Serbia Justice Functional Review

Summary with Recommendations

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations - External Performance: Efficiency, Quality and Accessibility of Justice Services

  1. The delivery of justice services in Serbia is constrained by a combination of efficiency, quality, and access challenges. From the users’ perspective, court and attorney fees are expensive, and the process is long, frustrating, and subject to various vagaries and abuses. By the end, the users may secure a judgment in their favor but still struggle to see it enforced. The service delivery challenges are thus inter-related and mutually reinforcing.
  2. Below is a summary of the main findings and recommendations related to the external performance of the judicial system in Serbia, as measured against the indicators and European benchmarks outlined in the Performance Framework agreed among stakeholders.

In Context: Assessing Performance in Light of Caseloads and Workloads

  1. Court performance should be measured in light of the demand for court services including the quantity and nature of cases, workloads, and changes in those factors over time.
  2. Incoming caseloads per judge in Serbia are approximately half the EU average and are lower than most EU11 Member States and regional neighbors.
    Demand for court services in Serbia is weaker than EU averages. When measured relative to population, Serbian courts receive around 13.8 incoming cases per 100 inhabitants, which is slightly lower than the EU average. Meanwhile, Serbia has nearly double the ratio of judges-to-population than the EU average, with over 39 judges per 100,000 inhabitants. As a result, the incoming caseloads per judge in Serbia are approximately half the EU average15 and are also lower than most EU11 Member States and regional neighbors.
  3. Caseload figures in Serbia are also highly inflated. Many matters are counted as a ‘case’ that would not be considered as such in other systems.16 Much of the caseload is composed of cases requiring little judicial work, such as enforcement cases, with a number twice as high as the EU average, and a large number of old inactive cases. Caseload inflation can result in misleading statements about the real demand pressures facing the judiciary. Once case numbers are sifted and further analyzed, judicial workloads appear to be modest.
  4. Some small courts in Serbia are extremely busy, whilst larger ones are less so.
    Caseloads are distributed unevenly among courts and without any clear pattern. Some small courts are extremely busy, whilst larger ones are less so. Higher Courts and Appeals Courts receive a comparatively small caseload on average. A series of painful reforms and court re-organizations have done little to address the uneven caseload distribution.
  5. Demand for court services is also falling significantly. Declines are most apparent in Basic and Commercial Courts where the number of incoming cases fell by over one-third and one-half respectively from 2010 to 2013. The decline is likely attributable to the transfer of judicial functions to other private or public actors and the decrease in affordability of court services. As a result, workloads are falling and the average incoming caseloads of judges across the system declined by one-third from 2010 to 2013.
  6. Average caseloads declined by one-third from 2010 to 2013.
    Even so, judges, prosecutors and staff throughout the system report feeling busy and overburdened with work. The reasons lie in the systemic problems in the way the system operates that undermine external and internal performance, and not in the numbers of judges, staff, or cases. Therefore it is the systemic problems, and their possible solutions, which are the focus of this Review.