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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Courts in European Union Say They Are Swamped

(CN) - European Union courts are handling more cases than ever, but apparently current infrastructure can't keep up with the increased activity, statistics released by the courts show. This comes despite a trend toward quicker resolution of cases.

Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in late 2009 reshaped European courts, increasing the Court of Justice's jurisdictional sweep. Since formation of the EU, the Court of Justice has steadily been amassing power, leading some to compare it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three courts comprising the Court of Justice of the European Union handled 1,406 new cases in 2010, compared with 1,243 the year before. This 22 percent increase reflects the largest volume of cases ever, according to a court statement.

The number of cases resolved shows a slight backward trend for two of three courts, the top-level Court of Justice and the lowest-tier Civil Service Tribunal. Combined, the courts completed 713 cases in 2010, down from 743 in 2009.

The court's intermediary branch, the General Court, completed 527 cases last year, but didn't provide completed-cases data for this branch for 2009. The number of pending General Court cases amounts to a staggering 1,300 at the end of 2010. Compared with last year, more cases are also pending for the Civil Service Tribunal; figures released didn't reveal how many cases are still sitting on the Court of Justice's docket.

The court emphasized a trend toward quicker processing of cases, asserting that it is dealing with cases from two of the three courts quicker than ever. It still takes on average just over 16 months for the Court of Justice branch to resolve references for a preliminary ruling, while direct actions take an extra 2 1/2 months. Appeals are resolved quickest, at 14.3 months.

The General Court also saw a reduction in processing time, down two months from 2.25 years. Appeals and intellectual property cases take up the most time.

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