Judicial reform in Italy: A step in the right direction?

Thanks to Mate Aleric for collaborating on this article

Judicial reform is a key part of the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience, Italy’s reform package adopted in the context of the Next Generation EU program. Marta Cartabia, Italian minister of justice, formed three expert committees to work on the main pillars of the reform: civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution, criminal proceedings, and the high council of the judiciary.

Below are summaries of the main changes that are expected to become law by autumn.

1. Civil Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

The main goal of the civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution reform is to speed up civil proceedings and increase judicial efficiency through the following steps:

  • boosting organizational efficiency with the assistance of the office for proceedings.
  • introducing the opportunity for the parties to grant arbitral tribunals the power to adopt provisional measures.
  • introducing new cases of mandatory mediation and extending the scope of assisted negotiation.
  • eliminating procedural downtime due to the rules on first and final hearings.
  • applying burden of proof standards to in absentia proceedings.
  • introducing preliminary referral on matters of law, both substantive and procedural, in the Court of Cassation.
  • introducing a new non-precautionary summary proceeding to allow the formation of a writ of enforcement beyond cases in which injunction proceedings can be used.
  • extending the jurisdiction of justices of the peace to small claims.

 2. Criminal Proceedings

The proposal for reform of criminal proceedings likewise pursues the goal of reducing the duration of proceedings and increasing judicial efficiency, but also stresses the importance of respecting fundamental rights, due process, and the principle of resocialization. The key features of the reform are:

  • reforming the dismissal mechanism.
  • expanding the scope of non-punishment due to tenuousness of the offense.
  • reinforcing alternative procedures, such as plea bargains.
  • maintaining the remote justice mechanisms implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as mandatory electronic filing and service of procedural documents.
  • setting a new deadline for preliminary investigations depending on the severity of the crime (from 6 months to 1 year and 6 months).
  • introducing new limits for the appeal of certain judgments.
  • introducing appeal inadmissibility due to insufficient specificity of the grounds.
  • reforming the statute of limitations, with the limitation period extended in case of interruption.

3. Concluding Remarks

The two reports, on civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution and criminal proceedings, contain an extensive list of proposals for the reform of various substantive and procedural provisions aimed at tackling inefficiencies in the Italian judicial system that negatively influence foreign investment and economic growth. While reforming the judiciary is not merely a matter of black-letter law, Minister Cartabia’s proposal seems to be a very good step in the right direction.

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