Civil Justice in Crisis: Comparative Perspectives of Civil Procedure

Civil Justice in Crisis: Comparative Perspectives of Civil Procedure

Civil Justice in Crisis: Comparative Perspectives of Civil Procedure

Civil Justice in Crisis: Comparative Perspectives of Civil Procedure


A sense of crisis in the administration of civil justice is present in many countries. Delays and high costs render access to the civil courts either useless or prohibitively expensive or both. The crisis takes different forms. In some jurisdictions the problems lie in high and unpredictable costs but in others there are overcrowded courts and exorbitant delays. Those interested in civil justice will be familiar with their own system but they will seldom have knowledge of other systems and these essays, written by leading experts in the field, survey different systems of civil justice from other jurisdictions. An understanding of other systems will enrich the reform discussions in which each country by drawing attention to common problems, to their roots, to the solutions tried and, above all, to the consequences (for better or for worse) of reform. Civil Justice in Crisis shows that we can learn from others' success but that we may find their failures even more instructive.


There is a widespread perception that the administration of civil justice is failing to meet the needs of the community. This perception seems to persist across national and cultural frontiers. It is present in many different countries, both within the common law and civil law legal systems. Access to justice is so adversely affected by high litigation costs and long delays that in quite a few countries the courts no longer provide an adequate venue for seeking the protection of rights or for resolving disputes. It is no exaggeration to say that many systems of civil justice experience a crisis of some kind.

Most countries have responded by adopting various measures to address the pressing problems faced by their systems. There seems to be a truly global trend to reform the administration of civil justice. However, while legislatures, practising lawyers, and academics are familiar with the difficulties within their own respective systems, there is limited knowledge of what happens elsewhere. This collection of essays aims to redress this position so that those interested in the reform of civil justice may obtain a broader perspective. After all, the problems of high costs and excessive delays are the same, wherever they occur, and even the solutions are not that different.

Thirteen countries were chosen to be included in this volume, representing both common law and civil law systems. They are: Australia, Brazil, England, France, Greece, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States of America. In each case, an essay was commissioned from a local civil procedure expert to present the country's system of civil justice.

Each essay begins with a general outline of the national civil justice system. Thus, quite apart from the question of reform, the essays aim to provide the raw material for comparative studies of civil procedure. Each essay then moves on to describe the practical operation of the national system, its strengths and weaknesses, and the steps that have been taken, or are proposed, to improve the system. Finally, each essay concludes with an assessment.

The essays aim to provide as much statistical information as is available, so that the reader may get some idea about the size of the court system, the length of delays, and the cost of litigation in each country. Unfortunately, the availability of data varies greatly between countries. In some ample information is available; in others very little. The temptation to construct comparative statistical tables has been resisted because of the risk of making misleading comparisons. For instance, most countries can provide some figures about the number of judges, but what is included in these figures varies considerably: judicial statistics in one country may include all judges, but in another they may . . .

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