The duration of proceedings appears to be a neutral and a-political question
that can divert the attention of the general and professional public from other, sensitive questions in the judicial area such as, for example, issues of lustra- tion, corruption, incompetence, bias and the (social and political) responsibil- ity of judges and government officials for the quality of national justice;5
Placing the duration of the proceedings at the centre of attention not only cre- ates the illusion of serious reform but can also serve as an argument for the re- distribution of social wealth in favour of particular classes of Government ser- vants (investments in the justice sector, improving the salaries of judges and a quantitative increase in judicial personnel).6
A more in-depth analysis of each of these elements would require a separate paper. A cursory attempt to consider some of them will be made below.
Two concepts of the duration of the proceedings – What does ‘acceleration’ mean?
The concept of the acceleration of proceedings does not belong to the classical, and generally accepted, notions of procedural law. The traditional standpoint of proce- dural theory deals with proceedings sub specie aeternitatis – in a purely normative sphere of ‘positive law’. Actual problems facing the judicial system are easily cate- gorized by proceduralists as simply a matter of general and legal sociology. It is therefore necessary to determine what is to be considered as the ‘acceleration of court proceedings’ for the purposes of this paper.
In the first place, the question of the duration of court proceedings might be defined as an integral part of a fundamental procedural human right – the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time, as determined by Article 6 of the European Con- vention on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. Ap- plying the method of analysis through binary variables, we could distinguish two elements of the right to a fair trial: the efficiency and the quality of the proceedings (the ‘E-element’ and the ‘Q-element’).
The issue of the duration of proceedings appears within the frame of the E- element along with another issue linked closely to the efficiency of the trial, i.e., the expense of proceedings (expenditures on court actions and the sums necessary to achieve a particular purpose).
The duration of proceedings can however be analysed in two different ways: in a horizontal and in a vertical direction. Horizontal analysis will compare individ- ual proceedings and their types, focusing on the differences between them, while a
For the history of these sensitive issues, see A. Uzelac, ‘Role and Status of Judges in Croatia 90-99’, in P. Oberhammer (ed.), Richterbild und Rechtsreform in Mitteleuropa, Vienna, Manz, 2001, p. 23-66. In fact, judicial salaries were very significantly raised at the beginning of 1999; as for invest- ments, expenditures budgeted for court buildings and the creation of new posts are planned to be increased substantially in 2003. Both moves were justified by the need to speed up pro- ceedings.