Interview: Delano (Cordula Schnuer)
Delano: New rules from 16 September aim to speed up court proceedings. What is changing?
Sam Tanson: The project "Efficiency of the judiciary" is about making procedures more efficient and quicker. There are two key reforms. On the one hand, the jurisdiction of justices of the peace increases. It's currently fixed at 10,000 and will be raised to 15,000. It's meant for simpler cases and you don't need to be represented by a lawyer. The other big change concerns cases that are below 100,000 at the district courts with only two parties involved. The number of written briefs will be limited, with fixed deadlines. In addition, there's a range of procedural adjustments.
Delano: The wheels of justice have a reputation of turning slowly. How does the situation in Luxembourg compare to its neighbours?
Sam Tanson: There's a document by the Council of Europe that reviews the efficiency of justice systems, and we're not in a bad position. The only weak point, and we know this, is the administrative courts. Our efficiency there is a bit below average.
Delano: Where do you see the greatest need to relieve pressure and clear backlogs?
Sam Tanson: It's not that the administrative courts are blocked, but they received more responsibilities these past years and decades. One of the proposals to resolve this is the law on judicial clerks. Cases are increasingly technical, so that its no longer just a question of legal expertise, for example, in tax matters. Urban development is another such field, or financial crime. The law will allow the recruitment of specialists who will support the magistrates.
Delano: The government in its 2018 coalition programme announced a series of legal reforms, including family law, company law, whistleblower protection, juvenile delinquency... Mid-way through the election cycle, how confident are you about progress made?
Sam Tanson: I'm optimistic that we will be able to conclude the big projects. Concerning whistle-blowers, for example, we're in the final talks with other ministries. In family law, we've submitted the project on access to personal origins, which depends on another project, on filiation, where we received the opinion by the state council just before the summer. Another project concerning family is a reform of adults under guardianship laws. Parliament is working hard on bankruptcy law. We're working with the education ministry on the protection of minors. There are a lot of things happening.
Delano: There have been headline-grabbing incidents in recent months muggings, Luxembourg City hiring private security agents and questions raised about the justice system's ability to respond.
Sam Tanson: I take this extremely seriously. There isn't a lot that's worse than feeling unsafe in everyday life, in your environment. As a politician you have a responsibility, first, not to stoke fears unnecessarily; secondly, to reassure people and explain what it is that you're doing; and third, not to paint a wrong picture. Our justice system has no tolerance for violence. Neither do I. We're working on a series of measures. Once the police and the justice system get involved, we're treating the symptoms of a problem. We must act against violence in schools, prevent this from becoming habitual at the level of juvenile protection and delinquency. A large part of crime comes from the drugs problem, which we need to consider how to address. Police are being reinforced and we are reviewing laws to see where they don't have the authority they need to act.