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Is Italy’s Legal System about to Crumble?

Those of who have been following Italian news will know that an amendment to Italian law, which has now past both houses of the Italian parliament, will effectively put trials concerning serious offences committed before 30th June 2002 on hold for one year.

This means that, based on very rough estimates, around 100,000 cases will come to a temporary standstill.

Well, according to some Italian lawyers I know, this political manoeuvre is likely to have quite dire consequences for Italy’s already over stretched court system. There are, it appears, several potentially serious side effects of bringing this legislation into force.

Firstly, the courts in Italy have not really been computerised and so informing all those whose cases are to be locked in stasis is going to prove to be an almost insurmountable task. Apparently, Italy does not have enough clerks of court, and those that exist are already overstretched. Simply telling everyone who needs to be told will literally mean, so I am informed, digging through piles of case files in order to understand who is affected by this imaginative legislative change. A bureaucratic nightmare, if ever there was one.

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Then, there are all those lawyers who will have to shelve everything, only to have to come back to their cases in a year’s time. Just imagine trying to pick up all the pieces regarding some intricate little case after having been forced to ignore it for a whole year. Italy’s lawyers must be shuddering in their shoes.

Next, there is the problem of the judges. They too will have to set aside all their deliberations for 12 months, and then attempt to pick things up where they left off. Again, the stuff of nightmares. I wonder how many Italian judges are having a few sleepless nights at present. Quite a number, and that’s not taking into account other collateral effects such as those judges (and lawyers) who may come up for retirement in the meantime. A form of hell on earth, or rather, in Italy.

While, as pointed out by the Financial Times, (and as mentioned in my recent ‘Friendly Times‘ post) it may be necessary to ‘curb Italy’s judges’, should Berlusconi be curbing all of them solely because he suspects that a few harbour political ambitions or favour those who do not form part of his alliance? Just what will the cost to Italy be for saving his skin?

There is a risk that this new law will cause Italy’s already fragile legal towers to come crashing noisily down, and as to where that will leave Italy is anybody’s guess.

Politicians, don’t you just love them. ‘Practical’ and ‘reason’ are not words which enter their vocabulary too often methinks.

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