On Monday 13 July 2015, I attended a presentation at the Law Society, in London, UK, by Andrea Orlando, the Italian Minister of Justice, about the current reforms of the civil justice system in Italy.
This was the introduction to the event:
The Italian judiciary system is facing a number of challenges that have contributed to reduced investments, slow growth, and a difficult business environment. The Italian government is currently undertaking an extensive reform of the judiciary system in order to improve its performances. The main measures will aim at increasing the efficiency of the courts’ administrative management and reducing the backlog of court cases, developing a special commercial jurisdiction to better serve the needs of investors and businesses, as well as promoting alternative forms of dispute resolution.
The following overview is a personal, cherry-picked account of the event, but for the most accurate and comprehensive information please refer to the slides which have been made available by the Law Society (in English and Italian) here.
The presentation was chaired by the new President of the Law Society, Jonathan Smithers, and supported by the Embassy of Italy in London, being attended by the Ambassador to the United Kingdom, H.E. Pasquale Q. Terracciano.
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Minister Orlando began by stressing the importance of a stable government in order to implement these ambitious reforms, attract investors, and create trust.
His presentation was divided into three parts: first a description of the background to the reforms – the “mountain to climb” (!) and progress already achieved; secondly, details of ongoing reforms and organizational measures; and lastly, some projects in the pipeline.
I was most impressed by the Minister’s presentation – it was clear, concise, and full of information. Timekeeping was perfect too. It certainly broke through preconceived ideas about Italian politicians. 😉 In fact Ambassador Terracciano has spoken out to stress the new determination in politics there – an “Erasmus generation” tackling Italy’s issues. And of course changing existing views about Italy and its legal system was also the bottom line of the whole event.
Background to the reforms and progress achieved
- the number of Court offices has fallen from 1398 to 650
- numbers of Justices of the Peace reduced from 846 to 380
- Italy had three and a half times the number of pending civil cases with respect to Germany – this has been reduced by 6.7% (litigation) and overall by 3.7%
- disposal times are being shortened (by 10%, litigation)
- World Bank “Doing Business” ranking – Italy has moved from 140th place to 103rd
4 key aims for the civil justice system:
- Shorter disposal times
- Halving the case backlog
- Fast tracks for businesses and families
- Comprehensive computerization and organizational innovation of the judicial system
Some of the means deployed:
- forms of “dejudicialization” (out-of-court settlement)
- referrral to arbitration
- negotiation assisted by legal counsel
- An ‘easy’ divorce now costs 16 euros, before the mayor, without legal counsel
- widespread application of summary proceedings
- streamlining & speeding up enforcement proceedings (digital entries in case register, digital search of assets)
- through mediation, improved per capita litigation rate (from CEPEJ data – see these two recent posts on CEPEJ reports – here and here)
The Digital Civil Trial
- 13.7 M digital notices delivered (€48M estimated savings)
- moving from paper to digital files
- online filing by lawyers: +208% between Dec 2014 & May 2015
- 24-hour access to files
- time of release of payment orders filed by magistrates -26% to -54% (depending on district) as opposed to 12 months earlier
- Introduction of a Business Court network (Tribunale delle imprese, see Decreto legge 24 gennaio 2012 n. 1)
- 22 divisions throughout Italy
- half of the divisions have specific competence for international firms operating in Italy
Other examples included:
- an “Office for Trials” (Ufficio per il processo) to support judges and prosecutors, aimed at increased productivity of the judiciary, and improved quality of hearings
- a “Data Warehouse of Civil Justice” to collect data on civil cases and support reforms and decision-making, together with the “Strasbourg Programme” involving the dissemination of best practices
- diverting seized assets to finance and foster the functioning of judicial offices (Fondo Unico Giustizia)
In the pipeline
The Common & Marketplace project to “optimise supply conditions and support demand in bankruptcy sales” and to set up a “single national digital market of all assets sold in insolvency procedures”.
In terms of the reforms of civil justice:
- Greater specialization for family & personal matters
- Increased competence of Business Courts
- Streamlining of proceedings & the appeal system
- Simplify drafting by judges & prosecutors and by lawyers
On the last point, the Minister spoke of many documents currently being drafted rather for “inclusion in law manuals than to serve efficient justice”. He stressed that texts must be concise, joking that otherwise the new data warehouse will not be sufficient to hold them!
He ended with some figures illustrating the significant investments being made not only to render the system more efficient, but also to support administrative staff.
“The Italian justice system is no longer the enemy of companies or investors.”
For an idea of what Minister Orlando is battling with, see this past post.