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4. lecture:A few facts about the courts, which influence our competitiveness (Lucia Žitňanská)

Lecturer: UPMS | Thursday, 1. 11. 2012

The World economic forum (WEF) in September of this year published a Global competitiveness report 2012-2013. The competitiveness is defined in the report as a set of institutions, government policies and factors, which influence the level of productivity of a country. The Slovak republic has ranked in the global competition of countries on the 71st place out of 144 ranked countries. What pulls us down is mainly the enforceability of law, where the Slovak republic ranked on the 140th place. The ranking is based on the available statistical data and on research on the opinions of the managing workers, while in Slovakia participated 220 randomly chosen big companies and 220 small and medium companies (source: Hospodárske noviny, 24th October 2012).

In the previous lectures, we explained, how enforceability of the law, including its foreseeability and legal security, and in the end effect also the existence of law, relates to the effective functioning of institutions. We have also pointed out the relationship between the enforceability of law and quality of the business environment.

Courts represent an irreplaceable part within institutions, which influence the enforceability of law in relation to the business environment. We criticize the Slovak judicial system, but what do we know about it?

Probably all of us know, that the general judicial system in Slovakia is made out of 54 district courts, 8 regional courts, a Specialised criminal court and the Supreme Court. Besides exceptions, like the proceedings in the administrative court and the proceedings before the specialised criminal court, all cases are first and foremost decided by the district court, at the second degree by the regional courts like courts of appeal and the Supreme court makes decisions on extraordinary legal remedies and has the responsibility to unify previous decisions of courts. Some types of cases are not in the competency of district courts, but only some - like for example the Commercial Register is kept by district courts at the district seat, some serious crimes are only decided on by the district courts at the district seat.

There are around 1,200 judges, up to 900 higher judicial officers and around 4,500 other employees of courts. Courts, mainly regional courts, have different sizes - the Bratislava courts have a few times higher amount of judges, as well as equipment, than the courts in smaller regions.

The courts in Slovakia get annually around one (1) million cases, and around the same amount gets solved. It's a great number. One case isn't like the other. And not every case is or has to be managed by a judge. In that one million cases are also registrations to the Commercial register, which isn't done by a judge, but a higher judicial officer. In this number there are also all payment orders, which are also not done by a judge, but a higher judicial officer. In this number there are also all assignments to the proceedings of an execution, which also isn't an agenda we would imagine under the word court. That classical decision making of a court, that we imagine, when we hear the word court, so the decision making linked with a process, where parties present their arguments and proof, based on which the judge gives judgement, that's about a third of the overall number of more that 1 million cases. Out of these around 300,000 or even 350,000 cases are about 80% closed legally at the district court, in about 20% are the participants appealing, and so their case continues on to the regional court.

How long does it take in Slovakia in concrete cases to make a decision? Here is a chart, which shows the average length of the court proceedings in year 2011 in criminal acts, legal civil disputes, commercial disputes, disputes related to minors and so called trustee agenda:


 Duration of proceedings in courts

The average duration of proceedings in courts in year 2011


Overview of median x/ for Slovakia in 2011



(criminal things)

C xx/
(civil things)

C b
(commercial things)

(minors things)

median expressed in months








x/ median: a number, which is in the middle according to the size arrangement of number group

xx/ without things with international element

(the duration of a proceeding is counted out of all legally processed things, from which the statistic sheet (ŠL-C) is made of


Overview of the average proceedings duration for Slovakia in 2011




(criminal things)

C x/

(civil things)

C b

(commercial things)


(minors things)

average duration of proceeding expressed in months







x/ without things with international element


Is it a lot or little? Half of the cases in 2011 in the civil disputes lasted less than half a year, in the commercial disputes less than 8 months, disputes related to children less than 5 months. In those average statistical numbers are also cases, which lasted ten years and were legally closed in year 2011. And there are also those, which were started and closed in 2011. The closer the number of the average length of proceeding to the median, the better will the statistical data of the average length of proceedings reflect, what we can expect, when we turn with our dispute to the court.

Let's have a look at the development of the average length of proceedings in Slovakia in the last decade.

(Legend: Rok=year, dĺžka v mesiacoch= duration in months)

Civil disputes:

Commercial disputes:

Trustee agenda:

Criminal acts:

The numbers show, that the average duration of court proceedings of crucial agendas in Slovakia has has been shortening each year since 2005 (with the exception of criminal acts, where this breaking point happened in 2008).  From the perspective of business environment are important mainly the data in commercial disputes. In seven years has the average duration shortened by 9 months, the median by less than 8 months.

So where is the problem, if there is no change in the perception of the businessmen?

Important are other numbers. Not all courts decide within the times, which are given in the nationwide statistics. Big regional courts in regional towns (mainly Bratislava and Košice) have an average length of court proceedings even twice as long as the nationwide average.  This are those courts, where there are the most businesses registered, and so they represent some kind of entry gate of the perception of effectiveness of justice in Slovakia.

Why do some courts proceed faster and some slower? The rules are the same for all courts. Even here it holds, that it is not wholly about rules, but also circumstances, and also, or mainly about the management of courts.

Despite that, why is the speed up of court proceedings not reflected on the perception of enforceability of law in Slovakia? Every second Slovak perceives courts to be corrupted (source: TIS). This is a factor, which significantly contributes to the low trust towards courts and weakens mainly the sense in just decisions. This fact together with the fact, that the key court institutions - the main courts in the court structure - within the general justice district courts in regional cities mainly in Bratislava and Košice, but also the Supreme Court, when it comes to effectiveness in the area of unification of decisions - they do not act effectively, which creates the end effect of an ineffective judicial system.


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