CAC: Budget cuts would inevitably lead to delays in court cases
The position taken at the meeting of the Council for Administration of Courts (CAC) held today after the discussion of the state budget strategy for 2022-2025 draws the attention of the Riigikogu and the Government of the Republic to the fact that the reasonable duration of court proceedings will be seriously jeopardised if courts are given considerably more work but no additional resources.
On the one hand, the number of cases will increase due to the planned legislative amendments (e.g. granting permission for use of communication data, reducing the minimum maintenance allowance), and on the other hand, it will be increased by social processes. The CAC certainly sees no possibilities for cutting the already scarce resources in a situation like this.
Until now, the duration of proceedings in Estonian courts has been among the shortest in Europe, but the number of civil cases as well as administrative cases has risen significantly in the last year.
“I’m seriously concerned about the significant increase in the number of court cases, as coping with this in a reasonable time without additional resources could become difficult,” said Villu Kõve, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who leads the work of the CAC. “The courts should be given additional resources in the form of additional judges and court officials so that at least the current performance can be maintained. Speaking about the possible reduction of the budget of the court system at this time is irresponsible,” added Kõve and emphasised that efficient administration of justice is a task of the state pursuant to law and this must be clearly taken into consideration in budgeting.
Minister of Justice Maris Lauri, who explained the situation at the meeting, admitted that the government is in a very difficult position when looking for potential budget cuts. “The only options in the field of justice are difficult ones,” said Lauri. “However, we must focus on developments before we start talking about cuts and I believe that digitalisation as well as the use of legislative options, such as the division of the workload between courts, will allow us to use existing resources better than we do today. People are our assets and we must make an effort to keep them.”
The Council for Administration of Courts is an advisory body established for the management of the court system, the members of which are the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, five judges elected by the plenary meeting of judges, two members of the Riigikogu, the Prosecutor General, the Chairman of the Bar Association and the Chancellor of Justice or her representative.
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Annex 1. Position of the CAC
The Council for Administration of Courts (CAC) draws the attention of the Riigikogu and the Government of the Republic to the developments that considerably increase the number of court cases. The number of cases will increase as a result of the planned legislative amendments (e.g. communication data permits, reduction of the minimum maintenance allowance) as well as other social processes. The reasonable duration of court proceedings will be jeopardised if no additional resources are allocated alongside these processes. The CAC certainly sees no possibilities for cutting the already scarce resources in a situation like this. Court administration, including budgeting, must guarantee the efficient functioning of the court system (subsection 39 (4) of the Courts Act). As a main function of the state, administration of justice must take priority in budgeting over expenses that are not a clear legal obligation of the state. The CAC would also like the Ministry of Justice to provide an analysis of how the budget cuts could affect the performance of the courts in a situation where the workload is growing.