Comparing the Efficiency and Quality of Civil Justice in Scandinavia: The Role of Structural Differences and Definitions of Quality
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Most studies on the efficiency and quality of civil justices are limited to formal courts, although tribunals and other quasi-courts have a central role in resolving legal disputes in many European countries. Hence, significant parts of many civil justice systems are excluded from the studies. Differences among countries may thus reflect primarily structural and terminological differences rather than disparities in the number of disputes arising or the resources used. This text studies four Nordic countries to uncover how structural and terminological differences influence comparability of efficiency and quality of courts. By studying four similar countries, differences arising from societal and legal factors are minimised. Further, the link between the structure of the civil justice system and the role and functions of courts is disseminated. Numerical comparisons tend to reduce quality to easily quantifiable measures, thus more elusive criteria remain underexplored. The quality criteria developed by European organisations serve as a starting point for developing quality criteria. It is suggested that these criteria should be supplied with other parameters, such as training of the staff and quality of supervision by lawyers. Independence and quality of proceedings are identified as critical factors for quasi-courts. Thereafter, selected Nordic quasi-courts are tested against the criteria developed. Finally, the text raises the question whether applying a formal rather than functional definition of courts risks creating a two-tier justice system.