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A. Uzelac

litical and ethnic affiliation. A prolonged period of uncertainty and political purges led to the departure of the better and more proficient judges to other private legal work where they expected to find more peace, higher incomes and a greater level of personal and professional freedom. On the other hand, those judges who did not have a choice, or were ready to live under conditions that were considered by others to be unbearable, remained in the system. Newly appointed judges – there were many of them, in some courts over two thirds – were mostly young and without ex- perience. Not infrequently they were appointed according to criteria of political and ethnic ‘appropriateness’, or under the influence of an unavoidable dose of nepotism, a common characteristic of southern European countries.19

The efficiency of the justice system (which has in any case never really em- braced the rule justice delayed, justice denied) as a consequence radically changed for the worse in the nineties and later. General indicators of the backlog in courts dem- onstrate that the number of unresolved cases almost tripled between 1990 and 2000.20

Such indicators, along with the emerging interest of the public media in the problems of justice and a series of judicial scandals, stimulated a public awareness that reform might be necessary. Reform of the judicial system was among the pre- election promises of the coalition of parties which won the elections at the begin- ning of 2000. There were indeed many legislative and other projects from 2000 on- wards concerned with reform of the judicial system. However, assessments of what was achieved were rather different. Many critics reproached the Government for the lack of concrete effects from the changes, and pointed to the further accumulation of cases and the lack of clear concepts and strategies for the judicial sector. Others ob- jected to every governmental action in this area as a violation of the constitutional principle of the independence of justice. The debates about what needs to be changed and what should be the fundamental features of judicial reform are not even close to an end at the time of writing of this paper.21

The reforms that were undertaken vacillated between extremes – the major laws enacted in the mid-nineties changed several times (e.g., the Law on Execution and the Law on Bankruptcy) while others, e.g., the Code of Civil Procedure, are practically unchanged since the time of the Yugoslav Federation. Part of the reason for this is the political resistance of the Judiciary to the reforms, especially if such re- forms were aimed at interfering with political appointees – certain judges appointed and used by the regime of President Tu man. Even after the political changes, ear- lier structures did not change much but, with the support of certain political groups (partly also within the governing coalition), they resisted with success any changes


20 21

For this development see A. Uzelac, Role and Status of Judges in Croatia 90-99, supra note 5; see also A. Uzelac, ‘Lustracija, diskvalifikacija, istka. O procesnim i ustavnopravnim prob- lemima izbora sudaca u prijelaznom razdoblju’ (‘Lustration, Disqualification, Chistka: Proce- dural and Constitutional Issues of the Appointment of Judges in Transition’), Iudex, 1, 1995, p. 413-434. See supra note 2. For some of the critical elements of the attempted reforms see A. Uzelac, Ist eine Justizreform in Transitionsländern möglich?, supra note 12.


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