared to the workload of the courts. (Some articles even speak about  shortage  of judges).

    Status and career of judges and prosecutors (incomes, responsibilities)

Some articles deal with training of judges and the quality of this training proposed by the Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature (ENM). The topic relating to the judges’ income is also widely addressed.

      Gender issues

Some articles deal with gender issues within the judiciary. It is explained that gender equality is a reality in the French judiciary. Nevertheless, the  glass ceiling  persists: the higher up the hierarchy, the fewer women.

    Non-judge staff

Two French articles deal with the number of judicial officers which increased between 2008 and 2010 but stayed relatively low compared to other member states of the Council of Europe.

    Fair trial and court activity (clearance rate, disposition time)

Some French articles deal with courts’ activities especially the high judicial backlog and the excessive length of proceedings. Nevertheless, some journalists specifies that the courts’ ability to reduce the number of pending cases (clearance rate) and the length of proceedings (disposition time) in civil and commercial matters is improving. On the contrary, lengths of proceedings in criminal matter remain very high.

    Prosecutors

Regarding prosecutors, journalists recall that France is one of the countries where there is not distinction between prosecutors and judges. Prosecutors are few in France. One article even speaks about  a crisis of public prosecutors . French prosecutors have a heavy workload with the highest number of cases to handle per person.

    Lawyers

Several articles note the increase in the number of lawyers in France but recalls that this number is much higher in the Southern European countries.

    Execution of court decisions

An article mentions that the non-execution of court decisions remains a recurring problem in the European judicial systems.

    The notaries

An article reports the number of notaries in France.

    Impact of the crisis on the judiciaries

Several articles refer to the economic and financial crisis that has affected the judicial sector in Europe. According to the journalists, it led to a decrease in the budget of justice and to an increase of litigation.