ATHENS – After firing 13 judges who either weren’t working or issuing rulings for years, Greece’s New Democracy government said it will move ahead to overhaul the justice system to speed cases that can take a decade or longer to resolve.
“Radical decisions will be announced in the near future, without counting the political cost,” Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis said, reported Kathimerini, adding that the changes will be put into a Justice Ministry bill.
In 2021 the European Commission, in a report, said that delays in courts of only 1 percent could have a major impact on economic development, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis seeking a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delays in rendering decisions typically take an average of four years, the paper said, but no reason given why any government has allowed it go on, citing the case of one judge who lived in Belgium and wasn’t in the courts to work.
A European Union pandemic recovery bill also requires certain standards in justice and the court system and Greece stands to get 20 billion euros if it qualifies, but bold changes are needed, the paper added.
Apart from structural changes that have already been enacted the new bill will also introduce substantive evaluations for judiciary officials for the first time although it wasn’t clear if the judges would resist having their work graded.
The government said appraisals would lead to judges being promoted on merit and not just because of political connections, no report on what the standards are or the names and backgrounds of the judges fired – who can demand working elsewhere in the private sector to keep being paid.
the bill will, according to Justice Minister Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras, become state law immediately after Easter, the report said, adding that the Supreme Court has finally had enough of the logjams and judges sitting on cases, one said to have hidden hundreds of them in her home and the homes of friends.
All of the fired judges had been repeatedly admonished, suspended without pay, even fined for delaying issuing decisions but it didn’t work, with one not having issued a decision since 2012 and another sitting on 400 and a third sued for delays.