Specialised courts tackle 51% increase in cases

Court system credited with huge increase in rulings and releasing Dh27bn in family inheritance disputes.

DUBAI // Specialised courts have streamlined the legal process and led to Dh27 billion (US$7.35 bn) in inherited assets being released. There was a 51 per cent increase in cases routed to courts designed to handle specific rulings last year as compared to 2008, said Dr Yousif al Suwaidi, the director of strategic and organisational performance at Dubai Courts.

The success rate for the Personal Status Court rose to 97 per cent last year compared with 90 per cent on its introduction in 2007. The court handles family inheritance disputes and has unfrozen Dh27bn worth of assets in the past three years. "These monies were frozen at the courts for long periods trying to be divided," Dr al Suwaidi said yesterday at the fourth Judicial Conference in Dubai. "The unit since its launch has managed to unfreeze these amounts, which have been pumped back into the economy."

In specialised courts there has been a 75 per cent judgment rate on cases registered in 2009, while in 2008 there has been 82 per cent judgment rate. However, the total number of cases judged in 2009 is 58 per cent higher than the previous year. This compares with a drop in the overall court system, where three cases in four were resolved last year, and almost seven cases in eight in 2008, Dr al Suwaidi said.

The inception of the specialised court system was praised by the World Bank in its last UAE report, which was released in 2009. "The way the courts are dealing with the increase in case loads after the global crisis has shown that it was an essential move," Dr al Suwaidi said. The customised courts make it easier to solve disputes between parties, Dr al Suwaidi said, as they can bring specialised expertise to bear on each case.

That in turn has a direct bearing on case loads for the legal system at large, he said. For example, the number of cases registered in the Labour Court rose from 1,765 in 2007 to 4,811 last year. The resolution rate for cases in that judicial body has skyrocketed as a result to 1,962 last year from just 26 in 2007, according to figures presented by Abdel Qader Moosa, the labour court's former chief justice who currently holds the same position at the Dubai Real Estate Court.

The framework of each of the dispute resolution units is directly related to the court jurisdiction they fall under, Chief Justice Moosa said, which makes for easier and more efficient disposal of each case they hear. "Within the Personal Status Courts an inheritance resolution unit is present, within the Labour Courts a labour dispute unit is present and so on," he said. "A specialised judge is assigned to the unit and his job is to review the case file and attempt to resolve the dispute amicably, by bringing their viewpoints closer."

The streamlining process has also boosted the number of disputes registered at the separate labour, real estate, commercial, civil and personal status courts. They handled nearly 16,500 cases last year compared with 10,107 cases in 2008. Also at the conference, it emerged that eight new laws dealing with the effects of the global financial crisis are set to be submitted for approval after being reviewed by a Ministry of Justice committee.

Dr Hadef al Dhaheri, the justice minister, said yesterday that the federal ministerial legislative committee is also preparing to review the drafts for the arbitration, bankruptcy and foreign investment laws now that it has completed its review of the new proposals. "Laws have been reviewed and introduced like the criminalisation of money laundering and the human trafficking law to face the changing economic and social paradigms locally and internationally," said Dr al Dhaheri.