2016 EU Justice Scorecard shows sharp contrasts in members’ legal systems

EU report shows desire to improve legal systems across the board, but the divisions in legal access and public trust remain stark.

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EU legal report

The European Commission has published its fourth Justice Scorecard, which ranks member states’ legal systems. Criteria include efficiency, ease of access, and time need to resolve cases.

The report also included Eurobarometer Surveys results that reveal the perceived effectiveness of judicial systems among the public.

Almost all EU members have made efforts to improve their legal systems. Changes include updating procedural law, increasing access to legal aid, and improving the use of information technology within the judiciary.

But the data also reveal a huge efficiency disparity. Using a measure of efficiency that includes timeliness of judicial decisions, Lithuania averaged less than 100 days for court action, while Malta reached over 800 days.

Over the past three years, Denmark had the highest number of incoming civil, commercial, administrative and other cases per capita followed closely by Slovenia. Belgium had the largest volume of civil and commercial litigious cases.

The integration of technology is important for a speedy legal system. Estonia leads the way with small claims proceedings, while Hungary lags behind in easy access to online services. Small claims procedures make up a large percentage of court cases, and include consumer rights claims that the EU is very keen to promote and protect.

Public polls reveal trust in legal procedure

Importantly, Eurobarometer Surveys were included in this year’s report, giving some insight into how the public perceives the independence of their country’s legal systems. Denmark topped the polls with more than 85% rating their courts and judges as “good” or “very good”, while barely 20% of respondents in Slovakia were satisfied with their systems.

EU legal public opinion

Eurobarometer also posed the questions to companies across the EU. Finnish companies reported the highest rate of approval, at more than 85%, while Slovakia again lagged in last place with around three-quarters of businesses expressing dissatisfaction with their judicial system.

Image: Michael Coghlan/Flickr

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