Accelerating court proceedings
The primary aim of the new Code is to accelerate the oft-criticised speed of court proceedings, to ensure equitable protection of participants’ rights and rationalise the cost of proceedings.
One of the most commonly praised changes in the new act is the introduction of the so-called concentration of proceedings. According to the new Code, the judge will be entitled to order the participants to submit all evidence in proceedings within a stipulated time frame. Otherwise this evidence will not be taken into account when deciding on the merits of a matter. This will make participants’ current practice of submitting new evidence years after proceedings have started in order to delay rulings impossible.
Another change brought about by the introduction of the new Code relates to evidence. The act introduces the formal truth concept, which significantly limits the ability of the judge to consider evidence not put forward by the participants. In the dispute, the judge is to decide based on the submitted evidence.
In addition to these changes, the act now encourages the use of preliminary hearings. Before the first hearing in a matter, the court will be allowed to hold a preliminary hearing to which all participants and relevant persons are subpoenaed. The main purpose of this hearing is to determine whether all the prerequisites of the proceedings have been met, and also to clarify the subject matter of the dispute between the parties. If possible, the court will attempt to resolve the dispute during this preliminary hearing by reaching a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the court may impose obligations on the participants that it deems necessary for making its decision. At the same time the court also specifies what, in its opinion, is in dispute between the parties, which evidence the court will take into account (and which it will not), and provides its preliminary legal standing on the dispute. If possible and practical, the court may even reach a decision on the matter during the preliminary hearing. Participants who are validly subpoenaed but fail to attend the preliminary hearing without due cause may lose the case. Although the Code makes the holding of a preliminary hearing optional, legislators are of the opinion that preliminary hearings will become commonplace, which will lead to a much needed acceleration of civil proceedings in Slovakia.
Delivery of court processes
Another highly anticipated change brought about by the new Code is the introduction of electronic delivery of court mail. The new rules on delivering court mail set out that in most cases electronic mail will be deemed delivered three days after being sent, regardless whether the addressee has read it or not.
What is more, the Code also solves a widespread problem in Slovak civil proceedings: the inability to deliver court mail to participants. Under the new regulations, in most cases, if the addressee has not provided the court with a different address, the court will deliver processes for natural persons to the address found in the register of inhabitants, and in the case of legal persons, to the address found in the Commercial or other public register. In the event that a natural person does not have an address in the registry of inhabitants, mail will be deemed delivered after 15 days of publishing the information regarding delivery of the court mail on the official board at the relevant court and on its website, no matter whether the addressee knows about it or not. The changes in rules on delivery of court processes are considered to be among the most important, since the delivering of court mail has caused substantial delays in proceedings, making the protection of threatened individual rights slow and ineffective. It is expected that this change will speed up proceedings significantly, which will inevitably translate into lower legal fees for participants.
Additionally, the Code eliminates a popular delaying tactic used in Slovakia. Going forward, courts will be entitled to reject and sanction several procedural acts employed obviously to abuse court procedures, leading to unjustified delays in proceedings. For example, if it is found that a manifestly unfounded prejudiced objection has been filed, the court will be entitled to impose a sanction of up to EUR 500 on the party filing it.
The new act will come into effect on 1 July 2016, and it is expected to change Slovak civil proceedings for the better.
The main aim of the new Code is to accelerate the speed of proceedings, to ensure equitable protection of rights of the participants to proceedings, and rationalise the cost of proceedings.