Strikes add to trial backlog

Strike action by lawyers and court officials recently has pushed back some 6,000 court cases in Athens as the country’s judicial system struggles under the weight of bureaucracy and a massive backlog of trials. Justice Ministry data show that strikes by lawyers and court officials have set back trial hearings by between eight to 12 months. Indicative of the delays caused is that a single-day strike resulted in misdemeanor courts postponing some 450 cases. Lawyers were among the professional groups that have launched the longest protest action, in comparison with other striking employees, in response to the government’s pension reforms. «In 2007, the number of outstanding cases in administrative courts reached 382,000. Judge decisions must not only be correct but should also to be on time,» said Giorgos Faltsetos, president of the Association of Administrative Courts. «The issuing of a correct decision after three, four or five years has lost its value and importance for people.» Every year between 100,000 to 130,000 cases head to the Court of First Instance, of which 85,000 are heard. The difference results in 35,000 cases not going to court – a backlog that keeps growing every year. At the end of 2005, the number of unheard legal disputes reached 259,601 and it currently stands at 351,146. At a higher level, similar delays arise. For a case to be heard by the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, legal parties normally have to wait for more than four years to see a judge.

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