Judicial time management:
Draft guidelines on the observance of reasonable time limits by judicial experts
The EEEI has been called upon to give its point of view on a first text which appears to apply only to court-appointed judicial experts, which would exclude from its scope the three countries which only know party-appointed judicial experts and part of the proceedings which take place in 36 countries whose judicial system knows both court-appointed and party-appointed experts.
These guidelines, briefly summarised here, are relevant to both:
- the selection of the expert, who must limit his application to those headings of the nomenclature for which he has genuine professional knowledge;
- the training which must cover the guiding principles of the trial, the respect of the reasonable time limit mentioned in article 6-1 of the ECHR as well as group facilitation and conflict management;
- the choice of the expert for whom the expert must inform the judge about his workload, be quick to accept or refuse the mission, take an oath which expressly mentions the duty of diligence and celerity;
- the mission, which can be lightened in simple cases, redefined in complex cases at an initial meeting during which the timetable will be discussed;
- conciliation, which if it takes place must be reported to the judge without delay;
- the deadlines for execution which must be respected when they have been set, unless an extension is requested;
- the execution of the measure for which the expert will have to consider the agreements made between the expert companies and the law societies for the setting of the deadlines for convening the meeting, set a provisional calendar at the first meeting considering the optimal deadlines for the definition of the different phases, inform the judge of the progress of the work and as soon as possible of the difficulties encountered.
- the opinion of the expert, who must answer all the questions asked and only answer them if necessary, after drafting a pre-report, the use of which is strongly encouraged to obtain the parties’ observations.
- the lightening of the report, which should only include the pages useful for the solution of the dispute and be redacted from the documents that are known to the court and to the parties
- the use of ICTs to enable experts to make their availability known in real time, to conduct dematerialized exchanges with the parties, their counsel and the judges via a platform guaranteeing the confidentiality of exchanges, the preservation of shares and documents, and the certainty of the dates on which documents are filed and opened.
EEEI will make initial observations which will be supplemented by those of our members working in systems where the expert is appointed by the parties.
A clear definition of the scope of application and a wording adapted to the experts appointed by the parties is already requested if the CEPEJ wishes to cover all member states and all expertise procedures. About the guidelines for the use of court-appointed experts only, it appeared necessary to insist on the creation of an expertise control service with the technical and human resources to play its role fully and to invite the states to promulgate procedures which reconcile better than they do at present in the respect of reasonable time limits and the respect of the principle of contradiction.
Finally, it is suggested that the current title be replaced by “Guidelines on the observance of reasonable time limits in judicial expert appraisals” to emphasise that failure to observe time limits in multi-factorial cases is not limited to a lack of diligence from the expert.
Honorary Magistrate, EEEI’s President of the Orientation committee