Accelerating Civil Proceedings in Croatia
and professional debate, except on isolated and largely marginal subjects),25 the first draft was presented to Parliament only at the end of 2002.26
The absence of any real legislative projects in this area during some 12 years of Croatian independence should not be taken as proving that the Code of Civil Pro- cedure of 1976 enjoyed general acceptance by lawyers and the general public. Its in- adequate provisions and its old-fashioned approach were often mentioned in the context of the extensive duration of court proceedings. Criticism was mainly di- rected at the extensive opportunities it offered to parties (and their representatives) to abuse procedural formalities and obstruct – or even block – the course of pro- ceedings. Other criticism related to the lack of procedural discipline (i.e., the lack of sanctions for inactive parties and belated submissions) and the absence of planning of the proceedings. It was also pointed out that specific formal requirements have in the course of time lost any real meaning in practice (e.g., the condition that first in- stance trials be held by a panel of three persons, two of them being lay judges).
Novelties in the rather voluminous text of the 2003 Amendments27 can be dis- cussed under several headings. The following chapters deal therefore with the fol- lowing issues (or groups of issues): changes regarding organizational aspects (the composition of court panels and in rem court jurisdiction); changes relating to evi- dence-taking and related basic procedural principles (abandonment of the inquisito- rial authority of the trial court, limitations on the introduction of new evidence and factual submissions in the course of a trial); new measures to strengthen procedural discipline (including the controversial issue of mandatory party representation); and reforms of the system of legal remedies.
Changes regarding the composition and in rem jurisdiction of the courts
Abandoning the principle of collegiate adjudication – Introducing the
monocratic principle at first instance proceedings
One of the least controversial changes that provoked almost no discussion abolished the principle of collegiate trial and lay participation in first-instance courts.28 The principle of collegiate trial, although raised in socialist Yugoslavia to the level of a constitutional principle, has become a mere caricature of the original intentions of the Legislature during the last twenty years. In civil litigation, it survived until the 2003 Amendments, although in a restricted form. Apart from certain cases that were
E.g., about the issue of mandatory representation by licensed attorneys in civil proceedings. See infra, chapter 7.3.5. See Izvješ a Hrvatskog sabora (Reports of the Croatian Parliament), number 352, January 15, 2003, p. 19-24, <http://www.sabor.hr>. The Amendments have 287 articles (amending the original text of the Code of Civil Proce- dure that contained 512 articles), so that one may freely speak of a substantially new piece of legislation. The principle of collegiate adjudication lays down that trial courts should sit in panels com- posed of more than one member. In civil litigation, the regular composition of the trial court comprised one professional judge and two lay judges.