[JURIST] The Italian Senate [official website, in Italian] approved a bill [S 1880 materials, in Italian] Wednesday that aims to shorten the trial and appeals process by putting strict time limits on its duration. The legislation would limit the three stages of a case - trial, initial appeal, and final appeal - to between 6.5 and 10 years depending on the crime, and cases that exceed the time limit would end in an automatic acquittal of the defendant. Because of the bill's retroactive effect, two pending corruption cases against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] would be automatically dismissed. Members of Berlusconi's center-right coalition defended the bill as a way to speed up [Times report] the slow Italian justice system while his critics called it an "ad personam" bill, passed by his allies to help Berlusconi with his legal troubles [Financial Times report]. The bill would become law if it is approved by the Chamber of Deputies and signed by President Giorgio Napolitano [official websites, in Italian].
In October, the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] struck down a 2008 law granting immunity [JURIST report] to Berlusconi and four others, finding it unconstitutional. Last week, Italian judges postponed [JURIST report] Berlusconi's corruption trial at his lawyers' request. He is charged with paying his British lawyer David Mills [JURIST news archive] to provide false testimony in two trials involving Berlusconi's broadcast company, Mediaset [official website, in Italian]. Berlusconi's tax fraud trial has also been postponed [JURIST report]. Berlusconi has been previously acquitted of false accounting and bribery [JURIST reports], and has had some other charges against him dropped [JURIST report].