The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice

The Programme of Reducing Delays in the Rovaniemi Court of Appeal

Rovaniemi Court of Appeal as a pilot court of CEPEJ is trying to expedite its appeal processing times. On the basis of the proposal of the working group the President of the Court has set concrete timeframes for processing appeals. The timeframe for decision-making in the written procedure is 7 months and in the oral procedure 10 months. In addition is required that there are not more than 60 pending cases older than 12 months at the end of the year. These targets are agreed every year in the budget negotiations between the Court of Appeal and the Ministry of Justice.

In order to increase the likelihood that these timeframes are met the Court also requires that the judge preparing the case must reach his decision to hold an oral hearing as soon as possible after the appeal becomes pending. If the oral hearing is to be held the judge must see to that the date for oral hearing is fixed with the parties within 3 months after the appeal becomes pending. Compliance with these targets is assessed with the help of the Lotus Notes -case management system.

The judge members and the referendaries in the same team plan together the presentations (decision-making in written procedure) for the following 2 months according to the priority of the appeals and the workload of the team. To enable sessions for presentations to be held there are some days free from oral hearings. This work planning should be done so that the monthly target will be met.

Each of the 4 teams of the Court of Appeal has its own electronic calendar where the team saves the dates for oral hearings and planned sessions for presentations. With the help of this calendar the delivery of the judgments can also be followed. In practise the calender is almost fully booked for the following six months.

In order to achieve the above mentioned timeframes the judges and the referendaries must co-operate well. According to the law, single judge is in charge for the preparation of the appeal. The judge is assisted in the preparation by a referendary, who normally drafts the judgements and together with the court staff arranges oral hearings. The judges are required to participate especially in the preparation of larger cases. The Court of Appeal has also laid down rules, how many cases the judge must prepare without the referendary. Experience has shown that the increased responsability of the judges has shortened appeal processing times and increased the effectiveness of the preparation.

The timeframes for the processing appeals were not completely met in year 2007. The best result was the decrease of the appeals older than 12 months by around 50 percent. In 2007 there were only 30 cases older than 12 months pending at the end of the year. The requirements of fixing the date for the oral hearing within certain time limit and of planning of the sessions for presentations have facilitated the work planning process. However, when estimating the above-mentioned results, one should bear in mind that the amount and the quality of the incoming appeals have varied yearly.

Ritva Supponen
Contact Person of Rovaniemi Court of Appeal