Under Article 151 of the Civil Procedure Act (ZPP – see below under Further information) , legal costs cover expenditure incurred in the course of or as a result of proceedings, and fees for the work of lawyers and of other persons whose entitlement is recognised by law (e.g. legal experts). Initially, the parties themselves bear the costs arising from their actions. Repayment of costs in civil and commercial cases is governed by the ZPP, while repayment in social cases and employment disputes is governed by the Labour and Social Courts Act (see below under Further information). This presentation concentrates solely on the system for repaying costs in civil and commercial cases. In practice, the most frequent costs incurred in civil proceedings are court fees and the costs of court experts, the summoning of witnesses, court interpreters, plaintiff’s security and advances for obtaining evidence. The basic rule is that costs are repaid to the successful party. Under the first paragraph of Article 154 ZPP, the unsuccessful party in the action repays the costs of the proceedings to the opposing party and any party intervening at its side. Special rules apply where costs arise through the fault of a particular party, where the judgment is based on an acknowledgement of the plaintiff’s claim, where the claim is withdrawn and where the court reaches a settlement in cases where there are co-defendants or co-plaintiffs (Articles 155-162 ZPP).
Under Article 1 of the Free Legal Aid Act (ZBPP – see below under Further information) , free legal aid is a means of allowing persons to assert their right to legal protection - in line with the principle of equality and taking account of their social circumstances - where they would otherwise be unable to do so without harming their ability to maintain themselves and their family. A person entitled to free legal aid may claim funds to meet the costs of legal help in full or in part and exemption from the costs of court proceedings. In practice, this encompasses the costs of legal advice, legal representation at general courts, specialised courts and the Slovenian Constitutional Court and before all bodies, institutions and persons in Slovenia which have jurisdiction for out-of-court settlement of disputes, and exemption from paying the cost of court proceedings.
You are entitled to free legal aid if, in view of your financial position and that of your family, you would not be able to cover the costs of legal proceedings on your own without jeopardising your financial position and that of your family. Your financial position is assessed on the basis of your monthly income and that of your family, and the property owned by yourself and by your family. Persons entitled to free legal aid are subject to different rules depending on whether the case concerned is a domestic dispute or a dispute with cross-border elements. The following are entitled to free legal aid in disputes where there is no international element: Slovenian nationals permanently resident in Slovenia; foreigners holding a temporary or permanent residence permit and stateless persons residing lawfully in Slovenia; other foreigners covered by reciprocal agreements or subject to the conditions laid down in - and in the cases stipulated in - international agreements that are binding on Slovenia; and, under certain conditions, non-governmental organisations and associations. Persons entitled to free legal aid in cross-border disputes are governed by the Act amending the ZBPP, which took effect on 1 December 2004 in line with the Council Directive (EC) on improving access to justice in cross-border disputes by establishing minimum common rules relating to legal aid for such disputes. In cross-border disputes on civil matters where the participant or party resides in another European Union Member State at the time when the application for free legal aid is submitted (“domestic cross-border dispute”) , that person is entitled to free legal aid in Slovenia irrespective of nationality. Similarly, where the participant or party resides in Slovenia at the time when the application for free legal aid is submitted (“foreign cross-border dispute”) , he or she is entitled to legal help for the transmission of the application for free legal aid, irrespective of nationality.
For cross-border disputes, free legal aid can be obtained only in “civil cases”, which are defined as cases falling within the jurisdiction of courts with general jurisdiction (under the law governing the courts) and cases falling within the jurisdiction of the labour and social courts (under the law governing such courts).
In the case of a domestic dispute, you can obtain the application form from the specialised departments for free legal aid or from bookshops.
If, at the time when the application is made, you are resident in one of the other EU Member States and you are claiming free legal aid before a court in Slovenia (“foreign cross-border dispute”) , you must send your application to the Slovenian Ministry of Justice yourself or via the body responsible for transmitting applications in the relevant Member State. The application must be sent in writing using the form specified by the Commission of the European Communities and published in the Official Journal of the European Union or the form published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, on the basis of the ZBPP.
If, at the time when the application is made, you are resident in Slovenia and you are claiming free legal aid before a court in another EU Member State (“domestic cross-border dispute”) , you must send your application to the local court in the region in which you are temporarily or permanently resident. The application must be made using the form specified by the Commission of the European Communities and published in the Official Journal of the European Union or the form laid down by the regulations of the EU Member State in which the court with jurisdiction in the case is established.
The application, duly completed using the prescribed form, should be accompanied by documents proving that you meet the criteria on which your application is based. The regulations on the free legal aid form and the submission of documents - Pravilnik o obrazcu za dodelitev brezplačne pravne pomoči in predložitev listin (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia No 75/2001) - specify which documents may be used to prove information relating to your income and other revenue, your financial position and the family, health and other reasons that constitute a material threat.
In the case of a domestic dispute, you should submit the application for free legal aid to the competent local court, labour court or administrative court in whose territory you are temporarily or permanently resident, or to a court of your choice if you are resident outside the country in which you are claiming the legal aid or if you have no citizenship.
If, at the time when the application is made, you are resident in one of the other EU Member States and you are claiming free legal aid before a court in Slovenia (“foreign cross-border dispute”) , you must send your application to the Slovenian Ministry of Justice yourself or via the body responsible for transmitting applications in the relevant Member State.
If, at the time when the application is made, you are resident in Slovenia and you are claiming free legal aid before a court in another EU Member State (“domestic cross-border dispute”) , you must send your application to the local court in the region in which you are temporarily or permanently resident.
The body responsible will decide on your entitlement to free legal aid on the basis of your application and you will be informed of its decision.
Once you have been informed of the decision granting free legal aid, the specialised department for free legal aid will issue you with a reference file (“napotnica”) containing your personal details, a description of the case for which free legal aid is granted, the form and extent of the legal aid granted and other information laid down in the relevant regulations (Pravilnik o obrazu napotnice, Official Gazette No 136/2004). Once the legal aid services have been performed, you must return this file to the specialised legal aid department as soon as all the records of expenditure and certificates of exemption from payment of costs have been attached to it.
The lawyer providing the legal aid will be appointed by the body responsible for legal aid in its award decision.
In domestic disputes free legal aid is generally awarded to the full extent claimed by the applicant and for the time that is required in view of the form in which it is approved. Nevertheless, the body responsible for free legal aid may lay down different levels for specific forms of free legal aid, award certain forms of aid only in part, limit the type of services involved or the number of hours of legal advice or limit the aid to a certain number or type of evidence if the costs are disproportionate.
In domestic cross-border disputes, the free legal aid is awarded for proceedings before the court of first and second instance.
The other costs are covered initially by the party itself. However, if your claim is successful, the court will rule that you be repaid the costs of the proceedings by the opposing party.
As stated above, the restriction whereby the body responsible for legal aid may limit the aid award to the end of a specific phase in the proceedings does not apply to domestic cross-border disputes, as in this case the aid is awarded for proceedings at first and second instance.
If you qualify, you must fulfil the conditions for receiving free legal aid for the entire period for which it is awarded. Between the time when the aid is awarded and the date of the final statement of costs, you must also inform the body responsible for free legal aid of any facts, circumstances or changes which affect or might affect your right to free legal aid or the form, extent and duration thereof, within eight days of them coming to your attention. Where the specialised department for free legal aid finds that circumstances have arisen that call for another decision on eligibility for free legal aid to be issued, as the claimant is no longer eligible or is eligible to a lesser extent or only for certain forms of legal aid, it initiates the procedure for establishing eligibility ex officio. Once this procedure has been completed, the specialised department proposes that the body responsible for free legal aid issue a decision establishing that the entitlement to free legal aid has ceased or varying the extent or form of the free legal aid.
It is not possible to appeal against the decision of the body responsible for free legal aid, but you may bring an administrative complaint before the Administrative Court of the Republic of Slovenia.
Last update: 25-05-2006