The EU Justice Scoreboard is a key component of the EU’s rule of law policy offering comparative data on the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems in all Member States. It presents a comparative overview of EU justice systems and is considered a preventive tool for monitoring rule of law challenges in the EU and for sharing best practices.
The EU Justice Scoreboard is an annual comparative information tool. Its purpose is to assist the EU and Member States improve the effectiveness of their national justice systems by providing objective, reliable and comparable data on a number of indicators relevant for the assessment of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in all Member States. It does not present an overall single ranking, but gives an overview of how all the justice systems function, based on indicators that are of common interest for all Member States. The Scoreboard does not promote any particular type of justice system and treats all Member States on an equal footing.Efficiency, quality and independence are essential parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national justice system or the legal tradition in which it is anchored. Figures on these three parameters should be read together, as all three elements are often interlinked (initiatives aimed at improving one of them may have an influence on the other).The Scoreboard mainly focuses on litigious civil and commercial cases as well as administrative cases in order to assist Member States in their efforts to create a more investment, business and citizen-friendly environment. The Scoreboard is a comparative tool which evolves in dialogue with Member States and the European Parliament. Its objective is to identify the essential parameters of an effective justice system and to provide relevant annual data.
Sharing common expertise
Member States need to learn from each other to improve the effectiveness of their justice systems in line with European standards. This is what the EU Justice Scoreboard is about. It contributes to identifying potential shortcomings, improvements and good practices. Improving the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems is crucial for upholding the rule of law and ensuring that citizens and businesses can fully enjoy their rights.
This year’s Scoreboard sheds further light on the functioning of justice systems in the EU Member States. It also presents further developed indicators, particularly on child-friendly justice, court fees for commercial cases and the recoverability of legal fees, as well as the availability of judgments in machine-readable format which contribute to developing user-friendly search facilities that make case law more accessible to legal professionals and the public.
The 2020 EU Justice Scoreboard shows a continued improvement in the effectiveness of justice systems in a large majority of Member States. Nevertheless, challenges remain to ensure the full trust of citizens in the legal systems of Member States where guarantees of status and position of judges might be at risk and subsequently their independence.
Efficiency, quality and independence
Efficiency, quality and independence are the main parameters of an effective justice system, and the Scoreboard presents indicators on all three – civil, commercial and administrative cases, and in specific areas where administrative authorities and courts apply EU law.
The caseload of national justice systems decreases in a majority of Member States and remains largely below the 2012 levels, even if it continues to vary considerably between Member States. This shows the importance of remaining attentive to ensure the effectiveness of justice systems.
Key indicators for evaluation of effectiveness of justice systems
The indicators on the efficiency of proceedings in the broad areas of civil, commercial and administrative cases are: estimated length of proceedings (disposition time), clearance rate; and number of pending cases. The length of proceedings indicates the estimated time (in days) needed to resolve a case in court, meaning the time taken by the court to reach a decision at first instance. The ‘disposition time’ indicator is the number of unresolved cases divided by the number of resolved cases at the end of a year multiplied by 365 (days). It is a calculated quantity that indicates the estimated minimum time that a court would need to resolve a case while maintaining the current working conditions. The higher the value, the higher is the probability that it takes the court longer to reach a decision. The clearance rate is the ratio of the number of resolved cases over the number of incoming cases. It measures whether a court is keeping up with its incoming caseload. When the clearance rate is around 100% or higher, it means the judicial system is able to resolve at least as many cases as come in. When the clearance rate is below 100 %, it means that the courts are resolving fewer cases than the number of incoming cases. The number of pending cases expresses the number of cases that remains to be dealt with at the end of the year in question. It also influences the disposition time.
Easy access, sufficient resources, effective assessment tools and appropriate standards and practices are the factors that contribute to a high quality of justice systems. Citizens and business expect high quality decisions from an effective justice system. The 2020 EU Justice Scoreboard develops its comparative examination of these factors.
While most Member States have fully implemented ICT case management systems (with a few exceptions), gaps continue to remain as regards tools of producing court activity statistics. These systems serve various purposes, including generating statistics, and are to be implemented consistently across the justice system. Some Member States have early-warning systems to detect malfunctions or non-compliance with case processing standards, which enables the finding of timely solutions. In some Member States, it is still not possible to ensure nationwide data collection across all justice areas.