After many months of delay, the Ministry of Justice published data on the length of court proceedings in 2022. They look optimistic about 2021, but this comparison is clouded by the pandemic period when courts had limited work capacity. If we look at the entire period of the United Right government, after seven years, cases in Polish courts at all levels take longer, in some categories even by more than four months.
Only in November 2023, after the parliamentary elections, did the Ministry of Justice publish data on the efficiency of court proceedings in 2022. Since the United Right is in power, the ministry publishes these statistics with a long delay. Previously, they were published regularly every year, usually in the first half of the year. For example, data for 2019 appeared only in the first half of 2021, together with those for 2020. The ministry explained this delay with the COVID-19 pandemic. The statistics are in the table “Average duration of court proceedings in selected categories of first-instance cases (including the duration of mediation)“, on the website of the Statistical Information System of the Justice System.
During the election campaign in August, Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro announced at a press conference that courts work more efficiently. “Under Donald Tusk, courts ruled more and more slowly and the results were weaker, not better, after eight years of their rule. Today, however, we can record clear progress. Despite the crisis caused by the pandemic, despite the strike of the Italian judicial caste, despite blockades by the European Commission and the Court of Justice EU,” he said. He cited a handful of selected statistical data. He did not provide full information for 2022, nor was it available on the website. After this conference, for two months we asked the ministry several times for complete data, but we have not received it yet. But in the first half of November they appeared on the ministry’s website. What do they mean?
2022: in general, things have accelerated year-on-year, but in details it is different
The ministry’s statistics show the average duration of cases in all courts and divided into district and district courts. In the former, this applies to proceedings in civil, criminal and misdemeanor cases, labor law and social security, family, economic, bankruptcy and restructuring. In the case of district courts – proceedings in civil, criminal, labor law, social security and economic matters.
Data for 2022 are optimistic. As for general statistics (for all courts), the average procedure time in 2022 was 5.9 months and in 2021 – 7.1. So it was shortened by 1.2 months. In district courts, proceedings also lasted faster than in 2021: 5.7 months compared to 7 months (1.3 months faster). Trials were also conducted in district courts more efficiently than a year earlier – by 0.7 months (9.5 months compared to 10.2).
However, in the case of individual categories of cases in district and district courts, positive and negative differences are already visible – the duration of some cases was longer than in 2021. It looked like this:
civil cases – 0.9 months faster, criminal cases – 0.1 months faster, labor law and social security cases – 0.7 months slower, economic cases – 0.7 months slower.
civil cases – 1.5 months faster criminal and misdemeanor cases – 0.1 month faster labor law and social security cases – 0.7 months slower family cases – 0.4 months faster economic cases – 1 month faster .3 months bankruptcy and restructuring matters – 3.6 months slower.
The latest data show that the overall situation is better year to year, because proceedings lasted shorter overall. Out of six categories of cases in district courts, four were handled more efficiently; in district courts, proceedings were faster in half of the categories.
Why are these statistics not good for the ministry headed by Zbigniew Ziobro for eight years?
“A one-year decline does not change the fact that nothing has changed in recent years”
It is important to remember that 2020 and 2021 were unique years due to the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawyers interviewed by Konkret24 explain the decrease in the length of proceedings in 2022 compared to the previous two due to the pandemic. In 2020-2021, there was a significant slowdown in the operation of the courts, which only in 2022 returned to normal operation, i.e. “accelerated”. – Looking over a longer period of time, proceedings are constantly being extended, and last year’s decline cannot be attributed to the introduction of any systemic reforms – says Zbigniew Krüger, attorney at Krüger & Partners. Draws attention to detailed statistics. – When it comes to cases relating to employees, i.e. labor law, both in district and district courts the length of proceedings is significant. And when you look at bankruptcy cases, it’s already a drama. This can obviously be related to the pandemic and crisis, which caused many bankruptcies, which burdened the courts – says the attorney.
– I don’t see any other reason for the decrease in court proceedings times [rok do roku] than a pandemic. This may be a direct cause – says prof. in an interview with Konkret24. Maciej Gutowski, attorney-at-law, lawyer from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. In his opinion, there were no reforms that could bring about such optimistic effects. – This one-year decline does not change the fact that nothing has changed in recent years. There have been disruptive changes in the justice system and the courts are overwhelmed with cases. There are still some problems that prolong the work of the courts. It doesn’t look good, he sums up.
This is confirmed by comparing statistics from the last year before the pandemic (2019) with the previous one. Conclusion: in general, courts work either slower or unchanged.
Differences between 2019 and 2022: in total – 0.1 month slower, cases in district courts – no changes, cases in district courts – 0.8 month slower.
2022 vs 2015: the length of proceedings increased in all courts
Let’s look at the comparison of 2015 (the last year before the government of the United Right) and 2022. Then we can see that in most categories of cases – except for two in district courts – the duration of proceedings has increased.
Differences between 2015 and 2022: total – slower by 1.7 months
cases in district courts – slower by 1.7 months
cases in district courts – slower by 1.1 months.
In individual categories of cases at different levels of courts, the comparison is as follows:
civil matters – slower by 2.1 months
criminal and misdemeanor cases – slower by 0.4 months
matters related to labor law and social security – slower by 4.6 months
family matters – slower by 0.3 months
economic matters – slower by 2.8 months
bankruptcy and restructuring matters – slower by 7 months.
civil matters – slower by 0.3 months
criminal cases – 1.7 months faster
matters related to labor law and social security – slower by 4.1 months
economic matters – slower by 2.7 months.
Let us recall that Law and Justice, together with Solidarna Polska, came to power in 2015 – and then in 2019 – with a demand for reform of the justice system, which will result, among other things, in shortening the time of court proceedings. United Right politicians noticed one of the biggest problems with the justice system and promised to fix it.
Main photo source: PAP/Tomasz Gzell