Civil Justice Reform: Access, Costs, and Delay. A Greek Perspective
K. D. Kerameus and S. Koussoulis
1. Article 26 III of the Greek Constitution of 1975 stipulates: 'The judicial powers shall be exercised by courts of law, the decisions of which shall be executed in the name of the Greek People,'1 and Article 94 III of the Constitution provides especially for civil justice: 'Civil courts shall have jurisdiction on all private disputes, as well as on cases of voluntary jurisdiction assigned to them by law.'2
Thus, pursuant to constitutional provisions, only the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction to rule on private disputes.3 In all cases, courts are comprised of professional judges enjoying guarantees of personal and functional independence (Art. 87 I of the Constitution). There is no provision for a jury in civil cases; the participation of jurors-assessors is only allowed in certain serious criminal cases.
2. The Code of Civil Procedure of 1967 provides for three types of civil courts of original jurisdiction: justices of the peace; single-member district courts; and three-member district courts adjudicating at first instance. Subject matter competence of each of these first instance courts normally depends on quantitative criteria, e.g. on the amount in dispute.4 The subject-matter competence is, in addition, defined in a qualitative way according to the nature of the dispute at hand or the complexity of the legal or factual issues arising therefrom.5 Recent press announcements have indicated that the justices of the peace may be eliminated as separate courts and may merge with the single member district courts. Interestingly, similar announcements are coming forth from France.
3. The three-member district courts have general jurisdiction and also hear____________________