Czech Republic & LEX COVID & Measures for Court and Enforcement Proceedings

By Michaela Hermanová, Jiří Švejda

04-2020

On 24 April 2020, the Act on Certain Measures to Mitigate the Impact of the Coronavirus Epidemic on Various Court and Enforcement Proceedings (the "Act", also referred to as Lex Covid Justice) was published in the Collection of Laws under No. 191/2020 Coll., and entered into force. Below we present the key points of the new Act on civil and administrative court proceedings, and enforcement of judgements by courts, as well as by enforcement officers.

I. Remission of Deadlines in Civil Proceedings

In civil proceedings, there are two types of deadlines: judge-imposed and statutory. Under normal circumstances, a judge can extend a deadline which they have imposed, but they cannot remit it. Statutory deadlines cannot be extended by a judge, but with certain exceptions, they can be remitted if missed due to justified reasons.

Under the Act, in civil proceedings, a court shall remit a deadline missed by a party or their representative due to a justified reason resulting from an extraordinary measure preventing them from meeting the deadline or making it significantly more difficult. This means the court can now also remit judge-imposed deadlines or statutory deadlines that are normally expressly exempted from remission by law. For example, if the defendant fails to respond to a lawsuit on time due to the extraordinary measures, and the court issues a judgement by default, Lex Covid Justice allows to remit the deadline and cancel the judgment, which would not be possible under normal circumstances.

Applications for remission of a deadline must be submitted within 15 days from the termination or cancellation of the extraordinary measure [state of emergency?], which resulted in the restriction that made meeting the deadline impossible or significantly more difficult. The missed act must be attached to the application. However, the deadline for submitting the application will not expire before 15 days after the end or cancellation of the state of emergency.

II. Remission of Deadlines in Administrative Court Proceedings

A procedure similar to civil proceedings also applies in proceedings before administrative courts under the Administrative Procedure Code. Similarly, under normal circumstances, it is possible to remit certain deadlines for justified reasons. By contrast, the law expressly prohibits this for other deadlines. Under the Act, a court can remit a deadline missed by a party or their representative due to a justified reason resulting from an extraordinary measure preventing them from meeting the deadline or making it significantly more difficult. 

This means it is now also possible in administrative court proceedings to remit deadlines that are normally expressly exempted from remission by law. For example, an action against a decision of an administrative authority must usually be brought within two months from service of the contested decision, and the law expressly provides that the deadline may not be remitted. However, under Lex Covid Justice, courts can now remit this deadline.

Applications for remission of a deadline must be submitted within two weeks from the termination or cancellation of the extraordinary measure, which resulted in a restriction that made meeting the deadline impossible or significantly more difficult. The missed act must be attached to the application. However, the deadline for submitting the application will not expire earlier than two weeks after the end or cancellation of the state of emergency. The procedure is therefore similar to that in civil proceedings, differing only in the length of the deadlines.

III. Enforcement of Judgements by Courts and Enforcement Officers

The same applies for enforcement of judgements both by courts and by enforcement officers. In these proceedings, the remission of deadlines is normally prohibited by law. Under Lex Covid Justice, however, a court can remit a deadline missed due to restrictions under the extraordinary measures that prevented the party from meeting the deadline or made it more difficult.

The option to remit does not apply to deadlines for appealing against decisions to sell auctioned property or assets to the highest bidder in the court enforcement of a decision through the sale of real estate and the sale of an enterprise, or in the court enforcement of a decision affecting other property rights, if ownership has already passed to the successful bidder. 

Applications for remission of a deadline must be submitted within seven days from the termination or cancellation of the extraordinary measure, which resulted in the restriction that made meeting the deadline impossible or significantly more difficult. The missed act must be attached to the application, and the deadline for submitting the application will not expire earlier than seven days after the end or cancellation of the state of emergency.

According to the Act, it is now also possible in some cases to apply for discontinuance of the court enforcement of a judgement, even if the enforcement was already carried out during the effectiveness of the extraordinary measure. This applies in particular when a debtor fails to file an application to discontinue on time due to restrictions resulting from the extraordinary measures.

Further, under the Act, until 30 June 2020, courts should not enforce decisions by selling movable property or immovable property which serves as the debtors’ permanent residence. This restriction should not affect the sale of immovable property owned by legal entities, as it is to protect households.

The above changes apply similarly to both enforcement of judgements by courts and enforcement officers. It is assumed that the court's role in the court enforcement of judgements will be performed by the enforcement officer in the enforcement proceedings. Apart from these restrictions, enforcement officers will be allowed to continue their usual activity (e.g., searching and securing debtors’ property).

The Act also addresses the situation where in the first phase of the enforcement proceedings the enforcement officer calls the debtor to meet the enforced obligation within 30 days and the debtor does not comply with this request for an justified reason resulting from the extraordinary measures. If the debtor fulfils the obligation within 15 days after the end of the extraordinary measure, they will bear reduced costs of enforcement, as if they had complied with the call on time.

The original proposal of the Act also included provisions allowing for termination of long-standing unsuccessful enforcement proceedings, however these were not included in the Act’s final version.
We will keep monitoring the Act, as well as other measures being adopted, and keep you updated. In case you have any questions regarding the above mentioned measures or otherwise, we will be pleased to assist you.