Serbia Justice Functional Review

External Performance Assessment > Demand for Justice Services

e. Caseloads per Judge

  1. Incoming caseload per judge illustrates how demand for justice services matches the supply of judges.154 Figure 9 shows average caseloads per judge by court type from 2010 to 2013.
  2. Incoming caseloads per judge fell dramatically in the Basic, Higher, Commercial, and Appellate Commercial Courts. Oddly, incoming caseloads per judge in Higher Courts are now lower than in either the Appeals Court or the SCC.
  1. Average workloads per judge across Serbia have fallen by around one-third from 2011 to 2013.
    The fall in average incoming caseloads per judge is cause by two factors: the marked declines in incoming cases, along with an increase in the number of judges.156 If all Serbian caseloads were to be divided by the total number of judges for new or reworked demand (excluding judges and caseload for the SCC), Serbia would count 632 cases per judge, which is a drop of around one-third from 965 cases per judge in 2011.157
  2. The demand pressures facing Serbian judges are far lower than the EU average and continue to decrease. As discussed above, Serbia receives roughly the same number of incoming cases to population than EU Member States. However, Serbia has around double the number of judges-to-population than EU Member States to service that demand. In Serbia, there are around 39 judges per 100,000 inhabitants,158 whereas the EU average is 21.5 judges per 100,000 inhabitants.159
  3. On average, Serbian judges receive less than half the number of incoming cases per judge than their counterparts in EU Member States.
    On average, Serbian judges receive less half the number of incoming cases per judge than their counterparts in EU Member States. According to CEPEJ, the average number of incoming cases in EU Member States was 840 first instance non-criminal cases per judge in 2012, whereas in Serbia, the average was 350 per judge.160 Serbia’s figures may also be generous, given caseload inflation.161 This data suggests that Serbian judges may be less efficient than EU counterparts, since about twice as many judges are needed to process a similar level of demand.162 If the two EU outliers which have very high caseloads per judge are removed from the equation, the EU average is lowered to 453 cases per judge.163 Even on these more conservative calculations, Serbia has on average 23 percent lower first instance non-criminal caseloads per judge than EU Member States.
  4. Serbia also has a lower average number of incoming cases per judge than most of the EU11 Member States in its region.164 For example, in Croatia the average incoming caseloads per judge are over 62 percent higher than Serbia, with 568 incoming cases per judge in 2012. Croatia provides a more direct comparison, given its similar legal tradition, although it has a slightly higher judge-to-population ratio and a slightly lower staff-to-judge ratio. Slovenia has nearly triple the number of incoming cases per judge of Serbia, with an average of 939 incoming cases per judge in 2012.165 In all, the data suggest that the demand pressures facing Serbian judges are generally milder than those facing judges in EU Member States in the region.
  5. In Basic Courts, the average caseload is 634 cases per judge; however, there are substantial differences in workloads among those courts. As Table 1 indicates, these differences are not related to the size of the court. Judges in some small courts are very busy, while others in some larger courts are less busy. In an exemplary performance, the Zrenjanin Basic Court with only 27 judges has the highest workloads of 919 average incoming cases per judge. The Belgrade First Basic Court counts 234 judges and 846 average incoming cases per judge. Meanwhile, the second largest Basic Court, the Basic Court in Novi Sad, has 123 judges with a much lower average of 507 incoming cases per judge, well under the average of 634 cases per judge. These figures suggest that the general myth that ‘Belgrade is always the busiest’ is not supported by the data. The two least over-burdened courts in 2013 were Kosovska Mitrovica with 62 incoming cases per judge, and Sabac with 341 incoming cases per judge.
  6. In 2013, the busiest Basic Court had over 15 times the number of incoming cases than the least active Basic Court. However, if the low-end outlier (Kosovska Mitrovica) is taken out of the equation, the range improves to around 3:1. In 2012, the Basic Court average was higher at 881 incoming cases per judge, but there was wide variation ranging from 1,392 incoming cases per judge in Belgrade First Basic Court to 158 incoming cases per judge in the least busy court. It is concerning that the busiest courts are routinely carrying at least three times the workload per judge of the least busy courts.
  7. The lower workloads in 2013 were a result of a 50 percent drop in enforcement incoming cases in Basic Courts. The decline of incoming enforcement cases affected virtually all courts, but in some courts, such as the Belgrade First, Belgrade Second, Vrsac, Loznica, Pancevo, and Subotica, the decline ranged from one-third to over one-half.166 It is worth noting that 634 (or even 881) incoming cases per year are not generally considered an excessive workload for a Basic Court judge.
  1. The graph below demonstrates the nearly random distribution of caseloads vis-à-vis court size. If all judges had similar workloads, the graph would arrange all courts along a horizontal line representing a nearly equal number of new incoming cases per judge. Instead, the majority of courts are nearly clustered toward the left-hand side of the graph. Smaller and medium size courts show caseloads across nearly the entire range, suggesting that some small courts are very busy (with nearly 1,000 incoming cases per judge) while others are far less busy (with around 50 cases per judge).
  1. There is much variation in workloads even within individual courts. Judges and stakeholders reported to the Review team that caseloads varied significantly within courts, with some judges far busier than others. The Review does not assess individual judges’ performance and thus did not seek statistical data on this point.
  2. The problem of unequal caseloads has persisted over time. Some stakeholders suggested that the 2010 change to the court network reflected the ideal where judges were ensured equal caseloads, but that variation crept in since that time. However, this view is not supported by the data, which show that caseloads per judge were starkly uneven in 2010 and 2011 as well. Figure 11 shows caseloads per judge in 2011 following the court network change, with some very active small courts and some larger courts less so. Since 2011, the drop in average caseloads has done little to rectify their highly unequal distribution. This finding suggests that management of caseloads across the judicial system has been persistently weak, and that successive reforms and reorganizations have failed to equalize workloads.