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EU Parliament OKs Plan for More Judges by 2019

(CN) - The full European Parliament on Wednesday approved plans to increase the number of judges at the European General Court to 56 by 2019 and "ensure gender balance" on the bench.

Wednesday's vote comes after parliament's legal affairs committee made its recommendation to adopt the European Court of Justice's plan in full earlier this month.

The EU high court begged lawmakers for an overhaul of the EU's judiciary this past April, to deal with crushing caseloads and to dodge speedy-trial lawsuits filed by angry citizens.

Of particular concern is the nearly threefold increase in cases lodged with the general court between 2000 and 2014 - with annual increases on the horizon, the high court said.

And while the general court has reported efficiency improvements in recent years, handling the sheer volume of cases filed each year in a timely manner has become untenable, the high court said.

The backlog has already resulted in five speedy-trial actions filed against the EU judiciary by disgruntled parties in the last year, claiming a total of $30 million in damages.

Under the plan passed by parliament, 12 new judges will be appointed to the lower court in 2015. Another seven judges will come through the court's merger with the civil service tribunal - the court that hears cases involving government employees in the EU.

In 2019, another nine judges will join the general court bench, bringing the total number to 56 - two per member state.

Both the parliament and the EU Council stressed that "member states should, to the greatest possible extent, take account an equal presence of women and men in the process of appointing candidates as judges."

The plan next heads to the council for final approval.

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