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In 1973, a group of landlords near Venice took the local government to court. Nearly fifty years have passed, the case has not been resolved, and several original claimants have died.

“This case is very peculiar,” admitted Flavio Tagliapietra, the lawyer in charge of the case, and is believed to be one of the longest-running cases in Italian history. Tagliapietra himself was only four years old when it first started.

The Venetian case is a particularly extreme example of the Italian problem, and Mario Draghi’s national unity government has vowed to solve this problem.

In fact, accelerating the judicial process is a key part of the government’s ambitious multi-year national reform plan, which has been helped by grants and loans of more than 200 billion euros from the European Union.

The Italian legal system is one of the slowest in the European Union, and has been accused for decades of hindering investment and growth in an economy that has seen little growth in the past 20 years.

Italian courts lag behind their European counterparts in the time required to resolve commercial and civil legal disputes. According to data from the European Commission, it takes more than 500 days to resolve the first instance of civil law cases in Italy on average, while the average is about 200 days in Germany, 300 days in Spain, and 450 days in Greece.

In addition, in Italy, cases usually go through a lengthy appeal process. This is what happened in the Venetian case. After the Italian Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the landowners in 2017, it looks like the matter is finally about to be resolved. But then the Italian High Court overturned this decision. The case is still under trial.

In an interview with the British Financial Times, Italy’s new Attorney General Marta Catabi said: “In Italy, we have a motto that originated from the Romans, that is: Justice that is late is to deny justice.”

Catabia, the former president of the Italian Constitutional Court, was appointed by Draghi in February as part of Italy’s commitment to Brussels to provide grants and loans for its recovery expenditures. Cartabia’s mission is to fulfil Draghi’s commitment to shorten the trial time.

“We are carrying out a series of reforms related to judicial organization and administration in Italy,” she said. “But there is one thing in common: our goal is to reduce processing time and the length of cases in criminal and civil law.”

Disposal is a legal term that refers to the final result of the prosecution. Cartabia’s ambitious goal is to reduce criminal case processing time by a quarter and civil processing time by 40% within the next five years.

“Italy has a terrible record in this area,” said Mitja Gialuz, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Louise, referring to Italy’s long legal process.

Jaluz also believes that a slow legal system encourages corruption and that white-collar criminals can appeal for years before facing conviction. The statute of limitations, which can take effect before the end of the appeal, further complicates matters.

“Fast criminal trials will ensure a more effective fight against corruption and organized crime, both of which greatly punish the Italian economy,” he said.

However, Jaluz is optimistic that Catabia and the Draghi government, which enjoys broad cross-party support, can solve problems that have proven to be serious partisanship in the past.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faces numerous legal cases, some of which are still pending, and he has repeatedly argued that these cases are politically motivated. A polarized judicial system along a partisan line is a result.

“In the past 25 years, due to ideological struggles, it has been very difficult to talk about judicial reform in Italy,” said Jaluzzi. “Now that there is a government led by Draghi, we have a great opportunity.”

Catabia said that a simple but critical way to speed up the work of the Italian courts is to increase the recruitment of new judges, and the Draghi government has already begun this work.

“Compared with other European countries, our percentage of judges per capita is very low,” she said. “If you have a small number of judges, you won’t be able to deal with the number of cases. It’s obvious.”

Another step is to introduce legal clerks equivalent to Italy into courts across the country, whose task is to assist judges in cases. It is worth noting that many judges in Italy work individually, which means they must read the last document in the case without any help.

“This is not in line with Italian legal traditions, except in the Constitutional Court,” she said. “Judges work alone and read each essay by themselves. This is an old-fashioned idea.”

She said that these clerks will help reduce the caseload of individual judges and provide a new generation of lawyers and judges with valuable and direct experience who will witness the closure of the judicial system from an early age.

“I was a clerk of the Constitutional Court when I was 28, and that was a wonderful moment for me. This is the transition from law in books to law in action. This is another way to understand practicing law. .”

Legal reform may not be as flashy as the multi-billion-euro infrastructure spending project planned by Draghi’s government, but its success may be even more important to Italy’s future.

“If they can do this, it will be one of the most important parts of Draghi’s reforms,” ​​said Nicola Nobile, an economist at the Oxford Economics Institute. “It is difficult to quantify the impact, but it will be an important step for the Italian economy.”

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