The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice

SATURN (judicial time management) under the aegis of the CEPEJ

Importance of judicial time management
From 1999 to 2006, almost 40 % of judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights concerned the question how long the courts took to dispose of cases. Applications founded on undue length of proceedings thus contribute significantly to the current congestion of the Court. Processing court cases within a reasonable and foreseeable time is advantageous both to the parties and to the courts. Constant attention to this is required on the part of the Council of Europe member states.

SATURN’s terms of reference
SATURN (= Study and Analysis of judicial Time Use Research Network) is a CEPEJ working group composed of seven experts, MM ADEISHVILI Irakli (Georgia), BÜHLER Jacques (Switzerland), Ms EMAN Gaby (Netherlands), MM JOHNSEN Jon T. (Norway), OBERTO Giacomo (Italy), UZELAC Alan (Croatia) and Ms WURSTOVA Jana (Czech Republic); also participating in the proceedings: MM STACEY John (United Kingdom) in his capacity as Vice-Chair of the CEPEJ, and CRAMET Michel (France) as observer for the European Union of Rechtspfleger. In 2006, SATURN was assigned the following terms of reference to be carried out by the end of 2008:
- Analyse the situation regarding timeframes in the member states;
- provide the member states with tools for knowledge and analysis of timeframes of judicial proceedings;
- provide guidelines with a view to possible reforms aimed at more foreseeable judicial timeframes.

Analysis of the situation regarding timeframes in Europe
SATURN began by analysing the existing data, particularly what was contained in the periodical evaluations of European judicial systems. In so doing, it observed that the national surveys had provided few indications as to procedural timeframes. That is why a fairly short specific questionnaire was drawn up and sent to the CEPEJ’s pilot courts. The questionnaire contains, in particular, descriptions of court cases. The pilot courts are invited to analyse these in order to estimate the time needed to determine them, and to describe the procedural steps justifying such time. A first series of pilot courts completed the questionnaire at the beginning of 2008; these replies will be supplemented by mid-June 2008. Mr Marco FABRI, of the Institute for Research into Judicial Systems (Istituto di Ricerca sui Sistemi Giudiziari - IRSIG), Bologna, was chosen as scientific expert. He is in the process of writing a consolidated report on the replies obtained. The report will be presented at the CEPEJ’s plenary meeting in December 2008.

Analytical tools and guidelines
Mr Alan UZELAC, member of SATURN, has prepared preliminary draft guidelines on judicial timeframes. This work is based on the earlier CEPEJ documents on the same subject, particularly the Framework Programme entitled “A new objective for judicial systems: the processing of each case within an optimum and foreseeable timeframe”, the “Compendium of “best practices” on time management of judicial proceedings” and the “Time management checklist”. It is planned to append to these guidelines analytical tools and statistical models for the member states. The tools and models are intended to assist both in measuring and in optimising judicial timeframes. The documents will be submitted for approval to the CEPEJ’s plenary meeting in December 2008.

Jacques Bühler
For the SATURN working group