Although all our politicians, judges and lawyers publicly talk about the need to speed up the administering of justice, the astounding slowness of which reflects very badly on the country, the commitment and determination to do this, does not seem to exist. Foreign experts have been brought in to advise on how to reform the justice system and the state legal services has drafted bills, which have been at the legislature for months.
Further delaying the planned speeding up of the administering of justice, the House legal affairs committee, unanimously, decided to send three of the five justice reform bills back to the justice ministry, for more work. Justice minister, Emily Yiolitis, was surprised by this, considering there had been two years of consultations and modifications had been made to the bills that envisage the establishment of a small claims court, changing the procedure for appeals and setting of criteria for recruiting and evaluating judges, among other things.
The five bills constitute a major overhaul of the justice system, which may have been a more time-consuming and complicated project than was originally thought by the government. On the other hand, we should also consider the possibility that not everyone wants the administration of justice to be sped up. There may be lawyers who benefit from the slowness – a case can take up to seven years – and congestion in the courts because this enables them to take on a higher number of cases at one time. Individuals can also benefit, using the courts as a delaying tactic in disputes they have with other parties.
Yiolitis has come up with an idea to bring deputies onside, even though it seems a bit unorthodox. On Wednesday, she proposed the setting up of a working group, made up of a representative from each parliamentary party, in the hope of overcoming the objections expressed by deputies or finding some compromises. While it may be a good idea to offer the parties ownership of the reform and encourage them to submit proposals on the bills, committees are notoriously slow in reaching decisions, considering that some form of consensus has to be reached.
In fact, it is often said that if you do not want something done you should assign it to a committee. The onus will be on the minister to give direction to the working group and ensure the deputies participating adopt a constructive approach and contribute to speedy decision-making. We can only express the hope she succeeds, even though the odds are stacked against her.