Productivity and long term growth

Judicial performance and its determinants: a cross-country perspective



Judicial performance and its determinants: a cross-country perspective,
Main Paper, Economic Policy Paper no. 5

What makes civil justice effective?, Giustizia civile: come promuoverne l’efficienza?
Short Paper, Economics Department Policy Note no. 18


 •   In the OECD area the average length of civil proceedings is around 240 days in first instance, but in some countries a trial may require almost twice as many days to be resolved. Final disposition of cases may involve a long process of appeal before the higher courts, which in some cases can average more than 7 years. ‌

•    Appeal rates are lower in countries where filing an appeal is subject to obtaining permission (leave). However, restrictions to appeal imposed by law do not explain all of the cross-country differences in appeal rates, suggesting that there is potential scope for increasing predictability of court decisions (leading to lower appeal rates) without tightening restrictions.


Note: Trial length is estimated with a formula commonly used in the literature based on incoming, pending and resolved civil justice cases: [(Pendingt-1+Pendingt)/(Incomingt+Resolvedt)]*365. Each of the bars illustrates the main summary statistics of the sampled data. The diamond represents the median. The end points of the whiskers represent the minimum and the maximum values in the sample. The spacing between the main parts of the bars illustrates the degree of dispersion and skewness in the data.
Source: OECD and CEPEJ.

‌•    Cross-country differences in trial length appear to be related to both demand and supply factors, though the scarcity of comparable cross-country data warrants caution in the interpretation of the results in this study. More detailed and harmonised statistics on judicial system characteristics and outcomes would help better understand the factors that can promote efficiency in civil justice. 


•    On the supply side of the market for civil justice services, differences in trial length appear to be more related to the structure of justice spending, and the structure and governance of courts than to the sheer amount of resources devoted to justice.

-    Larger shares of the justice budget devoted to computerisation, the active management of the progress of cases by courts and the systematic production of statistics at the court level are associated with shorter trial length.  
-    Investments in court computerisation also correlate with productivity of judges. The impact is larger when the degree of computer literacy in the country is higher, suggesting that such investments should be accompanied by policies aimed at ensuring that users have adequate technical endowments and skills.
-    The majority of courts in OECD countries have electronic forms, websites and electronic registers; many countries either have not yet implemented online facilities and the possibility for lawyers to follow up cases online, or have done so only in a minority of courts.
-    Trial length is shorter in countries with specialised commercial courts.
-    Systems of court governance in which the chief judge has broader managerial responsibilities (e.g. covering supervision of non-judge staff and administration of the budget), display lower average trial length than systems where such responsibilities are differently allocated.


•    Looking at the demand side, the annual litigation rate ranges from less than one case to almost ten cases in one hundred people. Good quality regulation, timely and effective implementation of policies, integrity of the public sector and control of corruption are all associated with less litigation. Likewise, countries with free negotiation of lawyers’ fees, as opposed to regulation, tend to have lower litigation. A lower number of new cases per capita is associated with a significant decrease in the average length of trials.   


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