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The former Chairperson of Tbilisi City Court, Mamuka Akhvlediani, stated: "We have not had such a critical situation in the court system since 2005. That was the year when the courts were unified and judges were assigned 700-800 cases. Today, we have the same critical situation."

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took interest in the accuracy of the statement.

According to the decree of the President of Georgia, issued on 12 April 2005, the Gldani-Nadzaladevi, Isani-Samgori, Didube-Chughureti, Krtsanisi-Mtatsminda and Vake-Saburtalo district courts were abolished on 5 May 2015. Tbilisi City Court was established in their place.

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addressed the High Council of Justice and Tbilisi City Court with a respective inquiry in order to determine the number of cases which were assigned to judges beginning from 2005. Tbilisi City Court responded that it does not process this type of statistical data whilst the High Council of Justice responded that statistics concerning judges and their number of cases began to be compiled only in 2010. Furthermore, from the second half of 2011, the High Council of Justice is compiling statistics only every six months.

Table 1:

 Number of Judges and Cases in 2010-2015

Chamber of Criminal Cases 2010 First Half of 2011 Second Half of 2011 First Half of 2012 Second Half of 2012 First Half of 2013 Second Half of 2013 First Half of 2014 Second Half of 2014 First Half of 2015 Second Half of 2015
Number of Judges 23 22 23 24 25 29 28 28 32 36 36
Average Number of Cases from Each Category Assigned to Each Judge 133 122 99 91 61 168 97 102 74 60 61
Chamber of Civil Cases 2010 First Half of 2011 Second Half of 2011 First Half of 2012 Second Half of 2012 First Half of 2013 Second Half of 2013 First Half of 2014 Second Half of 2014 First Half of 2015 Second Half of 2015
Number of Judges 31 26 25 30 30 31 31 32 34 37 36
Average Number of Cases from Each Category Assigned to Each Judge 38 57 61 43 37 42 47 49 50 51 59
Chamber of Administrative Cases 2010 First Half of 2011 Second Half of 2011 First Half of 2012 Second Half of 2012 First Half of 2013 Second Half of 2013 First Half of 2014 Second Half of 2014 First Half of 2015 Second Half of 2015
Number of Judges 16 16 14 14 16 14 15 15 19 24 25
Average Number of Cases from Each Category Assigned to Each Judge 88 61 130 136 106 134 128 96 86 77 77
Source: High Council of Justice

In order to assess the efficiency of a judge, the High Council of Justice does not include those cases which were denied registration within civil and administrative case statistics. For example, according to Tbilisi City Court statistics, there was a total of 34,142 cases (from the previous year + new ones) submitted to the Chamber of Civil Affairs in 2015. Of this number, the court denied registration to 7,088 cases. Therefore, the High Council of Justice does not include these 7,088 cases within its statistics. According to the data of the High Council of Justice, there was an average of 37 judges at Tbilisi City Court in 2015 with each judge assigned to an average of 55 cases (the average of the first and second halves of the year). Thus, if the High Council of Justice had taken the aforementioned 7,088 cases into account, the average number would have been 77 cases which makes a great difference as compared to 55 cases. Of note, too, is the fact that a judge needs certain resources in order to decide whether or not to register a case which has been submitted. Therefore, this factor also needs to be considered when talking about the judges’ workloads.

In regard to criminal cases, the High Council of Justice compiles statistics about the activity of a judge from all stages of the trial process. For instance, it includes the initial presentation of the accused before the court, the pre-trial hearing and the hearing itself, etc.

Notwithstanding the methodology used to calculate the aforementioned six-month period of data, this does not reflect the real picture. For example, the fact that there were 37 judges on average in any given chamber for one half of a year does not mean that there were 37 judges in each month without a fluctuation in their numbers. The average number of cases assigned to each judge also does not provide a real picture of the situation. This is caused by multiple factors, including the unequal distribution of cases among the judges.

FactCheck

obtained and processed different sorts of information in order to obtain a more realistic picture about the situation at Tbilisi City Court. Specifically, processing the statistical data uploaded on the Tbilisi City Court website provided the number of cases assigned to each chamber (from the previous year + new ones) and for each year in the period of 2005-2015. In parallel, from the High Council of Justice we determined the average (six-month average) number of judges working in each chamber from 2005 to the present day. This information is given in the tables below.

Table 2: 

Chamber of Criminal Cases

Year Registered in Total Average Number of Judges Unfinished Cases
January-June July-December
2005 3,697 9 9 73%
2006 7,864 24 14 38%
2007 9,533 28 27 28%
2008 8,996 27 27 18%
2009 8,227 23 23 19%
2010 8,923 23 22 10%
2011 7,339 22 23 10%
2012 5,099 24 25 14%
2013 7,520 29 28 14%
2014 8,623 32 36 18%
2015 7,413 36 37 28%
Comment: Of note is that the number of registered cases does not include preventive punishments, compulsory measures and thousands of requests for investigations.

Table 3:

 Chamber of Civil Cases

Year Registered in Total Average Number of Judges Unfinished Cases
January-June July-December
2005 9,433 12 14 83%
2006 13,744 22 19 67%
2007 14,998 28 26 41%
2008 11,217 21 29 24%
2009 10,927 28 26 24%
2010 16,669 24 26 20%
2011 18,739 26 25 20%
2012 20,983 30 30 14%
2013 22,430 31 31 19%
2014 27,605 32 34 21%
2015 34,142 38 37 35%

Table 4:

 Chamber of Administrative Cases

Year Registered in Total Average Number of Judges Unfinished Cases
January-June July-December
2005 3,698 11 11 45%
2006 5,461 15 14 20%
2007 5,297 16 15 24%
2008 4,408 13 10 24%
2009 5,353 16 15 24%
2010 7,520 15 15 8%
2011 10,882 16 14 57%
2012 11,354 14 16 48%
2013 10,730 14 15 26%
2014 8,149 15 19 28%
2015 12,650 24 26 24%

These data demonstrate that only nine judges were carrying out their duties in the Chamber of Criminal Cases (six-month average) in 2005 and had to divide 3,697 cases among themselves. The high percentage of cases which were left without a hearing (73%) also speaks to the enormous workload of Georgia’s courts. The percentage of cases left without a hearing, despite increasing in actual numbers, decreased because of the growing number of judges in the chamber. However, of further note is that the number of cases left without a hearing showed a rise (in percentage) again in 2015.

The Chamber of Civil Cases is tasked with hearing the largest amount of cases which, therefore, produces a difficult situation. In 2005, the number of its unfinished cases was 83%. However, despite a considerable increase in the number of cases in the chamber, there was a decrease in the number of unfinished cases. A record high number of cases was registered in the Chamber of Civil Affairs in 2015 which also meant that the number of unfinished cases also increased.

Since the end of 2015, there have been unstable numbers of judges in the aforementioned chambers. This was caused by the expiration of the judges’ time of service. The average number of serving judges in the period of January-March 2016 also speaks to a shortage of judges – there were 20 judges on average in the Chamber of Criminal Cases, 32 judges in the Chamber of Civil Affairs and 21 judges in the Chamber of Administrative Affairs.

Some Tbilisi City Court judges spoke to us about the current difficult situation and heavy workload in the judiciary system. According to the statement of Judge Badri Kochlamazashvili, the number-one problem today for every judge is the large number of cases. Judge Lia Orkodashvili named three principal reasons for the judiciary’s heavy workload as the large number of cases, a shortage of judges and an insufficient number of courtrooms (there are 14 courtrooms for criminal affairs, 17 for civil affairs and eight for administrative affairs). Ms Orkodashvili stated: "Each judge is given a courtroom for only two days a week. This means that we can have our hearings only on these two days but, at the same time, the number of our cases has increased. We criminal case judges, for example, have a total of at least 120-160 cases per month which is way too many. This number is even higher in the Chambers of Administrative and Civil Affairs."

Mamuka Akhvlediani, in his interview with FactCheck,

also highlighted the aforementioned reasons. He stated: "Today, the workload of the courts is very high as a result of the multiplicity of cases and a shortage of judges. I have always been saying this but the High Council of Justice has had no reaction. For instance, it was possible to give some relatively easy cases to a district court judge, who probably has only ten cases, so that he could hear the case electronically and, thus, decrease the heavy workload. However, the High Council of Justice did not want to do this. It wanted to cripple the court and then use this as an argument for simplifying the procedure for appointing new judges."

FactCheck has already written

about the heavy workload of Georgia’s courts. In 2015, we requested information about the number of cases assigned to one particular judge (Tamaz Urtmelidze). According to this information, 489 cases were assigned to Judge Urtmelidze in the period of 10 October to 10 November 2015.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                           

On 5 May 2015, Tbilisi City Court was established following the unification of five district courts. At the initial stage, a critical situation for the court ensued owing to a large number of cases, a shortage of judges and other related factors. Numerous unfinished court cases serve as proof of the problems.

Complete official information concerning the judges’ workloads and the number of cases assigned to them cannot be found at Tbilisi City Court or in the High Council of Justice. However, the fact that Tbilisi City Court judges are experiencing problems resulting from their enormous case load is confirmed by multiple other sources, including the judges themselves.

FactCheck concludes that Mamuka Akhvlediani’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.