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A. Uzelac

able to afford legal services. On the other hand, there may be some truth in the ar- gument of those who claimed that the participation of lawyers in the litigation proc- ess does not necessarily have an accelerating and simplifying effect on proceedings. Spectacular results could therefore hardly be expected even if an absolute duty to engage a lawyer in litigation had been imposed. Party representation of a high qual- ity will become indispensable not as the result of a statutory requirement and the creation of a professional monopoly but only if and when inquisitorial psychology and attitudes are abandoned, and adversarial elements accompanied by the in- tended concentration of the proceedings are implemented.

7.3.6 Procedural discipline in relation to the court

Mutual accusation turned out to be a very popular strategy for explaining ineffi- ciencies in the judicial system as between the different groups of legal professionals (attorneys, judges, experts etc.). Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure, al- though supported by a slogan that demanded increased party discipline (and/or discipline of their lawyers) and fighting against procedural abuses, in fact admitted that nobody is immune from responsibility – not even courts or judges. Conse- quently, several new norms address procedural discipline.

Particularly typical cases of delays in civil proceedings (typical also as cases of the disrespect of procedural norms) were linked to legal deadlines in the process of the giving of judgments. Although the law prescribed that judgments had to be made and communicated orally to the parties immediately after the conclusion of the main hearings, this happened only in extremely rare cases. The pretext for fail- ing to observe this norm was an exceptional option that allowed the postponement of decision-making ‘in more complex cases’ in which judgment would not be an- nounced orally, but only delivered to the parties in writing. According to the same provision, a written judgment should be finalized and sent to the parties within eight days of the conclusion of the main hearings.54 However, this deadline – gener- ally considered unrealistically short – was almost never respected. Instead, dis- patching the judgment to the parties took place often months, even years, after the end of the hearing.

The 2003 Amendments tried softer methods to achieve acceleration and to raise the procedural discipline of the trial judges. The time-limit for finalizing and dispatching the judgment was extended from eight to thirty days, with the possibi- lity of another extension of up to thirty days. The decision on the extension will have to be made by the Chief Justice (Court President). The consequences of failure to meet these deadlines are not further elaborated in the Amendments, thereby in- dicating that the only option for rectifying such an omission will be disciplinary proceedings initiated against judges who do not observe them. Whether this will be a sufficient sanction greatly depends on the future actions of the Court Presidents who are authorized to initiate disciplinary proceedings, and on the support of the

54

See Article 335 Code of Civil Procedure.

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