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Too Few Judges on Court of Appeal

Iceland’s Court of Appeal has been operating with 13 judges as opposed to its mandated 15 for months, Fréttablaðið reports. In March of this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled four of the Court’s judges had been appointed illegally, and their presence impeded individuals’ right to a fair trial. The lack of judges has led to a backlog of cases at the Court.

Read more: ECHR Rules Appeals Court Appointments Illegal

The same month the ECHR published its ruling, the Judicial Administration proposed temporarily increasing the number of judges in the Court of Appeal in order to address the problem, but the Ministry of Justice has yet to decide on the matter. Benedikt Bogason, chairman of the Judicial Administration’s board, wonders at the length of time the Ministry has been silent on the proposal.

The four judges whom the ruling concerned are on temporary leave. Two of their positions have been filled by temporary replacements, but the other two are empty. What’s more, the replacement judges’ contracts run out at the end of the year. “Then the number of judges could go down again to 11,” Benedikt stated.

While temporarily increasing the number of judges on the Court of Appeal could save money and help cases proceed faster, it would require new legislation, and lawyers and members of government are not exactly in agreement over how the appointment should be carried out.

When asked about the proposal, Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir stated that a decision had not been made on whether the number of judges would be increased.

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