Lawyers pursuing judges

Greece’s most prominent association of lawyers hit out at the judiciary yesterday, blaming some judges for being far too slow to issue decisions on court cases and thereby delaying the whole legal process. The Athens Bar Association (ABA) issued an unprecedented statement criticizing some judges for the «laxness with which they fulfill their duties, with regard to the quality and timing of the decisions they issue.» Sources said that the ABA was referring to some 20 judges that it believes «systematically delay issuing even the simplest decisions, keeping case files in their drawers for as long as 10 or 20 months.» The lawyers’ association did not name the judges it thinks are holding up the system. But the ABA said that its members would begin holding protests next week by boycotting the trials presided over by the justices in question. Greece’s judicial system is notoriously slow, prompting regular complaints from judges and lawyers at various times. Currently, there are almost 300,000 cases outstanding in administrative courts alone. On average, it takes between three and four years for a case to be heard and between seven and eight years for a final ruling to be issued. The previous justice minister, Anastassis Papaligouras, implemented a system at first instance courts whereby cases had to be heard within six months and rulings issued within eight months. ABA President Dimitris Paxinos accepted that this had brought some improvement but added that other changes need to be introduced, such as the number of cases that the courts’ plenary sessions decide to take on each day. Paxinos argued that a court hears no more than 10 cases on any given day. The ABA called on Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis to review the problem and make sure that judges were not intentionally giving themselves a light workload. The Supreme Court announced plans in June to extend the working hours at courthouses but court workers and lawyers opposed the move.