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Our View: Government over optimistic in pushing through new court system

antonis
President of the supreme court, Antonis Liatsos

The eagerly anticipated reform of the justice system, which was to have been in place at the start of 2023 has been put back six months at request of the supreme court which needed more time to recruit new judges.

The hiring and training of the new judges would require six to seven months said the president of the supreme court, Antonis Liatsos, in justifying his request for the new system to start on July 1. Administrative staff also had to be hired and their recruitment was expected to be completed by the time of the new deadline.

Had the government been over-optimistic in thinking the new court system would be up and running at the start of the year, considering the reform bill was still being discussed until some months ago? Perhaps it had not factored in the time it would take to recruit 26 new judges and train them, not to mention the administrative staff required.

Liatsos had explained that without the new recruits there would be a shortage of judges in the lower courts as many of the district court judges would be moved up to the appeals court and two supreme courts. Considering that most cases in the district courts take anything between four to seven years to be completed, waiting an additional six months for the new system is not going to be a problem for anyone.

The attorney-general and justice minister had no objection to the delay, only the Bar Association expressing reservations over the extension as this would create “insecurity of law” and give rise to other issues that had not been considered.

Another issue raised by Liatsos at Wednesday’s meeting of the House legal affairs committee was the number of judges comprising the supreme constitutional court. The law stipulated nine specifically, instead of setting a maximum number that was not mandatory as in the case of the other courts. Liatsos spoke about the difficulty in finding an adequate number of capable judges, which was why it was better to reduce the number.

Was he alluding to a more general difficulty in finding capable judges or was the problem specific to the higher courts? It was unclear, even though at the meeting Liatsos had raised the issue of the quality of justice which he said was affected by the recruitment of judges. This is not the only matter the reform of justice system hopes to address, but we will have to wait until the second half of next year to find out if the changes will actually speed up the administering of justice.

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