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Bottlenecks or Inefficiency? An Assessment of First Instance Italian Courts’ Performance

  • Massimo Finocchiaro Castro and Calogero Guccio EMAIL logo
From the journal Review of Law & Economics


The efficiency and effectiveness of judicial systems has become one of the main points of interest in public sector administration, due to the beneficial effects of an efficient judicial system on economic growth and firm competition. This is particularly relevant in Italy where judicial proceedings are extremely long-lasting due to the huge (in)efficiency of courts and to the presence of bottlenecks that affect the efficient management of court activity. This paper attempts to measure the relative technical efficiency of Italian first instance courts in the period 2010–2011 by applying a non-parametric frontier and distinguishing between managerial (in)efficiency and (in)efficiency due to the non-discretionary caseload. Our findings show that, while the presence of bottlenecks in the caseload plays a role in the level of court inefficiency, this effect is relatively small compared with the inefficiency due to the lack of managerial ability to efficiently manage both the backlog and increases in filings. Furthermore, this outcome is more relevant in the South rather than in the North of the country. Finally, our empirical findings are robust to an alternative estimator and sample variation.

JEL Classification: D24; K41; K49


The anonymous referees provided extremely helpful comments and this led to a significant improvement both in the exposition and in the contents. Also, we would like to thank the editor, and Giuseppe Di Vita, Giovanni Ramello and numerous participants at the International Workshop on the Economics Analysis of Litigation, held at the University of Catania on 18–19 June 2014, for their valuable suggestions, while absolving them for any possible errors.


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Published Online: 2015-06-27
Published in Print: 2015-07-01

©2015 by De Gruyter

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