Better late than never: How long do legal proceedings last in Italy?

May 06, 2020

This article was written by Yuu Shibata and contributed to our publication on

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  • Italy is a country with long legal proceedings compared with other European States.
  • The government has been introducing reforms and improvements in order to have more efficient judicial system.

Italy is known by being a very bureaucratic State and it is also known for having long legal proceedings within Europe. On one hand, this is true, however, according to the research carried out by the Council of Europe (do not confuse with European Council, which is an EU institution) in 2018, this situation is slowly improving with the implementation of reforms to improve performance and to enhance the quality of statistical information, and according to the Italian Ministry of Justice, since 2012, Italy has been able to reduce its pending cases progressively.

Average time of legal proceedings in Italy

(Durations specified below are based on cases that undergone through all instances (first instance court, court of appeal and court of cassation; or in case of Administrative proceedings, at regional administrative court (as first instance) and at Council of State (as second and final instance).

  1. Civil proceedings: Generally speaking, civil proceedings are the longest ones in most of the countries. Yet, Italy has an average of 8 years duration for civil proceedings, which is a long time compared to other European countries. This situation brought the State to the decision of making the judgement of first instance to be immediately enforceable even though the terms of appeal of second instance is still pending or even when it is actually appealed until the Court of Appeal decides to suspend such enforcement. (Article 283 of Italian Code of Civil Procedure).
  2. Administrative proceedings: As with the civil proceedings, Italy has shown a negative impression with its 5 years duration. On this regard, in 2017 the government introduced the “telematics” system to this type of proceedings enabling the submission of documents also through the PEC email addresses and Smart-cards. (This type of simplification has been introduced to many other proceedings.)
  3. Criminal proceedings: According to a research carried out by il Sole 24 (the Italianeconomic-financial newspaper) in 2019, the average duration of a criminal proceeding is 1589 days (approx.4 years and 4 months), on the other hand, according to the research carried out by the Council of Europe shows an average duration of approximately 3 years and 9 months. There are some differences in the results, however this may be due to the fact that the Council of Europe carried out its research on cases until 2016, the other research, instead, was carried out in late 2019, or maybe their calculation methods were different. However, even though there is a difference, an average of 3 years and 9 months still is a long time considering the nature of this type of proceedings.

There is one point that must be highlighted. The above mentioned data are average numbers in Italy, which means that in some regions the proceedings time might be longer or shorter. For example, generally speaking, duration of proceeding in the regions of Trentino and Lombardy (Milan) are shorter, on the other hand, the regions of Campania (Naples) and Lazio (Rome) usually have much longer proceedings.

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