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Last update: 06-11-2006
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Legal aid - Czech Republic

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. What are the costs of a trial and who should normally pay them? 1.
2. What is legal aid? 2.
3. Can I benefit from legal aid? 3.
4. Can legal aid be obtained for all disputes? 4.
5. Is there a specific procedure for emergencies? 5.
6. Where can I obtain an application form for legal aid? 6.
7. Which documents should I attach to my request for legal aid? 7.
8. Where should I register my request for legal aid? 8.
9. How will I be informed of whether or not I am eligible for legal aid? 9.
10. If I qualify for legal aid, what should I do? 10.
11. If I qualify for legal aid, who will choose my lawyer? 11.
12. If I qualify for legal aid, will this cover all the costs of my trial? 12.
13. If I qualify for partial legal aid, who will pay the other costs? 13.
14. If I qualify for legal aid, will it cover any review I might make following the trial? 14.
15. If I qualify for legal aid, can it be withdrawn before the end of the trial (or even after the trial)? 15.
16. If I do not qualify for legal aid, can I appeal against this decision? 16.

 

1. What are the costs of a trial and who should normally pay them?

The Code of Civil Procedure stipulates the following types of costs in civil proceedings: the cash outlays of parties and their representatives (e.g. travel, board and lodging), court fees, the lost earnings of parties and their legal representatives, the expense of furnishing evidence, the notary’s fee for the execution of the acts of a judicial commissioner and his cash outlays (in inheritance proceedings), the fee of the executor in inheritance proceedings and his cash outlays, interpreting fees and the representation fee. This list is not exhaustive; other expenditure may also be considered costs. However, they must be expenses incurred in connection with the proceedings. This means that, for example, costs connected with reminders to a debtor prior to the bringing of an action or expenses incurred in an attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement cannot be classified as costs of proceedings.

In essence, a party to proceedings pays the costs of the proceedings pertaining to him personally and his representative, even if he is exempted from the payment of court fees. The state covers the cash outlays of a representative if this representative is appointed for a party by the court (Section 30 of the Code of Civil Procedure). If a lawyer is appointed as the representative, the state also covers his representation fee.

The payment of court fees is governed by separate legislation, i.e. the Court Fees Act. In normal contentious proceedings, the court fee is usually paid by the applicant. The law lays down which judicial proceedings are exempted from a court fee (e.g. guardianship cases, judicial care of minors, proceedings on maintenance for children or parents, inheritance proceedings in the first instance).

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2. What is legal aid?

Under Czech law, the following can be considered legal aid in civil proceedings:

  • the exemption of a party from the payment of a court fee,

  • the appointment of a representative – also possible before the start of proceedings for the provision of representation in bringing an action (petition to initiate proceedings) – the party to whom a representative is appointed does not pay the representative’s cash outlays or a fee for representation,

  • the appointment of a lawyer by the Czech Bar Chamber.

For legal aid in cross-border disputes, a separate law applies, i.e. the Act on the provision of legal aid in cross-border disputes within the European Union. The provision of legal aid means:

  • the appointment of a representative,

  • the appointment of an interpreter,

  • exemption from court fees and from payment in advance of costs of evidence in proceedings before a the procedural court,

  • the procurement of a translation of written documentation (with the exception of documentation in Slovak),

  • the reimbursement of essential travel expenses.

Legal aid may also be granted outside judicial proceedings in the form of the legal services in accordance with the Legal Practices Act. Those who cannot afford these services are entitled to approach the Czech Bar Chamber to be appointed a lawyer provided that they meet set conditions.

3. Can I benefit from legal aid?

The court may, on request, exempt a party to proceedings (or an enjoined party) from the court fee

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  • where this is warranted by the party’s situation and

  •  in cases not involving the arbitrary or manifestly unsuccessful assertion or defence of a right.

Natural persons and legal persons may be exempted.

Parties to proceedings must not be prevented from asserting or defending a right before a court simply because they are in an unfavourable financial situation. The court takes into consideration, in particular, the whole of the applicant’s financial status, the amount of the court fee, the probable cost of supplying evidence, and the nature of the claim filed. In the case of natural persons, the court takes into account their social situation, health, etc. With legal persons and natural persons who are entrepreneurs, consideration may also be had to the nature of their business or other activities, the amount and structure of their assets and their solvency.

A manifestly unsuccessful assertion or defence of a right occurs, in particular, in cases where there is no doubt from the facts presented by the applicant that his application cannot be upheld in the given situation. Prime examples of the arbitrary assertion or defence of a right include the exercise of a right in order to cause harassment or an evident delay in the fulfilment of obligations which are clearly binding on a debtor.

If the court rules that a party is exempt from court fees, that party cannot be required to remit an advance on the costs of evidence or to reimburse to the state any costs covered by the state.

On request, the court will appoint a representative for a party who meets the conditions for exemption from court fees where this is necessary to protect that party’s interests. However, there is no automatic right to the appointment of a representative if the proceedings or a party are exempt from the court fee ex lege (i.e. based on the Court Fees Act). Even in these cases, the above-mentioned conditions for exemption from court fees, as set forth in the Code of Civil Procedure, must be met. Any natural person with legal capacity and eligible to provide due representation may be appointed as a representative; the consent of this person to the appointment is required. A lawyer will be appointed as a representative where necessary for the protection of the party’s interests or in cases where representation by a lawyer is compulsory (the submission of an appeal to the Supreme Court). The appointed lawyer’s cash outlays and fee for representation are covered by the state. The court may appoint a representative before the start of proceedings if a party intends to bring an action with the assistance of a representative.

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If the court rejects a request for the appointment of a representative, the applicant may approach the Czech Bar Chamber and seek the appointment of a lawyer. In this case, the Chamber may appoint a lawyer if the applicant proves that at least two lawyers have refused to provide him with legal services. There is no legal entitlement to the appointment of a lawyer. It must be evident from a specific case that representation by a lawyer is absolutely essential or required by law for the protection of an applicant’s rights. If the Chamber finds an application for the appointment of a lawyer to be warranted, it appoints one lawyer to provide one specific legal service; a lawyer is never required to handle multiple problems of an applicant.

4. Can legal aid be obtained for all disputes?

The legal aid described under questions 2 and 3 may be obtained in judicial proceedings involving civil, labour, family or business law cases.

Legal aid may also be provided in the administrative judiciary in accordance with the Code of Administrative Procedure.

5. Is there a specific procedure for emergencies?

There is no special procedure in these cases.

6. Where can I obtain an application form for legal aid?

There is no specific specimen form for applications. An application should contain the following particulars:

  • the particulars of the applicant so that he can be clearly identified;

  • the particulars of the case;

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  • a claim by the applicant that his financial status is such that he cannot afford to assert his rights properly before a court;

  • details of whether the applicant is seeking: a) exemption from the obligation to pay a court fee, b) the appointment of a representative, c) the appointment of a lawyer as a representative, having regard to the complexity of the case;

  • a statement of the applicant’s average monthly income from employment (self-employment);

  • a statement of the amount of any secondary income (e.g. capital revenues from securities);

  • a statement of pension benefits received by the applicant, and full details thereof;

  • full details of personal assets of a higher value (e.g. financial savings, securities, personal ornaments, automobiles, properties not used for the primary housing requirements of the applicant or his work activities – land, recreational buildings, etc.);

  • full details of essential monthly expenditure (expenditure connected with housing, subsistence; the cost of commuting to work; maintenance for children or a (former) spouse – with full details of the authority and the judgment imposing this obligation on the applicant);

  • full details of any debts and creditors, leases and consumer credits (and where appropriate a specification of execution proceedings against the applicant);

  • full details of any other relevant facts;,

  • a reference to the annexes to the application, i.e. in particular official confirmation of the amount of income claimed (confirmation from the employer or tax administrator about income – for the self-employed this confirmation is for the last taxation period); confirmation that the applicant pays pension contributions; decisions forming the basis for the payment of maintenance by the applicant to other persons; documents on necessary expenditure (e.g. rent bills);

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  • a solemn declaration from the applicant that he has disclosed truthful information in his application and has not concealed any facts;

  • the date, the applicant’s signature.

In cross-border cases, the application must be submitted on a pre-printed form. This form may be completed directly on the website of the European Judicial Atlas in Civil Matters.

7. Which documents should I attach to my request for legal aid?

The confirmation of the applicant’s financial situation should be accompanied by documents proving all the applicant’s income and expenditure stated in the application (see point 6).

8. Where should I register my request for legal aid?

An application for exemption from court fees may be submitted to the court hearing the proceedings in respect of which the exemption is sought. The court of first instance makes decisions on applications, even in cases where the application concerns exemptions for proceedings after the lodging of an appeal.

An application for the appointment of a representative before the start of proceedings may generally be submitted to the district court in whose circuit the applicant resides, or to another district court.

An application for the appointment of a lawyer by the Czech Bar Chamber (see point 3) is submitted to the Czech Bar Chamber, Brno Branch, nám. Svobody 84/15, 602 00 Brno.

9. How will I be informed of whether or not I am eligible for legal aid?

The court is obliged to inform parties of their right to submit an application for exemption from court fees if they are not represented by a lawyer or notary. The court is also obliged to inform parties of their right to seek the appointment of a representative.

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Lawyers are generally authorised to provide legal advice.

10. If I qualify for legal aid, what should I do?

Whether or not a party qualifies for legal aid is a matter for the court to decide, based on an application. For information on the submission of an application, see the answers to questions 6 to 8.

11. If I qualify for legal aid, who will choose my lawyer?

The court appoints a representative on an application from the party (see the reply to question 2). The court will appoint a lawyer as the representative where required for the protection of a party’s interests or in proceedings where representation by a lawyer is compulsory. The court chooses a specific lawyer who is obliged to provide legal services, unless there are legitimate grounds to refuse the appointment (e.g. a conflict of interest). Where at least two lawyers refuse to provide legal services, a further possibility is then to turn to the Czech Bar Chamber, which may appoint a lawyer.

12. If I qualify for legal aid, will this cover all the costs of my trial?

See the answer to question 2.

13. If I qualify for partial legal aid, who will pay the other costs?

The court may grant exemption from court fees only partially or only for part of the proceedings (e.g. only for proceedings in the first instance), or only for certain court fees. The remainder of the court fees must be paid by the party.

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If a representative is appointed for a party who is exempt from court fees, this party does not pay the representative’s cash outlays or fee for representation insofar as the party has been exempted from the court fees.

14. If I qualify for legal aid, will it cover any review I might make following the trial?

Here we need to distinguish between the provision of legal aid in purely national proceedings and in cross-border proceedings within the European Union.

In purely national proceedings, as a matter of principle the exemption from court fees lapses when the judgment ending the proceedings becomes enforceable. This means that exemption granted in proceedings in the first instance also applies to ordinary appeals, but not to proceedings on extraordinary remedial measures (appeal to the Supreme Court action to re-open proceedings, action on the grounds of irregularities). However, in such extraordinary appeal proceedings it is possible to submit a new application for exemption from court fees.

In proceedings concerning a cross-border dispute, a ruling on the provision of legal aid applies to all follow-up proceedings, including proceedings on an extraordinary remedial measure, proceedings on the recognition of a judgment, proceedings on a declaration of enforceability and execution proceedings.

15. If I qualify for legal aid, can it be withdrawn before the end of the trial (or even after the trial)?

If a party’s status changes to the extent that exemption from court fees is no longer warranted, or if a court subsequently discovers that the actual status of a party did not warrant exemption at the time it was granted, the court will revoke the exemption. This measure has retrospective effect only if the court expressly decrees this to be the case. A court may revoke exemption only up to the closing of proceedings upon a final and conclusive judgement.

However, a change in the rules used to assess an applicant’s situation, or a change in the court’s opinion of whether the case involves the arbitrary or manifestly unsuccessful application and protection of a right, is not in itself a reason for the revocation of exemption from court fees.

16. If I do not qualify for legal aid, can I appeal against this decision?

If an application for exemption from the court fee is not upheld in full or if exemption is revoked, the party may lodge an appeal against such a decision. An appeal to Supreme Court against a judgment of the appeal court is not admissible.

The president of the Czech Bar Chamber makes decisions on the appointment of a lawyer by the Czech Bar Chamber in administrative proceedings. An administrative action may be brought against a decision.

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Last update: 06-11-2006

 
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