Judges point to waste of work and money with new case distribution

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The president of the Portuguese Judges Union Association (ASJP) warns that the new rules for the electronic distribution of cases in the courts, which come into force today, will result in a waste of work and money.

“We are going to have annual waste of many hundreds of working hours and a lot of money spent on travel, trials and proceedings postponed or interrupted, and more critical points that the lawyers specializing in nullities and incidents will use to delay those proceedings that we all know what they are,” says Manuel Soares, who had previously advocated postponing the entry into force of the new rules.

When questioned by Lusa about the ordinance that changes the rules regarding the electronic distribution of cases in the judicial courts and in the administrative and tax courts, the ASJP leader assumes he doesn’t know if the courts are prepared for the change, since “the Ministry of Justice didn’t answer” the questions from the judges’ union.

Judges point to waste of work and money with new case distribution

According to the ordinance published in the Diário da República (Official Gazette) on March 27, which regulates more than a year later the laws of the new model of procedural distribution approved by parliament in 2021, “it will now be necessary to bring together, on a daily basis, in all places where distribution takes place, a group of justice operators to watch the act of distribution, which until now dispensed, in most cases, with any human intervention, and to draw up minutes to which the result of the distribution is attached.

In the new regulations, the actors involved in the distribution are the president of the court, who designates “a judge to preside and a substitute, for cases in which the president is prevented from attending”, a magistrate from the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP), a court clerk (and a substitute, designated by the court administrator or secretary) and a lawyer.

“This is one of those cases where a good idea can turn into a bad action due to a lack of timely planning and consultation with those who are on the ground and know the problems better,” warns Manuel Soares, who stresses that the “model should have been more unbureaucratic” and the effects should have been duly taken into account before its application.

“It makes no sense to apply it during judicial vacation shifts, it makes no sense to apply it in courts where there is only one judge, it makes no sense to make several distributions a day, it makes no sense for judges and prosecutors to have to spend time traveling for bureaucratic acts that could be performed by videoconference, nor does it make sense to put judges to certify the authenticity of an automatic act done by a computer based on an algorithm they don’t know,” he adds.

The president of ASJP is not considering challenging the application of the new rules in court, pointing out the magistrates’ desire to “be on the side of the solution and not create more problems. However, he leaves a warning to the Ministry of Justice: “When they want to hear us, we are here to help. If they don’t listen to us, then don’t hold us to account.

For its part, the Union of Public Prosecutors – which had also called for the suspension of the new rules and the holding of urgent meetings to correct a legislative solution considered “absurd” – clarified only that it had requested an audience with the Minister of Justice, Catarina Sarmento e Castro, and is still waiting for this meeting.

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