New order of the President of the Supreme Court on special measures in judicial matters
Authors: Helena Butolen, Lenart Kmetič
On 4 May 2020, the President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia adopted a new Order on special measures (the “Order”), which defines in more detail the gradual release of previously established special measures in relation to operations of courts. The Order thus logically follows the latest amendments to the Act on Provisional Measures with Respect to Judicial, Administrative and Other Public-Law Affairs for the Control of the Spread of the Contagious Disease SARS-CoV-2 (COVID 19) (the “Act on Provisional Measures”), the adoption of which was covered in our publication posted on 2 May 2020.
1. Decision-making of courts
The Order distinguishes between the possibilities for the courts to operate in non‑urgent and in urgent and matters.
In non-urgent matters, Slovenian courts may, since the Order had entered into force, conduct hearings, decide and serve court decisions, provided that such acts can be safely performed with full respect of measures prescribed by the President of the Supreme Court (described in more detail below), and in a manner preventing the spread of the virus and ensuring protection of human life and health. Despite serving of documents, procedural deadlines don’t run in these matters.
In urgent matters on the other hand, Slovenian courts may act as determined by Article 83 of the Courts Act, i.e. the courts can conduct hearings and adopt decisions, whereby all relevant deadlines in these matters are running. However, in this respect it has to be considered that the Order also amends the scope of matters which would otherwise – under the Courts Act – be considered urgent. Thus, under the Order, the following matters are not included in the scope of urgent matters:
- individual acts in proceedings relating to securing of claims (i.e. actions that require personal contact and are not necessary to prevent threats to life and health of people or property of greater value);
- bill of exchange and check protests and bill of exchange lawsuits;
- inventories of the decedent’s assets;
- compulsory settlement and bankruptcy proceedings, in which up to and including 30 March 2020 no decision on the initiation of the proceeding was issued;
- confiscation of assets of illegal origin; and
- administrative disputes governed by individual sectoral laws (e.g. disputes under the Information Commissioner Act, the Health Care and Health Insurance Act and other).
2. Operation of courts
Furthermore, the President of the Supreme Court specified individual measures regulating the operation of courts. Sava as in urgent matters, applications may still be filed only by post or, when possible, through the electronic portal eSodstvo. Communication with courts in all non-urgent matters is assured during office hours via published telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Courts are obliged, where possible, to designate an entry point into a court building for clients, counsels and other persons, and an entry point for judges and court staff. Access to the courts for uninvited persons is only possible upon prior appointment via telephone or e-mail.
Hearings, sessions and examinations, shall, if possible, generally be conducted via videoconferences. When a hearing is exceptionally held in the premises of the court, the distance between those present must be at least two meters, with everyone wearing protective equipment and the room being disinfected.
The Order also provides for the possibility of excluding the public. In this respect the judge or president of the panel may temporarily exclude the public from the main hearing or its part, as well as impose other appropriate safety measures.
Besides above described and other measures prescribed by the President of the Supreme Court, presidents of individual courts may also prescribe other measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Hence, the Order, like the Act on Provisional Measures, foresees the possibility of different measures adopted by individual courts; therefore. it may be expected that the practice of the operation of courts across the country will not be completely unified.
Special measures introduced by the Order entered into force on 5 May 2020 and shall be valid until their revocation, however, not any longer than by 1 July 2020. With the adoption of the new Order, the previous Orders of the President of the Supreme Court on special measures as of 30 March 2020 and 8 April 2020 ceased to apply.