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Last update: 15-01-2009
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Jurisdiction of the courts - Czech Republic

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court? A.
B. Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I should apply to? B.
I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts and if so which one is competent for my case? I.
II. Territorial jurisdiction II.
1. The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction 1.
2. Exceptions to the basic rule 2.
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court? a)
b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)? b)
c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise? c)
C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address? C.

 

A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court?

In the Czech Republic the civil jurisdiction of the courts is set out in general terms in § 7(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Act No 99/1963 Coll.). This provision identifies individual types of private-law disputes, such as disputes arising from civil-law, family, labour and business relations.

Czech civil procedure does not make any distinction with regard to jurisdiction on the basis of cause. Specific types of case are not, therefore, heard by specialised courts designated for that purpose and forming part of the judicial system. In principle, therefore, the ordinary court is competent in all private-law cases.

B. Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I should apply to?

I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts and if so which one is competent for my case?

The division of remits between individual courts in civil proceedings is determined by their respective jurisdiction. The rules on jurisdiction are such that proceedings are conducted in the court best placed to hear them, which generally tends to be the court nearest to the parties or to the subject of the proceedings. This principle must, however, sometimes give way to other requirements, e.g. specific or greater specialisation or expertise on the part of the courts.

Under Czech law the designation of courts to hear cases and rule on them is based on their substantive, territorial and functional jurisdiction.

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Substantive jurisdiction determines which courts are competent to hear and rule on cases as courts of first instance. A distinction is made, therefore, depending on whether proceedings at first instance will take place at district or regional court level.

Czech procedural law is based on the principle of differentiated substantive jurisdiction, according to which regional courts rather than district courts are competent in some cases for reasons relating to greater specialisation and consistent decision-making.

Substantive jurisdiction is governed by § 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Act No 99/1963 Coll.), which lays down the principle that district courts have substantive jurisdiction at first instance unless the law states otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are laid down in § 9(2), (3) and (4) of the Code.

The substantive jurisdiction of regional courts is established in paragraphs 2 and 3. The second paragraph covers mainly non-commercial matters which are complicated and specialised and occur infrequently (e.g. protection of privacy). The third paragraph covers proceedings of a commercial nature, apart from subparagraph (r), under which the district court rather than the regional court is competent (e.g. in proceedings involving financial compensation of up to CZK 100 000, credit agreements, rights in rem or tenancies of immovable property).

The fourth paragraph establishes the substantive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court where specified in special legislation (e.g. under § 67 of Act 97/1963 Coll. on private and procedural international law, the Supreme Court rules on certain types of foreign decisions).

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II. Territorial jurisdiction

Territorial jurisdiction determines the division of remits between courts of the same tier of the system. It thus establishes which of the specific courts with substantive jurisdiction should be designated on the basis of territorial considerations. Where, for example, the district courts have substantive jurisdiction, the rules on territorial jurisdiction determine which of them will hear and rule on a case. Each court has a territorial definition of its jurisdiction.

According to § 11(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Act No 99/1963 Coll.), proceedings always take place in the court which has substantive and territorial jurisdiction. The rules on territorial jurisdiction do not preclude the possibility of more than one court having such jurisdiction. Which court will have jurisdiction in a specific case is decided by the circumstances prevailing in the period preceding the start of the proceedings.

1. The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction

Territorial jurisdiction is governed by § 84 et seq. of the Code of Civil Procedure (Act No 99/1963 Coll.). A distinction is made between general and specific territorial jurisdiction. Specific territorial jurisdiction is further divided into "discretionary jurisdiction" (optional) and "exclusive jurisdiction" (compulsory).

General territorial jurisdiction is based on the fact that the ordinary court of the defendant is competent. The ordinary court is determined by § 85-86 according to the person concerned. The ordinary court of a natural person is the district court for the area in which the defendant has his domicile and, if he has none, the court for the area in which he resides. The ordinary court of a natural person who is a businessman is the district court for the area in which he has his place of business (§ 2(3) of the Commercial Code - Act No 513/1991 Coll.) and, if he has none, the place where he is domiciled or resides.

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The criterion for determining the ordinary court of a legal person is its registered office (§ 19c of the Civil Code – Act No 40/1964).

The specific provisions of § 86 deal with situations in which the defendant has no ordinary court, or has none in the Czech Republic. Where a Czech citizen is involved, the district court in whose area he had his last known domicile in the Czech Republic is competent. Property rights against a person who has no competent court in the Czech Republic may be exercised before the district court in whose area that person's property is located or, in the case of a foreign person, in whose area that person's business or a branch thereof is located.

The ordinary court of the defendant is always the district court, but if a regional court is substantively competent the ordinary court is the regional court in whose area the ordinary court of the party is located (§ 85a of the Code of Civil Procedure).

Territorial jurisdiction is subject to the principle of perpetuatio fori (§ 11(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure), i.e. for the purposes of determining which court has jurisdiction, the circumstances prevailing at the time when the proceedings begin are relevant. If some facts change during the proceedings, this will have no impact on the course of the proceedings (e.g. if the defendant moves house). The law, however, lays down exceptions to this principle. This involves the concepts of transfer of jurisdiction and delegation (referred cases). Jurisdiction is transferred from a territorial point of view only in proceedings which last for longer on account of the nature of the case (e.g. judicial care of minors, commercial register).

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2. Exceptions to the basic rule
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court?

This involves specific discretionary territorial jurisdiction when the plaintiff may choose between an ordinary court and the courts referred to in § 87 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The proceedings may thus also be conducted by the court in whose area:

  1. the defendant has his permanent place of work;
  2. the fact establishing the right to compensation for damages arose;
  3. a branch of the business of the natural or legal person who is the defendant is located, if the dispute relates to this branch;
  4. the place of payment is located in the case of exercise of a right in connection with a bill of exchange, cheque or other security;
  5. the registered office of the stock exchange is located, in the case of a dispute concerning a stock exchange transaction;
  6. the future registered office of a European company to be set up is located, if it is to be within the Czech Republic and the case concerns the appointment of an expert under a specific rule.

The plaintiff must have made a choice by the time the action is brought.

b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)?

Where the exclusive territorial jurisdiction laid down in § 88 of the Code of Civil Procedure applies, action cannot be brought before the party's ordinary court; the case must be heard in the court specified under that provision. Most instances of exclusive territorial jurisdiction involve non-contentious proceedings in which there is no defendant.

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In contentious cases, exclusive territorial jurisdiction applies. For example, in proceedings involving divorce or marriage annulment, the competent court is the court in whose area the spouses had their last common domicile in the Czech Republic and if at least one of them is domiciled in this area and there is no such court, the court of the defendant or the ordinary court of the plaintiff is competent. The court which ruled on the divorce also rules on the settlement of the joint assets of the spouses and on the termination of any joint lease on a flat or house.

In the case of guardianship of a minor, the competent court from a territorial point of view is that in whose area the minor has his domicile on the basis of a parental agreement or court decision or other decisive facts.

Another significant type of exclusive jurisdiction is the jurisdiction of a court within whose area immovable property is located, if the proceedings concern a right to such property (this relates mainly to rights in rem and not claims under an obligation).

Further particulars are set out in the law.

c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise?

Prorogation agreement: Under § 89a of the Code of Civil Procedure, the parties to a commercial case may agree that a court other than that determined by law is to have territorial jurisdiction, if exclusive territorial jurisdiction does not apply. A prorogation agreement must be concluded in advance and be attached to the lawsuit. Such an agreement must be distinguished from a prorogation agreement establishing the international jurisdiction of Czech courts (§ 37 of the Act on Private and Procedural International Law - No 97/1963 Coll.).

Objection regarding territorial jurisdiction: The court examines the territorial jurisdiction as a prerequisite for the proceedings and before dealing with the case itself (i.e. before it invites the parties to state their case during the first hearing or before it issues a decision that it will rule without a hearing. The issue of territorial jurisdiction may subsequently be addressed only in response to an objection by a party if it is raised during the first stage in which the party is involved. If a lack of territorial competence is not declared in such a case, it is not possible to do so at a later stage and the case will heard and ruled on by a court which does not have territorial jurisdiction under the law.

C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address?

As already stated under section A, Czech regulations on civil procedures do not make a distinction between specialised and ordinary courts. All the relevant provisions on the jurisdiction and competence of the courts are contained in the Code of Civil Procedure (Act No 99/1963 Coll.).

« Jurisdiction of the courts - General information | Czech Republic - General information »

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Last update: 15-01-2009

 
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