With Law no. 206 of November 26, 2021 (the “Law”), the Italian Parliament empowered the government to rewrite the regulations for Italian civil proceedings.
The Law is intended to simplify, speed up, and centralize civil proceedings, whose duration is currently considered overwhelmingly excessive.
Procedural areas concerned
At the outset, reference is made to rules for ADR proceedings, with the following specific goals:
- extend mandatory mediation to as many areas as possible;
- allow mediation meetings to be held by videoconference (a choice likely suggested by the positive experience of the last two years, when the potential of this type of technology has been tested);
- simplification of the assisted negotiation procedure to favor pre-dispute settlements.
The pattern for first instance civil proceedings will be as follows:
- the parties will have to centralize all arguments, defense, and evidentiary requests in their opening briefs, in an attempt to avoid excessive exchanges of briefs;
- the scope of the first hearing will be expanded: currently, the first hearing is, in essence, aimed only at confirming the regular appearance of the parties; moving forward, the plan is to have parties actually argue the case at this stage;
- a hearing for hearing witnesses (and generally dealing with evidentiary requests) will be scheduled within 90 days of the first hearing (while now such a hearing can take place as late as a full year after the first hearing);
- it will be easier to bring summary proceedings, currently available only in certain specific areas;
- the judges will have more of a chance to issue temporary measures (e.g., an ex parte order of payment) while the proceedings are pending; at the same time, the parties will be given new ad hoc procedures designed to challenge those interim measures efficiently.
For appeal proceedings:
- tighter deadlines will be set for appearances;
- the elements that must be mentioned in the appeal (the sections of the judgment challenged and the grounds on which the appeal is founded) will have to be set out in a concise, clear, and specific manner;
- the later cross-appeal will lose its effectiveness, even in cases where the main appeal is declared unfeasible.
The changes do not end here. The legislature is also looking at proceedings before the Supreme Court of Cassation and providing the option of a preliminary referral under certain conditions. With regard to a Justice of the Peace, there will be the opportunity to file documents and pleadings exclusively via an electronic filing system.
These are only general guidelines to indicate where the reform is headed. The Italian justice system is waiting to see which strategies the government will actually adopt to implement the principles set out above. The expectation is that the aims of the legislature will be realized as quickly as possible in order to safeguard the rights of Italian citizens and reverse the current difficulties linked to Italian civil proceedings. A more specific article will follow.