litigation in court – how has it been affected by the corona pandemic?

The current pandemic has affected society on many different levels. We also know that some industries and businesses have been affected more than others. But what do we know about the pandemic's impact on court proceedings? Here we have compiled some points about how the litigation processes in the country's district courts have been affected by the Corona pandemic.

*The turnaround times for civil litigation in the district courts *

The turnaround times for civil litigation, taking into account all of the country's district courts, have increased from an average of 5.5 months in 2017-2019 to 6 months in 2020 when the country was affected by the Corona pandemic. The number of cancelled hearings increased sharply at the beginning of the pandemic with the aim of reducing the spread of infection, but has gradually decreased. It is possible that the cases' slightly increased turnaround times are due to the Corona pandemic, but it is also possible that the development has other causes, such as an increased number of cases and an increased number of more high-priority case types, such as criminal cases with detainees. In summary, it can be concluded that the turnaround times of the civil cases increased during 2020 but not to any significant extent. The district courts seem to have done a good job of keeping the balances down based on this aspect.

Explanation of the information: Note that the turnaround time of 6 months does not reflect the period from the time a party brings an action to when the court announces the judgment after the main hearing. A large number of cases are decided before the case goes as far as to the main hearing, e.g. by the parties reaching a settlement or the plaintiff withdrawing its action. In the analysis, the turnaround times for family cases, simplified litigation (so-called FT cases or small cases, which concern disputes of minor value) or joint applications for divorce have not been taken into account, therefore the figures refer only to so-called “other civil cases”.

Increased use of video conferencing

Attending a court hearing digitally via video link is equated with a personal presence in the courtroom at the district court. However, a valid reason and the court's approval is required to appear in any other way than through personal presence. In 2020, 127,553 video conference calls were made at the country's district courts, which is comparable to 70,004 in 2019. The use of video conference calls has almost doubled in 2020 compared to the year before. One of the reasons why the turnaround times for civil litigation in court did not increase significantly during the Corona pandemic may be the fact that parties and legal representatives were allowed to appear in the court hearings digitally and that a large number of proceedings did not have to be cancelled even if one party showed Corona symptoms. The courts have thus found ways to adapt their activities based on prevailing conditions.

*Increased number of decided cases without a main hearing *

Another reason why the turnaround times for civil litigation in court did not increase significantly during the Corona pandemic may be the fact that a higher proportion of resolved cases have been decided before and without a main hearing. It is likely that the increased resistance to meet in the courtroom due to the pandemic has led to an increased willingness for conciliation between the parties. In 2019, 7% of other civil cases were decided after the main hearing, while that figure fell to 6.5% for year 2020. The proportion of conciliation cases can probably be a reason for this development.

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