After a long and troublesome history full of setbacks and redrafts the House of Representatives has in July 2022 finally passed the amendments to the Laws of Cyprus that would bring about the long awaited reform of the judicial system.
It has been hailed as a revolution in judicial administration for the Cyprus Courts that would go a long way towards solving the backlog of cases accumulating in the Courts that have resulted in Cyprus being placed at the bottom of the list in the EU regarding the efficiency of resolving Court cases timely.
While I would agree that all the measures are very important and long awaited I remain cautious with regard to the expectations described above especially in the short to medium term.
The main thrust of the judicial reforms is as follows:
1. The Supreme Court which since 1964 exercises the jurisdiction of both the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court as contemplated in the Constitution from the 1st of January 2023 will function as two separate Courts, the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Constitutional Court will consist of 9 Judges, one of whom will act as President (section 3(8)(b)) and the Supreme Court will consist of a maximum number of 7 Judges, one of whom will act as President (section 3(8)(c)).
2. An Appellate Court will be established with up to 16 judges to act as the second tier in the judicial system hearing appeals from the lower Courts.
3. The Supreme Court will hear appeals from the Appellate Court on matters of public interest and importance following special leave.
4. The Supreme Constitutional Court will hear matters of constitutional character.
5. A Commercial Court will be established that can conduct hearings in English in appropriate cases and which will have jurisdiction over claims of commercial nature in excess of 2 million Euros.
6. The Supreme Council of Judicature is also now regulated by law and has exclusive jurisdiction over the appointment, promotion, transfer, termination of service, dismissal and disciplinary authority over the Judges of the Court of Appeal and Judges of the Courts of First Instance. It will consist of the judges of the Supreme Court with the Attorney General, the President of the Bar Association and two lawyers of recognised standing also attending in an advisory non-voting capacity.
Obviously the creation of the Commercial Court is the one that will most directly impact the backlog of cases. An additional appellate tier will not remove delays, though the allocation of cases among the higher courts will in the medium to long term period shorten the periods experienced for the successful completion of the appeal process.
At the same time new Civil Procedure Rules have been adopted that will govern future cases. The adoption of such Rules was a development awaited for decades. The new CPRs based on the suggestions of a committee under Lord Dawson and aim to shorten the procedures at the level of the lower Courts. The philosophy is to adopt procedures that will effectively and quickly adjudicate cases before the Court.
The successful application of the Rules will very much depend on all factors of the judicial process enthusiastically embracing the new procedures and cooperating to bring about the overriding objective of the reform. The effort required for this to come about, both from judges and lawyers trained and comfortable in the previous set of rules and resisting change is such that there will be a period of adjustment before we can see tangible results.
So while I remain optimistic that we are on the right track I expect significant and tangible results from all the reforms to require a period of 3-5 years from 2023.
Don’t hold your breath but keep the flame of hope alive!!
Senior& Managing Partner
Patrikios Pavlou & Associates LLC