The helpdesk query was to provide examples of more and less successful attempts to address case delays in developing countries, with particular focus on delays caused by multiple adjournments.
A number of policy studies recommend measures to tackle case delays in developing countries, but relatively few of these recommendations are supported by rigorous empirical evidence. It also appears that data on court performance in developing countries is scarce. The exception to this is a series of World Bank studies, which measures the effectiveness of its justice reform projects in a range of countries, typically using aggregate statistics and random samples of case files.
- Measuring court performance and establishing monitoring and reporting
requirements are important methods for reducing the incidence of
adjournments and addressing delays more generally.
- Better use of information technology can assist in speeding up court
processes and avoiding postponements; however, evidence from Ghana
suggests that automated courts are not necessarily more efficient than
- Notwithstanding the importance of technical improvements, it is also
important that reform efforts address the interests and incentives of
judges, lawyers and court staff, which may create delays.
- Strong judicial leadership can help to reduce the number of
- Whilst restrictions on adjournments can assist in reducing case
delays, there is a risk that a lack of flexibility can result in cases
being dismissed prematurely.
- The use of penalties, sanctions and fines for non-compliance with
deadlines can be effective in addressing some of the cause of
adjournments and other delays; however, ‘soft sanctions’ may sometimes
be more appropriate.
- The success of the reform efforts in Ethiopia and Malaysia may be
partly related to their focus on a relatively small number of judges,
as this allowed members of the Supreme Court to keep close track of
their compliance with adjournment policy.
Laws, E. Addressing case delays caused by multiple adjournments (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1374). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2016) 12 pp.