21. 5. 2020

Changes to the functioning of courts in the time of intervention measures

Based on the amendments to the Act on provisional measures for judicial, administrative and other public matters to cope with the spread of infectious disease SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) (Official Journal of the Republic of Slovenia No. 61/2020; hereinafter: ZZUSUDJZ)) and Order of the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia on special measures due to the conditions referred to in the first paragraph of Article 83a of the Courts Act and reasons from Article 1 of the ZZUSUDJZ of 4 May 2020, all courts from 5 May 2020 are to hold hearings, rule and serve court documents, even in matters not considered urgent. However, the service of documents and hearings in non-urgent matters shall proceed only if the courts can do so in a manner that ensures the protection of human health and life and prevents the spread of viral infection. This includes, but is not limited to, videoconference hearings or (where this is not possible) in such a way that a distance of at least two meters is maintained between judges, court staff, parties, proxies and other persons, that all participants wear protective equipment and that the room is disinfected. In addition, in order to ensure the protection of human health and life, the judge may still exclude the public from the main hearing or part of it, and impose other appropriate protective measures.

The new order of the President of the Supreme Court of 4 May 2020 also expands the set of urgent cases, so that compulsory settlement and bankruptcy cases, in which decisions on the commencement of proceedings were issued by 30 March 2020, are also considered urgent.

As far as deadlines are concerned, the regulation from Article 3 of the ZZUSUDJZ still applies, so that deadlines for exercising rights in court proceedings do not run. This means that both limitation periods and material deadlines do not run (e.g. time limit for contesting the validity of a contract, time limit for bringing an action for disturbance of possession, time limit for exercising rights arising from liability for errors, etc.). It should be noted that default interest on overdue receivables continues to accrue.

At the same time, in non-urgent cases, deadlines in court cases or procedural deadlines (e.g. deadline for responding to a lawsuit, for preparing an expert opinion, etc.) do not run. In non-urgent cases, the courts will now serve court documents, but the purpose of such service will be primarily to acquaint the parties with the document. The deadlines for carrying out procedural actions will start running again on the first day following the expiry of the special measures.

ZZUSUDJZ also stipulates deadlines in administrative cases will run (here, too, procedural deadlines and material deadlines for asserting substantive rights do not run, except in urgent cases, as provided by the Act), the enforcement of criminal sanctions and measures regarding notarial offices.

The measures from the ZZUSUDJZ and the order of the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia are valid until a public announcement repealing them is made , when the reasons for them cease, but no later than 1 July 2020. Currently publicly available information suggests the ZZUSUDJZ measures will come to an end on 1 June 2020, meaning at the same time as the measures from the ZIUZEOP (Act Determining the Intervention Measures to Contain the COVID-19 Epidemic and Mitigate its Consequences for Citizens and the Economy; Official Journal of the Republic of Slovenia, Nos. 49/20 and 61/20).

Author: Ana Kastelec, attorney-at-law
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