In the judicial system in Israel there is the phenomenon of continuation of legal proceedings and there is a great burden on the court system. Moreover, each year there is a rise in the number of cases that are opened, and the load increases accordingly. For example, in 2019 alone, 196,854 cases were opened in the various courts, and in 2018, about 2,900,000 applications were submitted in civil proceedings in that year there were 839,471 pending cases in the court system.
In light of the heavy workload on the courts, it seems that the reform in civil procedure that came in to effect this current year is essential, so that a new arrangement for conducting legal proceedings can be established in order to streamline, simplify and shorten civil proceedings.
Furthermore, most of the previous civil procedure regulations that were replaced under the current reform date back to 1963, and even though over the years these regulations have been reworded and updated, most of them are already more than five decades old.
In light of the above, it is clear that the time has come to legislate new regulations that will take into consideration both the workload on the legal system and the current reality in which we live, and especially the many insights gained due to the litigations and court judgments over the years. Therefore, in the framework of the Civil Procedure Regulations, 5779 – 2018, which came into effect in January 2021, a comprehensive reform was conducted of all matters relating to the management of the dispute in the procedural aspect.
In this article we will briefly examine whether the Civil Procedure Regulations do indeed help to shorten and streamline legal proceedings and how the main changes are manifested in the regulations.
The First Part – Basic Principles
The first part of the regulations establishes basic principles that have the objective of serving as an interpretive tool in conducting legal proceedings. Thus, whenever a lacuna or interpretive questions arises, there is a foundation of principles aimed at facilitating and streamlining the resolution of the issue according to the principles laid down by the legislature.
Section 1 of the Regulations states that the objectives of the Regulations are “the establishment of a procedure for conducting civil proceedings in court, the creation of procedural certainty, the prevention of arbitrariness and the attainment of the constitutional principles underlying a worthy and fair judicial process, in order to discover the truth and reach the correct result and just resolution of the dispute”. On the other hand, Section 2 stipulates that the judicial system is required to be independent and autonomous, accessible to the public, conduct hearings in accordance with the rules of natural justice, deliver its rulings within a reasonable time on the basis of the various claims presented to it, and conduct the proceedings equitably, proportionately and efficiently.
Without delving into a deliberation on any of the components of the basic principles, it can be noted that while Section 1 is intended to ensure a fair hearing in order to discover the truth, Section 2 of the Regulations is directed to the legal system itself and provides that it must hear all of the cases, inter alia, within a reasonable time, equitably, proportionately and efficiently.
Thus, from a review of the principles we can see that the objective of the regulations is to create a balance between the individual's need for a fair trial, and the importance of the system streamlining proceedings, especially in light of the heavy workload on the Israeli courts and their judges.
The Second Part – The Major Changes in Brief
The second part of the Regulations sets out the particular arrangements (sections and regulations) that apply to the vast majority of civil proceedings. Within the framework of the second part, we can briefly mention a number of changes that embody the principle of efficiency, and which revise the old and familiar arrangements, as follows:
- Preliminary discussion
In the practical world, a judge at a pre-trial is encountered with a case in which the parties up to that point have not even discussed the dispute between themselves. In light of the many benefits inherent in there being an effective dialogue between the parties before the beginning of the hearing, Sections 34 and 35 of the Regulations add the requirement for both parties to the dispute to hold at least two meetings without a judge present before the pre-trial hearing, in an attempt to reach some agreements or at least reduce the scope of the issues in contest.
Section 35 of the Regulations further stipulates which issues are to be discussed between the parties, including: clarifying the scope of the dispute in general; discussing options of alternate dispute resolution; examining steps that can be taken in order to reduce the scope of the issues in contest, including appointing an expert or obtaining a professional opinion on a particular matter.
- The content and formal aspects of the statements of claim
Every lawyer often encounters statements of claim or defence that are tediously long and only encumber the legal process rather than contribute to a pertinent discussion of the causes of the dispute.
Therefore, in the new regulations the legislature has, for the first time, prescribed provisions pertaining to the configuration of the pleas, their length and the information that must be provided in them.
Sections 9-14 of the Regulations stipulate that a statement of claim is to be divided into three parts: title, summary of claims, and details of the claims; with the number of pages of the three parts being limited according to the type of procedure: a claim shall not exceed 11 pages if submitted to the Magistrate's Court, 15 pages if submitted to the District Court, with claims submitted to the District Court in financial matters or matters of bodily injury or under the Compensation for Traffic Accident Victims Law (CTAV) being limited to 30 pages.
In the case of interim motions (i.e. petitions that are not the main statement of claim), the motion and response are limited to 5 pages (save for an application for temporary relief that is limited to 8 pages) while the affidavits attached to the application or response are not to exceed 3 pages (or 6 pages in an application for temporary relief).
- Playing with an open deck
Experience teaches us that the questionnaire procedure is more often than not misused and that some abuse it to exhaust the opposing party. In many cases, the standard questionnaire procedure may consist of dozens and even hundreds of questions including questions that are not relevant to the clarification of the conflict. As would be expected, the issue forms the basis for many disputes and conflicts between the parties that are brought before the courts on a daily basis, in a manner that greatly increases the load on the courts.
In light of the above, the new arrangement in Section 56 of the Regulations stipulates that the questionnaire procedure will include only relevant questions and will not exceed 25 questions, including any sub-questions (save for financial claims worth more than NIS 2.5 million, and CTAV claims, which are both limited to 50 questions). The restriction of the interrogatory can, of course, be attributed to an attempt to streamline and shorten the legal proceedings, and some will see this as advantageous to both parties, with the discovery proceedings focusing on the essence and not serving as an attempt to exhaust the opposing party.
A brief look at the new Civil Procedure Regulations shows us that the legislature brings in a fresh breath of innovation, inter alia by trying to shorten and streamline legal proceedings. We do, however, hope that such shortening and streamlining of the proceedings will not be at the expense of the quality of the proceedings and principle of discovering the truth.
Originally Published April 2021
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.