Court Backlogs: Balancing Efficiency and Justice in Singapore

Authors

  • Helena Whalen-Bridge 92SHcb

Abstract

Access to justice via public dispute resolution in the courts requires a certain number of judges to handle the volume of disputes, and failure to have a critical mass of judicial officers leads to delays or denial of justice. Numbers alone though are clearly not enough. Efficient systems of court administration and dispute resolution are also required, particularly if a jurisdiction attempts to eradicate a backlog. But can a jurisdiction prioritise efficiency without effecting substantive justice? This paper engages with this question by considering the experiences of Singapore, a common law country in Southeast Asia that overcame a large backlog. The process of backlog eradication is reviewed in order to investigate how efficiency and justice were conceptualised in these efforts, as presented in extra-judicial statements and academic scholarship. Particularly in the beginning of backlog eradication, efficiency took centre stage, but it does not appear to have been considered in isolation, and the introduction of business management principles introduced a theme of consumer satisfaction that developed into a robust approach to access to justice. Singapore’s experience suggests that the connection between efficiency and justice is not a logically linear landscape, but rather an intertwined relationship in which efficiency and justice find a context-specific understanding.

Al intentar erradicar un atraso, ¿puede una jurisdicción priorizar la eficiencia judicial sin que esto afecte a la impartición de justicia? Este artículo se ocupa de esa cuestión, y para ello se fija en la experiencia de Singapur, país del Sudeste Asiático de derecho consuetudinario que en los años 90 solucionó un grave problema de acumulación de trabajo atrasado, investigando la forma en que reformas judiciales relevantes conceptualizaron la eficiencia y la justicia. Al principio, la eficiencia pasó a primer plano, pero parece que no se consideró de forma aislada. La introducción de principios de gestión empresarial, que podrían haber hecho augurar lo peor para la justicia, en realidad introdujeron la cuestión de la satisfacción del cliente, lo cual, más adelante, derivó en un abordaje más sólido al tema del acceso a la justicia. Esta experiencia hace pensar que la conexión entre eficiencia y justicia no es de una linealidad lógica, sino que ambas se entrelazan y se entienden en relación con su contexto.

DOWNLOAD THIS PAPER FROM SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3076464

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Published

03-03-2017

How to Cite

Whalen-Bridge, H. (2017) “Court Backlogs: Balancing Efficiency and Justice in Singapore”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 7(4), pp. 879–894. Available at: https://opo.iisj.net/index.php/osls/article/view/861 (Accessed: 27 January 2022).