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European Court Hears Record Number of Cases

(CN) - The wheels of justice are turning slightly less slowly in the European Union, according to statistics released by the European Court of Justice.

2011 saw a new record of cases brought before and disposed of by the three branches of the Court of Justice, which the institution calls "gladdening" and an indication of "the confidence of national courts and litigants in the courts of the European Union."

"However, that increase in the caseload has not been completely absorbed despite record productivity," the statement said. The Court of Justice completed 1,518 cases between its three branches in 2011. There remains a total backlog of 2,335 cases pending between the three branches of the court.

The Court of Justice branch completed 638 cases in 2011, a 10 percent increase over 2010. However, 688 new cases were brought before the branch -- a record for the second year in a row. 849 Court of Justice cases remain pending from 2011, the court said.

Proceeding durations have risen over 2010, according to the statement. References for preliminary rulings increased to 16.4 months from 16 months in 2010. The average time in 2011 to dispense with direct actions and appeals was 20.2 months and 15.4 months respectively, compared with 16.7 months and 14.3 months in 2010, according to the statement.

The General Court branch saw a 15% rise in new filings, to 722 in 2011 over 2010's record. It completed 714 cases versus 527 in 2010, a 35 percent rise. The court credited the implementation of far-reaching reforms for the increase in its productivity.

"The existence of other factors, however, will from time to time mean that the pace kept to in 2011 cannot be guaranteed systematically from year to year," the court noted. "Reforms - structural and procedural - must therefore be continued, so that the court can not only respond to the systemic growth of the caseload, but also reduce its backlog."

"It should thus be noted that, despite the results described above, the number of cases pending increased further in 2011, reaching 1,308 cases, and the average duration of proceedings was 26.7 months as against 24.7 months in 2010," the court said.

The Civil Service Tribunal branch also saw marked increases in both filings and completions. The number of those cases that were completed represents the branch's best quantitative results since its creation, according to the statement.

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