Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are concerned about the failure of the French judicial system to comply with Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time. The right to obtain a judgment within a reasonable time is a fundamental principle that is not respected by the French judicial system. The State is regularly condemned for slowness in the administration of justice. The Foundation’s experts believe that the roots of the problem remain deep and that the French judicial system is unable to cope with the ever-increasing backlog of cases, which could lead to the undermining of citizens’ democratic freedoms.
More than 600 days between summons and judgment in all jurisdictions combined: this is the critical result of a six-year study conducted by Legaltech Justice.cool. The General Council of Justice confirmed this situation, deploring the “neglected state” in which the French judicial institution is today. A comparison with neighboring countries shows how acute the problem is: an evaluation report by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ3), which analyzes data from 49 Council of Europe member countries on the justice system, notes that the average time required to process a mass of cases in France in civil cases is 637 days in first instance and 607 days in the court of appeal, while the average time in Europe is 237 days in first instance and 177 days in the court of appeal. In particular, the time limits in France are three times longer than in Germany: 237 days in first instance and 265 days in appeal.
In 2021, the number of cases considered in economic courts will increase by 14% compared to 2020. At the same time, paradoxically, the number of court decisions over these two years has decreased by 12%. The number of new cases is still almost 5 thousand more than the number of completed cases.
After a research study that included several interim reports, the Inspectorate General of Justice (IGJ) presented its analysis of the state of the caseload at the trial and appellate courts in 2021. In addition to structural and organizational difficulties in managing the flow of cases in the courts, the mission’s findings highlight the increasing complexity of case processing. This, in turn, is used by litigants to delay the outcome of cases in order to obtain compensation.
French domestic legislation allows compensation for delay in rendering a judgment by virtue of article L. 141-1 of the Code of Judicial Administration, which states that “the State is obliged to compensate for the damage caused by the substandard performance of the judicial service”. Liability suits filed under this article have generated lawsuits exponentially since 2014, with a 78% increase in new subpoenas in 2020. In the same year, the State was convicted 249 times for a total of almost two million euros.
The problem of years of delayed justice was faced by wrongfully convicted Farid El Haïry, who was recognized as a victim of miscarriage of justice in October 2022, while as early as 2017 the alleged victim admitted that she had lied by falsely accusing a man of rape in 2003. Thus, only 5 years after the confession of the alleged victim, Farid El Haïry managed to get the court’s verdict overturned and be released.
As part of the action plan for the development of the justice system, the French Minister of Justice, Eric Dupont-Moretti, plans to increase the budget of the justice system from 9.6 billion euros to 11 billion. euro in 2027, which will, in particular, finance the announced recruitment of 10,000 court staff, including 1,500 magistrates. It should be noted that the budget has already been increased by 8% twice in 2021 and 2022. However, so far there has been no significant improvement in the situation.
Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are concerned about the absence of positive dynamics in addressing the underlying problems of the French judicial system and believe that the consequences of such slowness are numerous: loss of credibility, distrust in the justice system, undermining democracy, violation of human rights and freedoms, misunderstanding and frustration of both litigants and lawyers, as well as the excessive length of proceedings leads to non-pecuniary damage to the litigant as a result of the abnormally prolonged sense of uncertainty and anxiety that the French judicial system is subjected to. The experts of the Foundation also believe that the French Ministry of Justice should promote and develop a culture of peaceful agreement, which would significantly relieve the country’s judicial system.