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Judiciary In Times Of Scarcity: Retrenchment And Reform


Frans van Dijk ,

Horatius Dumbrava


The judicial organizations of many countries in Europe experience major changes. Organizational structures are revised and digital technology is implemented rapidly. The banking crisis and economic recession have speeded up these developments, but they have also altered the emphasis: from quality of justice to efficiency. In many countries the economic problems have led to an increase of court cases, in a time when there are drastic reductions of public expenditure, including that of the judiciary. In Portugal and Greece, governments have entered into reform packages with ECB, IMF and EC that include drastic reform of the judiciary as part of a modernization of the public sector, in return for financial assistance. The judicial organizations of not only these two countries, but others as well face the challenge of improving the efficient functioning of the judiciary in the interest of society and economy while having to cope with increased case loads and reduced budgets.

The European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), in which the judiciaries of most (aspiring) member states of the EU participate as members or, in case they do not have a council for the judiciary, as observers, is very much concerned about the impact of the economic crisis on the judiciary. In 2011 it passed the so-called Vilnius Declaration. This declaration on the one hand calls on the judiciaries themselves to innovate and on the other hand exhorts governments to enable the judiciary to fulfill its crucial tasks under the present difficult circumstances. The ENCJ instituted a working group to take an inventory of reforms taking place in European countries, to evaluate these reforms and propose recommendations. This working group has completed its report, and its analysis and recommendations have been endorsed by the ENCJ as a whole. As the chair (Dumbrava) and a member of the working group, we wrote the report, compiling the findings of the other members. Judiciaries are already putting the report to good use.This article focuses on the findings and recommendations of the ENCJ, and borrows literally from the report, as we want to recognize its findings. We combine this with a discussion of the relationship between the judiciary and the economy.

The article starts with this subject and first discusses the relevance of the judiciary to the economy, then the impact of the economic recession upon the judiciary. Data for the Netherlands, in particular, are used to provide some insight into the magnitude of impact involved. We will also examine briefly the developments in Greece and Portugal. This discussion provides the backdrop for a review of the measures enacted to deal with the impact of the recession and of the wider reforms taking place. It should be noted that it is often not easy to demarcate both types of interventions. We will look at content as well as process of reform. In both areas we will summarize the recommendations of the ENCJ.

How to Cite: van Dijk, F. and Dumbrava, H., 2013. Judiciary In Times Of Scarcity: Retrenchment And Reform. International Journal for Court Administration, 5(1), pp.15–24. DOI:
Published on 20 Feb 2013.
Peer Reviewed


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