Trials moved forward 10 months

What further steps will you take to deal with the slow administration of justice? Though there is a clear improvement after the measures you took (Law 3346705 on limiting evidence) there is still an urgent need to decriminalize minor misdemeanors and replace them with administrative sanctions. The administration of justice is rapidly changing, as everyone can see. According to data from public prosecutors all over Greece, some 500,000 minor legal cases (49 percent of the total) have been allowed to lapse, in line with our statutory limitation measures, while the average hearing has been brought forward by 10 months. At the Athens Court of First Instance, the most heavily burdened court, cases scheduled for June 2007 are now scheduled for April 2006, in four months rather than 18. And while the effect of the new law on the current flow of cases cannot be calculated before January, there is every indication that a significant and stable basis for improvement in the overall administration of justice will emerge. Our efforts do not stop there, of course. The law on expediting administrative justice, which contains important innovations, is ready. We have also decriminalized small debts to insurance funds and the state. The ministry’s intention is to decriminalize minor violations of the road, market and hygiene regulations. Such infringements need not concern the courts as automatic administrative sanctions can be applied. The relevant initiatives involve jointly responsible ministries (Transport, Development, Health and Public Order) and I believe their implementation is purely a matter of time. Judges’ associations regularly demand that the number of posts be increased by 25 percent. There are shortages and there are judges who are inefficient due to ill health, all of which impedes and slows down the administration of justice. More judges are needed. Will you institute voluntary retirement of judges with problems, or will currently appointed judges have to work harder? The problem of the legal workload is better managed by the decriminalization I mentioned and more rational distribution of judges in Greek courts, rather than by an increase in the number of posts. Nonetheless, we have made sure there has been a higher number of students at the Judges’ School in the past two years, and we have filled all the vacancies in the magistrates’ courts. I have also set up a committee of judges and lawyers that will recommend a voluntary retirement program so as to free the field of inefficient judges and introduce new blood to the judiciary. We need capable legal functionaries who are honest, trained, high-minded, independent and devoted to the extremely demanding work of justice.