USAID Cuts Case Backlogs by Streamlining Serbian Courts

USAID Cuts Case Backlogs by Streamlining Serbian Courts
Acting President of Vršac Basic Court Cveta Kajević Grubišić discusses backlog reduction
USAID Separation of Powers Project
Communication between citizens and the judiciary has been improved. The duration of proceedings has been greatly reduced, which will hopefully result in greater confidence in judicial institutions.

Six Serbian courts have cut their case backlogs in half by adopting procedures recommended by USAID. The courts reduced their combined backlog of more than 23,000 cases in 2010 to fewer than 12,000 cases in late 2012, the most recent figures available. This 49 percent reduction in case backlogs exceeds USAID Separation of Powers Program’s target of a 25 to 30 percent reduction.

The Basic Court in Subotica reduced its backlog from more than 1,700 cases in 2010 to fewer than 400 in late 2012. The Basic Court in Vranje reduced its backlog from more than 15,000 cases to fewer than 4,000. The Basic Court in Vršac's two-year backlog of more 400 cases has been cut to fewer than 200. And the Higher Court in Novi Pazar reduced its backlog from more than 150 cases to 51.  Serbia's third-largest court, the Basic Court in Niš, has reduced its backlog of civil cases substantially since adopting procedures recommended by USAID.

And the Higher Court in Belgrade, with its huge caseload and limited resources, has recently experienced similar successes. Following USAID's recommendations, it created backlog reduction teams and trimmed its backlog of 6,300 cases as of September 20, 2011 to fewer than 4,000 cases by the end of 2012.

The success of these and other Serbian courts that have been working with USAID's Separation of Powers Program since 2009 demonstrate that they can cut case backlogs by revising their procedures and adopting reduction and prevention techniques summarized in the USAID Separation of Powers Project's Best Practices Guide.

Niš’s Basic Court, already recognized as a national leader from the high number of cases resolved by each judge, achieved this through teamwork and cooperation with other Serbian agencies.  Its backlog reduction is all the more impressive considering the court took over thousands of old cases from the former Priština Municipal Court. USAID helps “create conditions to quickly resolve cases and avoid an increasing number of old cases,’’ said Saša Boškovic, Acting President of Niš's Basic Court.

USAID’s partner courts were equally successful preventing future backlogs by resolving cases faster than they were being filed. At the end of 2012, the courts participating in USAID’s backlog prevention program had resolved, on average, 13 percent more cases than were filed during the same period. The Basic Court in Čačak had an impressive 133 percent clearance rate, followed by the Basic Court in Vršac with 122 percent. The Basic Court in Užice has nearly doubled its processing rate for criminal cases since partnering with USAID in May 2010. Its processing rate jumped from 73 percent in May 2010 to 140 percent in June 2011, meaning that it closed 40 percent more cases than it opened in the previous 12 months. On average, each Užice criminal court judge now resolves nearly 30 cases a month, almost double the mandatory 16 cases a month established before new court procedures were introduced in January 2010.

Many of the initiatives being used by these courts to reduce and prevent backlogs are now incorporated into national legal frameworks, including the Criminal Code and the Civil Code. 

Judicial reform is critical to Serbia’s efforts to join the European Union. It is equally vital to strengthen citizens’ trust and in Serbia’s courts.

“Communication between citizens and the judiciary has been improved. The duration of proceedings has been greatly reduced, which will hopefully result in greater confidence in judicial institutions,” said Saša Dujaković, a judge in the Criminal Department of the Higher Court in Niš.

Last updated: September 05, 2014

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