France has twice as many judges per capita as other Council of Europe countries

Restoring justice will take time. The figures published on Wednesday October 5th, which compare the judiciary and the way it works in the 46 Council of Europe states, remain cruel for France. According to the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (Cepej) 2022 report, based on data for 2020, France spends 72.53 euros per year per inhabitant to finance its justice system (excluding prisons, judicial protection of minors and functioning of the ministry), with the European average being 78 euros. An average pulled down from the countries of Central Europe.

Compared to direct neighbors such as Italy (82 euros per year and inhabitant), Spain (88 euros) or Germany (141 euros), the gap is impressive. It was not filled despite the 10 percent budget increase for the Tricolor Justice System from 2016 to 2020. In other European countries, too, the resources of the judiciary have increased. However, the 26 percent increase in the budget of the Ministry of Justice in three years (2021-2022-2023) should already be noticeable in the next European study in 2024.

This finding confirms the diagnosis made by the judiciary in July. However, it is not certain that Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to create 1,500 judicial posts over the five-year term will be enough to make up for the delay. According to Cepej, in 2020 France had 11.2 judges per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to an average of 22 in Europe, and 3.2 prosecutors (compared to 11.8).

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In addition, the other staff essential to the functioning of the judiciary, such as clerks, civil servants and specialized assistants around the judge, are fewer than elsewhere. This may explain France’s difficulties, as it contradicts the rule followed by the Cepej that fewer judges are required if each judge is assisted by a larger number of non-judge staff.

Embolized Civil Justice

This is one of the challenges for the French system. Long heralded as a solution for dealing with class action lawsuits and highly complex legal disputes, “the judge’s team”, which is supposed to help him with legal research and the preparation of decisions, is only slowly becoming a reality.

“The existence of competent staff alongside the judges, performing well-defined functions and having a recognized status, is essential for the efficient functioning of the judicial systems.”, remarks the Cepej. France has an average of 36 non-judicial employees per 100,000 inhabitants, far below the European average of 58. The result is an embolized civil justice system, and its efficiency measured by the Cepej, it is among the worst in Europe in terms of coverage rate and case volume.

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