Why are Czech courts so slow?

29-01-2004

A meeting at the Prague Municipal court took place on Tuesday to thrash out the ongoing issue in the Czech Republic, "Why are the courts so slow?" Existing efforts to modernize the current system were discussed with a primary focus on information exchange, or shall we say lack there of. The transparent judicial system of Canada was presented as an exemplary model, where detailed court proceedings are posted on the Internet for the public.

The motto of the event was a quote from President Vaclav Klaus's New Year's speech, "Trust our courts, but demand fast and first-rate performance." Jan Svacek of the Prague Municipal court, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, pointed out the irony of this motto when he said; "we are starting this meeting a half an hour late."

Michael Juric from Canada is an IT specialist who presented how information benefits courts, bureaucracy and their customers. I asked him to what extent is the judicial system open to the public in Canada?

"The Canadian Judicial system is open to the public to a great extent in that it is similar to the environment that we find in the Czech Republic. People can go to court, attend court and even sit in on criminal proceedings. But to a greater extent that information is then published just in case members of the public, their lawyers, their judges need to look at the information. They can and they can look at it on line they can go through those cases they can review the evidence that the judges had at the time, they can have a look at the cases sighted just in case they need to do research in a similar area and it benefits not only the judges but the people as a whole."

Currently in the Czech Republic forget about the public, even judges and public servants have great difficulty getting vital information. Tuesday's conference was a platform for them to take a stand and voice their frustrations. Even property records were difficult to access, they complained.

But the technology to implement such an information exchange is available. I asked Mr. Juric if he thought it was financially outlandish to implement such a system here in the Czech Republic?

"I think it is outlandish not to implement a system based on technology and information exchange where you have court cases that last way, way longer than they could if such an information system was available.Looking clearly from an economic perspective, price versus implementation of a system to price versus how much these judges are being paid to how much companies lose in money just by having court cases drawn out for five years is astronomical. I'm looking forward to someone actually calculating how much that is here in the Czech Republic."

The main hurdle also inhibiting the modernization of information exchange in the Czech judicial system is legislation. But fears of such information openness do not just reside in post-Communist countries. Such an exchange of information available to the public doesn't exist in the whole of Europe. Chairman of Legislation in IT law Dr. Vladimir Smekal ardently voiced, "It isn't a question of finances, it is whether European lawmakers are prepared to introduce such a system of transparency."

29-01-2004

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