The latest amendments to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), which will enter into force in November 2017, aim at increasing the judicial system’s efficiency and performance. In this respect, one of the main amendments relates to the excessive length of judicial proceedings. Statistics show that until September 2014, 70% of the complaints filed with the High Council of Justice referred to delays in court proceedings, whilst the case-law of approximately 50 claims filed with the European Court of Human Rights against Albania concerns the unjustified lengthy procedures of criminal and civil actions.
In light of the above, the new CPC provisions foresee the right of appeal against the unreasonable duration of a case as well as the right to seek compensation, including non-pecuniary damages. In other words, such provisions envisage the concept of the reasonable duration of judicial proceedings as well as the right to fair compensation in case the duration of the legal proceedings is ruled to be unjustified during investigations, trial and enforcement. A fair compensation would be the acknowledgment by the court of the breach of reasonable duration, as well as any action carried out in order to accelerate the judicial proceedings and/or the provision of damage relief.
According to the new amendments, the reasonable terms in civil and administrative cases are the following: (i) administrative cases – one year as of their filing in each instance (first instance and appeal); (ii) civil cases – two years as of their filing in each instance (first instance and appeal); (iii) administrative and civil cases before the Supreme Court – two years as of their filing; (iv) enforcement of both administrative and civil decisions – one year as of the filing of the execution request. However, the parties to a trial may request the court to acknowledge the unreasonable proceedings duration, prior to the lapse of the above legal terms, by taking into consideration the complexity of the case, the object of the claim, the conduct of the relevant authority and of any other party related to the case.
The party claiming violation of their right to a reasonable judicial proceeding duration should file a claim before the competent court requesting it to acknowledge the breach of reasonable term and demand acceleration of the proceedings. The competent court is the higher court of the same jurisdiction with the court against which the claim is filed, whilst claims against Supreme Court proceedings are ruled by a different panel. The claims against enforcement proceedings are filed with the first instance court that is competent for the execution of the court decision. The court proceeding does not suspend the main action on the merits of the case nor its enforcement. The competent court vested with such claim has to rule within 45 days as of its filing. The court dismisses the claim if during such procedure the relevant authority against which the claim is filed carries out the required actions within 30 days as of the claim filing. Following the examination of the claim, the court may rule to either dismiss it or accept it by ordering the relevant authority (court or bailiff) to carry out the instructed procedural actions within the requested deadlines. Such court decision is deemed final. Court’s instructions and conclusions are mandatory for the court ruling on the merits of the case. The High Justice Inspectorate is informed on the court’s final decision in order to evaluate whether the delays caused by the judges constitute disciplinary breach. The claim for compensation is filed with the competent first instance court only in case the procedure of acknowledging the breach of reasonable term and demanding the acceleration of the proceedings is exhausted, whilst the court or bailiff against which such decision is issued has not executed it. The claim for compensation is prescribed within 6 months from the acknowledgment of the breach by the court. The court vested with the claim for compensation has to rule within 3 months as of its filing and upon conclusion it may rule to grant damage compensation of ALL 50K (approx. EUR 380) up to ALL 100K (approx. EUR 750) for each year (or each month within a year) beyond the reasonable duration.
It is expected that the aforementioned changes will set the court system under accountability by avoiding to a great extent the unjustified delays and length of trials; however, only time can tell whether the issue of excessively long judicial proceedings would be properly addressed by the new provisions.
Besnik Duraj, Partner Albania
Dr. Bojana Hajdini, Senior Associate