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Last update: 17-12-2008
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Legal professions - Czech Republic

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. JUDGES 1.
2. LAWYERS 2.
3. BAILIFFS 3.
4. NOTARIES 4.
5. PUBLIC PROSECUTORS 5.

 

1. JUDGES

Legal status

A judge is a public official, a state employee who contributes to the performance of the judiciary. The principal activities of judges are to hear and pass judgment on judicial disputes in civil, administrative and criminal proceedings and to deliver verdicts in other cases brought before the courts.

Eligibility for appointment as a judge in the Czech Republic is contingent on the following conditions: Czech nationality, legal capacity, good character, university education, personal experience and moral qualities guaranteeing that the judge will duly discharge his functions, the passing of a professional judicial examination, and the taking of the oath of a judge before the President of the Republic.

Appointments process and tenure

On meeting all the necessary conditions, a judge is appointed by the President of the Republic and assumes office on taking an oath.

Preparations to become a judge involve three years’ service as a trainee judge, which takes place in the courts. At the end of their preparatory service, trainee judges sit a professional judicial examination.

There is no time limit attached to the appointment of a judge; however, judges may suspend their activities if they are temporarily relieved of their duties by the Minister for Justice. A judge’s tenure ends at the close of the year in which a judge turns 70, on the death of a judge or if a judge is officially declared dead, on the basis of a decision ruling that a judge is unfit to hold office, or on the resignation of a judge.

Judicial independence

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Judges are not permitted to engage in any other gainful employment (excluding the office of the chairperson or vice-chairperson of the court), apart from the administration of their own property and academic, teaching, literary, publicist, and artistic activities, or activities in the advisory bodies of a ministry or the Government, or in parliamentary bodies. 

Remuneration

The material security of judges is governed by the law.

Rights and obligations of judges in the holding of their office

A basic right and obligation of judges as they discharge their functions is to remain independent and to be bound in their decisions solely by the law, which they must interpret to the best of their knowledge and conscientiously; they must not allow themselves to be influenced, for example, by the interests of political parties, public opinion or the media. It is forbidden to violate or jeopardise the independence and impartiality of judges.

Judges are required to deliver judgments in reasonable time limits without delay, and to give the parties to the proceedings and their representatives the chance to exercise their rights; however, they must not discuss with them the content of the case at hand or procedural issues which could affect the case.

When judges cease to be judges, they must keep confidential all facts which they learned when they were in office; they may be released from this obligation only in exceptional cases.

Liability for the discharge of a judge’s functions

The state is held liable for any damage caused by a judge’s unlawful judgment or ruling on custody, sentencing or a protective treatment measure, or damage caused by incorrect administrative procedure; the state may seek regressive payment from the judge only if he is found guilty in disciplinary or criminal proceedings. Judges are accountable for their professionalism in the performance of their judicial duties.

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Categories and specialisations of judges

Besides their activities in passing judgment, judges may also be appointed chairpersons or vice-chairpersons of courts. They are appointed to this office by the President of the Republic (in the case of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court) or by the Minister for Justice (high, regional and district courts). One of the tasks particular to these functionaries is the performance of the state administration of courts.

Judges may also be appointed to the presidency of the Supreme Court Division or Supreme Administrative Court Division, or to the presidency of a court chamber.

The internal organisation of district, regional and high courts is based on court departments specialising in particular areas of the criminal, civil and administrative judiciary for the individual types of proceedings.

Professional associations

Judges in the Czech Republic may join the Judicial Union of the Czech Republic (Soudcovská unie ČR), a voluntary professional association; its general meeting has adopted the Ethical Principles of the Conduct of Judges as moral principles in judicial activities.

2. LAWYERS

Legal status

Lawyers are experts in law competent to provide legal services, including (without limitation) representation in proceedings before the courts and other authorities, the defence counsel in criminal cases, the provision of legal advice, the drawing-up of legal documents, the production of legal analyses and other forms of legal assistance provided systematically and in return for a consideration. Lawyers are self-employed persons whose business is the practice of law and whose activity is regulated by the state.

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The conditions which must be met to act as a lawyer are as follows: registration in the publicly accessible list of lawyers maintained by the Czech Bar Chamber (Česká advokátní komora), the fulfilment of the conditions of legal capacity, the gaining of a university education in law, at least three years’ prior legal experience as an articled clerk, good character, the passing of a professional examination for lawyers, and the taking of an oath before the Chairperson of the Czech Bar Chamber.

Appointments process and tenure

A person becomes a lawyer on registration in the list of lawyers.

Preparation for this profession takes the form of legal practice as an articled clerk in the employment of another lawyer.

No time limit is placed on the registration of a lawyer in the list of lawyers; however, a lawyer may be suspended in accordance with the law or based on a decision of the Czech Bar Chamber.

Authorisation to carry on a legal practice ceases when a lawyer is taken off the list of lawyers, which occurs in accordance with the law. The main reasons for removal from the list of lawyers include the death of a lawyer, cases where a lawyer is declared dead, incapacitation or the imposition of restrictions on legal capacity, the imposition of a disciplinary measure where a lawyer is struck off the list of lawyers, a bankruptcy declaration made against a lawyer, or a request to be removed from the list by the lawyer. The Czech Bar Chamber may also decide to remove a lawyer from the list of lawyers.

Incompatibility of offices

The law provides that lawyers may not be in an employment or other similar relationship at the same time as they practice law (an exception is employment as a university lecturer), and that they must not engage in any other activities incompatible with the practising of law.

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Remuneration

As a rule, lawyers provide legal services for a fee paid by the client; lawyers are entitled to demand a reasonable advance on the fee. The method used to determine a lawyer’s fee for the provision of legal services, as well as the reimbursement of cash expenses and reimbursement for loss of time, is laid down in a generally binding regulation. A lawyer’s fee for the provision of legal services is essentially governed by the lawyer’s contract with the client (a contractual fee); in cases where no contractual fee is set, remuneration is determined in accordance with the provisions of the scale of charges for non-contractual fees. If a lawyer is assigned by the state to provide legal services, the state pays the lawyer’s remuneration.

Rights and obligations of lawyers in the practising of law

In the provision of legal services, lawyers are bound by legal regulations and, in the limits of these regulations, by the instructions of the client, whose rights and warranted interests they are required to protect by employing all means they consider to be beneficial. Lawyers are not bound by a client’s instructions if these instructions transgress the law or professional regulations; they are obliged to advise the client of this accordingly.

Irrespective of their specialisation, lawyers are obliged to provide legal services in all matters; nonetheless, they have the right to refuse to provide legal services except where they are assigned or appointed by the Chamber to provide legal services. Lawyers are required to refuse to provide legal services if, in a particular case or related case, they have already provided legal services to another client with different interests. Under certain conditions, lawyers may withdraw from a contract on the provision of legal services.

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Lawyers are also obliged to keep confidential all circumstances which they learn about in connection with the provision of legal services; this obligation may be waived only by the client or the client’s legal successor and otherwise remains in force even after a lawyer is removed from the list of lawyers. This obligation may be breached in the performance of the legal duty to thwart the perpetration of a crime.

Lawyers are also required to keep adequate records documenting the performance of their legal services.

Professional liability

A lawyer is accountable to a client for damage caused to the client by the lawyer, his employee or representative in connection with the provision of legal services. Lawyers must be insured for this liability.

Lawyers are also liable for disciplinary transgressions (serious or repeated breach of their obligations).

Special legislation safeguarding the fee provision of lawyers’ services within the EU

The Legal Practices Act entitles natural persons who are nationals of any of the Member States of the European Union or Member States of the European Economic Area Agreement and who have obtained authorisation in that state to provide legal services (i.e. the home state’) to practise law in the Czech Republic as a ‘European lawyer’ under the professional designation of the home state conferred on the lawyer, written in the language of that state. A European lawyer is authorised to provide legal services entailing representation in proceedings before courts or other bodies, including the defence counsel in criminal proceedings, even in cases where a separate legal regulation provides that a party to proceedings must be represented by an advokát [the designation of a Czech lawyer] or that the representative of a party to proceedings may only be an advokát.

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A European lawyer may practise in the Czech Republic temporarily or occasionally as a guest European lawyer, or as an established European lawyer registered in the list of European lawyers kept by the Czech Bar Chamber. European lawyers are obliged to respect the obligations imposed on domestic lawyers and obligations imposed on them by their home state.

Professional associations

The Czech Bar Chamber, which is based in Prague and has a branch in Brno, is an autonomous professional organisation for all lawyers; it has its own bodies and issues binding professional regulations for lawyers, which are published in the Journal of the Czech Bar Chamber.

One of these regulations is the Rules of Professional Ethics and Rules of Competition for Lawyers of the Czech Republic.

3. BAILIFFS

Legal status

Bailiffs are self-employed persons commissioned by the state to carry out bailiff duties; their job is to execute enforcement orders in favour of the persons who authorised the bailiff to carry out this activity. In addition, they may, for example, provide legal assistance, draw up documents (especially execution reports), take custody of cash, instruments and other movable property, and serve judicial documents.

In the Czech Republic, bailiffs are public officials and their activities are considered to be judicial activities. Persons may become bailiffs if they are Czech nationals, hold legal capacity, have a university education in law, are of good character, have at least three years’ experience of execution activities and have passed a professional examination for bailiffs.

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Appointments process and tenure

After taking an oath, bailiffs are appointed by the Minister for Justice to their office under an advertised selection procedure. On the date of their appointment, they become members of the Chamber of Bailiffs (Exekutorská komora). The preparations to become a bailiff require experience as a trainee bailiff (in the employment of a bailiff); persons who reach the higher level of preparation are bailiff candidates, who must have at least three year’s experience of execution activities and pass an examination for bailiffs before they can be registered in the list of bailiffs.

Appointments are not subject to time limits; however, the Minister for Justice may suspend a bailiff. If suspended, bailiffs must not carry out their execution activities and a substitute for them is appointed; a substitute is also appointed over periods when bailiffs are unable to carry out their execution activities for other reasons (e.g. sickness, leave).

The tenure of a bailiff ceases when the bailiff stops being a member of the Chamber of Bailiffs; this may be due to the death of a bailiff, cases where a bailiff is officially declared dead, the compulsory retirement of a bailiff, a bailiff’s loss of Czech citizenship, or the incapacity or limited legal capacity of a bailiff. 

Incompatibility of offices

A bailiff’s execution operations are incompatible with any other gainful activity, except the administration of the bailiff’s own assets. However, bailiffs may carry out academic, publishing, teaching, interpreting, expert or artistic activities in return for payment.

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Remuneration

Bailiffs carry out execution and other activities in return for remuneration, which mainly comprises the bailiff’s fee, the reimbursement of cash expenses, reimbursement for loss of time in an execution and reimbursement for the service of documents. The bailiff’s fee may be set by agreement between the bailiff and the entitled person; in the absence of such an agreement, the amount of the fee is determined in accordance with a generally binding legal regulation. A bailiff has the right to request the entitled party for a reasonable advance on the expense of the execution procedure.

Rights and obligations of bailiffs

Bailiffs are independent in their execution activities; they are bound solely by the Constitution of the Czech Republic, laws, other legal regulations and court judgments issued in proceedings on the enforcement of decisions and execution proceedings. If a commissioned action would be a transgression of a law or legal regulation, or if the applicant seeking the execution fails to remit a reasonable advance on the expense of the execution, the bailiff may refuse to carry out this action.

Bailiffs are obliged to keep confidential all circumstances which they learn about in the performance of their execution or other activities. In exceptional cases, an organ of the Chamber of Bailiffs may release them from this obligation.

Under the law, bailiffs are also subject to a number of obligations on the keeping of files documenting their execution activities.

Supervision

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the state supervision of executions and the activities of bailiffs; the Chamber of Bailiffs supervises the activities of bailiffs and the management of bailiff offices.

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Liability

Bailiffs are liable for damage in the course of execution activities caused by themselves or their employees. They must be insured for damage.

Bailiffs and bailiff candidates are also liable to disciplinary proceedings for breaches of their legal obligations or serious or repeated violation of the dignity of the bailiff profession.

Professional associations

The professional association for bailiffs is the Chamber of Bailiffs of the Czech Republic (Exekutorská komora ČR), which is an autonomous organisation set up in accordance with the law and counts all bailiffs as members; it is a legal entity which has its own organs and generates revenues.

It has drawn up and approved a Code of Ethics for Bailiffs.

4. NOTARIES

Legal status

A notary is a natural person authorised to run a notary’s office. A notary’s activities include the preparation of public and other documents on acts in law, the certification of legally significant facts and declarations, and the custody of documents and cash; in connection with their notarial duties, notaries may also give legal advice, provide legal representation in proceedings where decisions are made by administrative authorities or in inheritance proceedings, manage assets or act as a bankruptcy trustee.

Persons are eligible to become notaries if they are Czech nationals, hold full legal capacity, are of good character, have a university education in law, have at least five years’ experience of notarial activities and have passed a professional examination for notaries.

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Appointments process and tenure

Notaries are appointed to a vacant notarial office by the Minister for Justice, on a proposal by the Chamber, under an advertised competition procedure. A notary holds his office as of registration in the list of notaries maintained by the Chamber of Notaries of the Czech Republic (Notářská komora ČR).

Notarial trainees prepare for their future profession by gaining notarial experience in the employment of a notary. In the next stage of preparation, they hold the status of notarial candidates, who must have had at least three years’ experience and passed an examination for notaries.

Once appointed, a notary is not subject to any time limits regarding tenure of office, although he may be suspended. A notary ceases to hold office on reaching the age of 70, on death or on officially being declared dead, on removal from office, on the loss of Czech citizenship, in the event of incapacitation, or if an appointed notary refuses to take their oath or if his state of health prevents him from duly carrying out his notarial duties.

Incompatibility of offices

The position of a notary is incompatible with any other gainful activity, with the exception of the administration of the notary's own assets; however, notaries may carry out academic, publishing, teaching, interpreting, expert or artistic activities in return for payment.

Remuneration

The Notarial Rules provide that a notary carries out activities in return for a consideration, which mainly comprises a fee, reimbursement for loss of time, and reimbursement of cash expenses. The costs are paid by the party requesting a notarial act; notaries are entitled to demand a reasonable advance on the fee and on cash expenses. Details concerning notaries’ fees are laid down in a separate legal regulation.

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Rights and obligations of notaries

Notaries have the right to carry out notarial activities; they are obliged to respect laws and other generally binding legal regulations, and in the provision of legal assistance they are also bound by the client’s instructions. They are entitled to refuse to carry out notarial acts only where such acts would violate generally binding regulations, in cases where a notary or relative of the notary is party to a particular case, if the notary has already provided legal assistance in a case to another person with conflicting interests, or if the applicant fails to pay an advance on the notary’s fee without good reason. Notaries may withdraw from a contract with a client or application for legal assistance if their mutual trust is violated.

Notaries are obliged to keep confidential all matters which they learn about in the course of their activities and which could affect the warranted interests of a client or applicant for legal assistance; they may be relieved of this obligation only by persons whom the acts concern.

Notaries are also subject to numerous obligations concerning the keeping of files.

Liability

Notaries are liable to applicants, clients or other parties for damages caused to these persons in the performance of the notary's activities, and are liable to their staff for any damages incurred by them in the performance of their working duties. In this respect, notaries are required to have a liability insurance policy.

Notaries may also be subject to disciplinary procedure.

State supervision of the activities of notaries is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, the Chamber of Notaries of the Czech Republic and notarial chambers.

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Professional associations

Notarial chambers, set up by law in the district of each regional court and in the district of the Municipal Court in Prague, exist for all notaries based in the relevant district. A notarial chamber is a legal entity which has its own organs and generates revenues.

The Chamber of Notaries of the Czech Republic (Notářská komora ČR) is an autonomous professional organisation composed of notarial chambers. A legal entity with its own income and organs, one of its tasks is the keeping and administration of the wills register; this is a private electronic list of wills, disinheritance instruments and documents revoking these acts, documents on the appointment and removal of executors in inheritance proceedings, etc. The Chamber of Notaries of the Czech Republic also keeps a register of pledges.

5. PUBLIC PROSECUTORS

Legal status

Public prosecutors are public officials whose task is to represent the state in the protection of the public interest, especially by bringing public actions in criminal proceedings, supervising the observance of legal regulations in places of custody or imprisonment, protective treatment, protective or institutional care, undertaking crime prevention activities and providing assistance to victims of crime.

Eligibility to be appointed a public prosecutor is contingent on Czech citizenship, full legal capacity, good character, university education in law, and moral qualities guaranteeing that the public prosecutor will duly carry out his duties.

Appointments process and tenure

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Public prosecutors, on passing a professional examination, are appointed by the Minister for Justice; on the date of appointment they must be at least 25 years old and must give their consent to their appointment as a public prosecutor and to the assignment of a particular public prosecutor’s office. They then take the oath of a public prosecutor before the Minister for Justice.

Public prosecutors prepare for their profession by gaining three years’ experience as legal trainees in the employment of a public prosecutor’s office.

Public prosecutors are appointed for an unlimited time; however they may be temporarily relieved of their duties by a decision of the Minister for Justice. Public prosecutors cease to hold their office when they reach the age of 70, if they die or are officially declared dead, in the event of full or partial incapacitation, if they refuse to take the oath, if they cease to be Czech citizens, if they assume an office incompatible with the position of public prosecutor, if they are convicted of a crime, if they are found incompetent to hold their office, or if their state of health makes it impossible to carry out their duties in the long term. Public prosecutors may also be relieved of their office in disciplinary proceedings or may resign.

Incompatibility of offices

Apart from the exceptions laid down by law, public prosecutors must not act as arbitrators or mediators in the resolution of legal disputes, represent participants in judicial proceedings or act as an agent of a claimant or party to judicial or administrative proceedings. In addition, except for their positions of public prosecutor, chief public prosecutor or deputy chief public prosecutor, or activities connected with temporary assignment to a ministry or the Judicial Academy, public prosecutors must not hold any other paid office or perform any other gainful activity, apart from the administration of their own assets and academic, teaching, literary, publicist and artistic activities, and activities within Government or ministerial advisory bodies or parliamentary bodies.

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Remuneration

This is governed by a legal regulation; the state pays the income of public prosecutors.

Rights and obligations of public prosecutors 

In the performance of their tasks, public prosecutors are obliged to respect the instructions of their superior, except in situations where such an instruction would be a violation of the law in a specific case.

Under the law, public prosecutors are also required to carry out their tasks responsibly and to proceed in a professional, conscientious, impartial and fair manner without undue delay; they must refuse any external intervention or other influence which could result in a breach of any of these obligations.

Public prosecutors are also required, by law, to keep confidential all matters which they learn about in connection with the performance of their activities; the attorney general may relieve them of this obligation where there are compelling reasons; the attorney general may be relieved of the obligation of confidentiality only by the Minister for Justice.

Categories and specialisations of public prosecutors:

The hierarchical structure of public prosecutor’s offices defines the offices of chief public prosecutors, i.e. the attorney general and high, regional, municipal, and district public prosecutors.

The specialisation of public prosecutors is governed by instructions of the attorney general; in essence the specialisation is in criminal or non-criminal matters.

Professional associations

The Union of Public Prosecutors of the Czech Republic (Unie státních zástupců ČR) is a voluntary professional organisation which aims to provide assistance in the performance of the tasks faced by a public prosecutor’s office and to promote lawfulness in decision-making without any influence. The Union also contributes to the training of public prosecutors and legal trainees and represents the interests of public prosecutors.

The Code of Professional Ethics for Public Prosecutors is a professional regulation.

Supervision of the activities of public prosecutors

Supervision of the activities of public prosecutors is carried out as part of the process to safeguard management and control relations between various levels of public prosecutor’s offices and within individual public prosecutor’s offices in the performance of their operations.

The aim of the administration of a public prosecutor’s office is to foster conditions in which the public prosecutor’s office can duly carry out operations, especially from the personnel, organisational, economic, financial and educational aspects, and to supervise the due fulfilment of tasks entrusted to the public prosecutor’s office. The central authority for the administration of a public prosecutor’s office is the Ministry of Justice; other bodies are chief public prosecutors and their deputies. Chief public prosecutors are held accountable to the Ministry of Justice for the administration of their office.

Professional liability

Under a separate legal regulation, the state is held liable for damage caused by a public prosecutor by means of an unlawful decision or incorrect official procedure.

Public prosecutors are also liable for disciplinary transgressions.

« Legal professions - General information | Czech Republic - General information »

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Last update: 17-12-2008

 
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