• JUSTICE WITHOUT DELAYS

  • JUSTICE WITHOUT DELAYS

  • JUSTICE WITHOUT DELAYS

Following the 2013 Court Leadership Conference, USAID/JuST Programme (“JuST”) and OSCE Presence in Albania (“the Presence”) saw an opportunity to significantly improve court operations by strengthening active case management, first in a pilot court, and then in other district courts. 

The initiative was designed after two studies carried out individually by JuST and the Presence which showed what was necessary to improve the efficiency of first instance proceedings. The Presence’s report “Towards Justice”, which focussed on civil proceedings, revealed that 47.7% of the observed hearings were unproductive. These were hearings where nothing would happen for the resolution of the case - no argument was made by the parties, no document circulated or evidence obtained.

The District Court of Kruja expressed interest in piloting the use of better case management principles. The initiative was named “Justice Without Delays Project” and received the immediate support of the Ministry of Justice and the High Council of Justice.

In August 2013, the Presence and JuST drafted a baseline study on the efficiency of trials in the Kruja District Court using data collected on the length and causes of postponements of civil and criminal cases. A few months later the entire court and the chancellor came together to reflect on the findings of the baseline study, and to brainstorm solutions reducing unnecessary delays and improving services to citizens. A detailed action plan was produced following intensive discussions facilitated by the Honorable Truman A. Morrison, a senior U.S. judge from the D.C. Superior Court. The action plan adopted by the court includes specific targets for avoiding unproductive hearings, wasted time and unnecessary delays. It was agreed that these goals could be accomplished by improving practices related to evidence submission, preliminary planning, and contact with parties. Commitment of the parties, their representatives, prosecutors, police, representatives of the institutions involved in trials (e.g., detention institutions, Immovable Property Registration Office, Municipality, Probation Office, Bailiff’s Office, etc.) to the Court's initiative is essential for achieving results. For this purpose, specific meetings were held between the Court and the representatives of such institutions. 

Within six months of implementation of the “Justice Without Delays Project” in Kruja, the average number of civil hearings was reduced from 14 to 4.4 and the average number of criminal hearings was cut down from 8.8 to 3.6. In addition, the average length of civil trials was reduced from 284.2 to 67 days, and the average of criminal trials from 135 to 44.6 days. Each judge was able to double the number of disposed cases for the same calendar time-period. 

The second court joining the initiative was the District Court of Korça, which launched the Initiative in September 2014 with support from all the authorities governing the judiciary, state institutions and local community. Within a few months of implementation, statistical data showed successful achievements in reducing the number of hearings. Unproductive hearings were reduced from 35% to 2 % in civil disputes and from 25% to 7% in criminal cases. Puka and Tropoja successfully implemented the initiative in 2015, and, with financial support from the Austrian Development Agency, the Initiative is currently being rolled out to all district courts in the country.