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Italy: Law to Increase Efficiency of Judicial Procedures

(Nov. 9, 2016) On August 31, 2016, new legislation designed to increase the efficiency of judicial proceedings entered into effect in Italy. (Decree Law No. 168 of August 31, 2016, Urgent Measures for the Settlement of Contentious Procedures Before the Court of Cassation [Supreme Court for Civil Matters], for the Efficiency of the Judiciary, and for Administrative Justice (D.L. No. 168), GAZETTA UFFICIALE, No. 203 (Aug. 31, 2016), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

Provisions for Improving Judicial Efficiency

Law No. 168 addresses existing inefficiencies of the Italian Supreme Court (Corte Suprema di cassazione) by amending the provisions applicable to the Ufficio del massimario e del ruolo (Office of Summation and of the Roll).  The role of this particular office within the Italian Supreme Court is to write one or two short phrases that contain a brief description of the legal dispute in a case and summarize the legal principles asserted in a Supreme Court decision.  The summaries written by the Office are compiled in a Massimario Annuale (Summaries Yearbook). (Corte Suprema di Cassazione: Ufficio del Massimario e del Ruolo (Nov. 14, 2014), Supreme Court website; Le funzioni della Corte [The Functions of the Court], Corte Suprema di cassazione website (last visited Nov. 1, 2016).) The new legislation authorizes the President of the Supreme Court to temporarily appoint magistrates currently assigned to the Office to the chambers of the Supreme Court, on the basis of seniority, when the minimum legal quorum of justices needed for the Supreme Court to meet is not met.  (D.L. No. 168, art 1(1).)

Appointment as an Ordinary Judge

The selection process for the position of ordinary judge now requires the Minister of Justice to request the Superior Council for the Judiciary (Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura) to compile a list of candidates for the lower court positions, according to their merits and other factors.  (Id. art. 2(2)(a)(2).)  The Superior Council for the Judiciary is a constitutional body in charge of the training, promotion, and discipline of judges. (Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura, Superior Council for the Judiciary website, http://www.csm.it/pages/funzionamento/attribuzioni.html (last visited Nov. 2, 2016).) To ensure that vacancies of ordinary court positions are filled as soon as possible, the new legislation provides that the training of newly selected judges at the Superior Council for the Judiciary must last not longer than ten months.  (Id. art. 2(2)(a)(3).)  These provisions apply to appointment processes for the ordinary court positions that are current underway in Italy.  (Id. art. 2(2)(a)(4).)

Personnel Measures to Aid Court Efficiency

The law seeks to further increase the efficiency of the judicial admnistration by prohibiting the temporary assignment of judicial administrative personnel to other judicial administrative districts without the authorization of the Judicial Supervisory Office’s President. (Id. art. 4(1).)  In addition, through December 31, 2019, the law prohibits the assignment of such personnel to non-judicial administrative agencies, with the exception of government entities established by the National Constitution. (Id. art. 4(2).)

The law includes new measures directed at solving case backlogs at the Supreme Court of Cassation by extending the age of service for court personnel beyond the current 72-year age limit for those who will reach that age between December 31, 2016, and December 30, 2017. (Id. art. 5(1).)

New Technologies in Judicial Administrative Procedures

The new legislation promotes the use of web-based systems in judicial procedures, although in certain specified situations, the law also allows the Presidents of the Supreme Court and of the Council of State to release lawyers and judicial clerks from the obligation to submit their court documents through electronic means. (Id. art. 7(b)(1).)  In general, court documents must be electronically submitted before midnight of the day established as a deadline, provided that an electronic receipt is generated and obtained by the person submitting the documents.  (Id. art. 7(b)(2)(b).)

The law also establishes temporary measures for the uniform application of the electronic administrative procedure. (Id. art. 7(b)(2)(e).)  A monitoring committee has been created to ensure that there is coordination during the implementation of the new measures included in the electronic administrative procedure.  (Id. art. 7(b)(7).)  As part of this effort and to provide assistance to administrative magistrates, the law creates Offices of Administrative Procedure within administrative tribunals throughout the country.  (Id. art. 8(1)(1).)

Training Programs for Outstanding New Law Graduates 

Finally, under the new legislation high-achieving law graduates may opt to follow a combined theorical and practical program at the Supreme Court, appellate courts, ordinary courts, and other judicial offices for a one-time period not to exceed 18 months. (Id. art. 2(1)(a).)