Recently-introduced reforms to the Czech Code of Civil Procedure, the country’s new Act on Insurance Distribution, and the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence are among the topics Czech lawyers are most commonly discussing at the moment, according to Kocian Solc Balastik Partner Sylvie Sobolova.
“Actually, the new Civil Code is approaching its fifth anniversary at the end of this year,” Sobolova says, “but despite the fact that the new private law was introduced quite a long time ago, we haven't reformed the Civil Procedure Code yet, which comes from the mid-60s." The working group of the new procedural code recently released the first outline of principles for the proposed code, resulting in “lively discussions,” and, ultimately, a rejection by judges. As the proposal was prepared by academics without involvement of the judges, she says, the proposal was somewhat controversial. “If enforced, the new code will require that parties be represented by advocates, and judges are afraid that this will be too expensive for many people,” she explains. On the other hand, she says, the proposal might reflect an attempt to ease the burden on courts of needing to make sure parties are informed of and truly understand their rights and obligations.
The proposal also changes the current system of remedies in the Czech court system. According to Sobolova, while currently the appeal serves as a regular remedy, the cassation appeal to the Supreme Court is limited to issues of law and the Supreme Court does not normally hold hearings. She explains that, in addition, “the court’s judgement and decision become effective after the second instance, so when dealing with cassation appeals you usually already have an enforced or enforceable judgement of the higher or regional court.” The reforms would change this as by making the cassation appeal a regular remedy, Sobolova says, though she admits that she's not convinced it’s necessary, because parties already have two instances before a case gets to Supreme Court.
Sobolova says that a Class Actions bill is going to be introduced in the Czech Republic, “We already know the principles it should be based on,” she says, noting that the new legal framework provides for combination of opt-in and opt-out mechanisms depending on the value of the dispute, among other things. Another bill, the Act on Insurance Distribution, came into effect on December 1. Sobolova says the act underwent significant changes to reach its final form. “It reduces the number of categories of insurance intermediaries, unifies the qualification requirements, and introduces new rules, which aim to protect consumers and other customers.”
Finally, she brings up the question of ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (known as “The Istanbul Convention.”) “We are having a very emotional public debate on whether the Czech Republic should ratify the treaty or not, with many stakeholders involved,” she explains. "Many say ratification is unnecessary because there are already sufficient measures in our domestic law.” She adds that the Czech Bar Association, for one, believes that the Convention interferes with the right of confidentiality between clients and advocates. Her first impression upon reading the treaty was positive, she says, but she also adds that, “I’m a bit afraid that if applied mechanically it might introduce a new kind of discrimination.” Yet she admits it is difficult to make a judgment without a detailed analysis.