The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice

Coaching session with Mr Bühler at Freiburg
by Jürgen Adam (Landgericht Freiburg)

A coaching session regarding length of proceedings was held at the Landgericht (District Court) of Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany) on Friday, April 20, 2012. In advance, it had been agreed to focus solely upon civil litigations in first instance.
The coach, Mr Jacques Bühler, first introduced the SATURN tools for judicial time management to several members of the Landgericht. He also presented an analysis and evaluation of the length of proceedings at the Landgericht. In the discussion that followed, it was soon agreed that from a purely statistical point of view, length of proceedings does not seem to pose a great problem at the Landgericht, as the average length of proceedings is less than eight months and as the court has during the last years constantly managed to finish a number of cases roughly equal to the number of newly reinstated proceedings.
The members of the Landgericht then pointed out that nevertheless, length of proceedings might be a problem in certain „complex cases“, especially malpractice suits against physicians, tax counsellors and lawyers or suits arising from construction contracts. These complex cases account for up to 1/3 of a typical judge’s caseload. During the discussion, two factors responsible for delays in the proceedings have quickly be identified: difficulties in finding (and dealing with) experts, and losses of know-how due to changes in the person of the judge. The participants of the coaching session then went on to discuss especially the second aspect in greater detail. Members of the Landgericht explained that due to usual career paths in the judiciary, there is a high degree of fluctuation among the judges. There are no regulations or even best practices regarding the process of a case being handed over to a new judge. Usually, no transfer of knowledge is taking place - with the effect that in many cases, the new judge working his or her way through the file will have to repeat much of the judicial work already done (but not documented) by the predecessor. Mr Bühler expressed that it might be an interesting task for CEPEJ to conduct an enquiry regarding the process of knowledge transfer in different countries. In the end, it was agreed to ask CEPEJ to conduct such a study and to have the subject discussed at the next pilot court meeting.
At this point, the Landgericht Freiburg has clearly taken a first step only to enhance time management in critical cases. However, the preparation and implementation of the coaching session have already been of great help: Mr Bühler was able to present an objective evaluation of the situation at the court, and it was possible to identify concrete issues to be addressed in the future. With the input to be expected from CEPEJ, the court should be able to develop innovative solutions for a common problem. It should also be mentioned that the discussion took place in very cordial and productive atmosphere. The Landgericht wishes to thank Mr Bühler, Ms Oreshkina and all the staff at CEPEJ for the work done so far and is very much looking forward to the next steps of this project.