Chapters of the article
When you disagree with the administrative authority
We deal with administrative authorities on many different issues in the course of our lives: disagreements with bills from telecommunications operators, building permits, tax proceedings, trade licence proceedings, misdemeanour proceedings, the issue of various certificates and so on. If you believe that an official has not made a fair and lawful decision in your case, there is a possibility to appeal or lodge an appeal directly under the administrative procedure and have the decision reviewed.
According to the Constitution of the Czech Republic, our citizens are guaranteed the right to judicial review of decisions of public administration bodies, so the decision of an administrative body does not have to be the end of the matter. Within our judiciary, there is a whole system of administrative courts that are ready to review an incorrect administrative decision and, if necessary, to advocate its change.
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Administrative court system
The administrative justice system can be decided either by regional courts within their administrative agenda (the administrative court is not a special separate court building, but it is an agenda within the ordinary regional court) or by the Supreme Administrative Court. According to statistics, 60% of the agenda of administrative courts also reaches the Supreme Administrative Court, which is currently overloaded. The Supreme Administrative Court, like some other important legal institutions, is based in Brno.
The Regional Court, as an administrative court, decides:
- appeals against decisions of an administrative authority,
- protection against inaction by an administrative authority,
- protection against unlawful interference by an administrative authority,
- in electoral matters and in matters of local and regional referendums,
- on the annulment of a measure of a general nature or parts thereof for contradiction with the law.
TheSupreme Administrative Court decides on extraordinary appeals against decisions of regional courts – i.e. cassation complaints. It thus unifies the case law on administrative law. However, it can also rule as an administrative court of first (and only) instance in certain cases, namely:
- competence actions between public authorities,
- dissolution of a political party or political movement, suspension or restoration of its activities.
Double track of administrative justice in the Czech Republic
The peculiarity of the Czech legal system in the field of administrative justice is its two tracks, each of which has a different agenda and follows different rules. Until 2002, the legal regulation of administrative justice was governed by Part Five of the Code of Civil Procedure. With the adoption of the Administrative Procedure Code, the administrative justice legislation was transferred to a separate procedural rule and Part Five of the Code of Civil Procedure was given a new content. Under this legal provision, civil, labour, family and commercial matters are now dealt with, but they used to be decided by the administrative authorities.
The key to determining the administrative rules and the competent court is whether the administrative authority was dealing with private or public rights. However, you will certainly not make a mistake if you consult a lawyer about the correct procedure.
If you are dealing with subjective rights, such as the aforementioned telecommunications or energy disputes, or disputes relating to the land register, the action must be brought before the civil court (the civil section of the district court), which proceeds in accordance with Part Five of the Code of Civil Procedure.
If your matter concerns, for example, taxes, construction proceedings, tax offences, trademarks or competition, it is a classic administrative procedure and you file an action with the administrative court and follow the Administrative Procedure Code.
How do the administrative courts decide?
In the case of the most common agenda, i.e. actions against decisions of administrative authorities, if the court grants the action, it annuls the contested decision and returns the case to the administrative authority with a binding legal opinion for further proceedings. In this case, therefore, the court does not replace the annulled decision of the administrative authority. The parties to the dispute here are not two private persons, but the applicant (who may be a natural or a legal person) and the administrative authority which took the decision at last instance. In some cases, the circumstances may indicate that other persons who may be affected by the proceedings before the court should also be involved.
However, different rules apply in the case of proceedings under Part Five of the Code of Civil Procedure. The proceedings are a new hearing of a private-law dispute which was originally before an administrative authority. The applicant cannot seek annulment of the administrative decision and referral of the case back for a fresh hearing. On the contrary, the action may be settled by a judgment on the merits replacing the original contested decision of the administrative authority. However, this must be the purpose of the statement of claim (the so-called petition), so it is worth having a lawyer prepare the claim to avoid incorrect wording. The party to the proceedings is not the administrative authority, but the applicant and those who were parties to the proceedings before the administrative authority.
Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic
TheSupreme Administrative Court (SAC) consists of a president (who is currently Karel Šimka), a vice-president and judges who rule in chambers:
- 10 three-member chambers (the president of the chamber and two judges) are in charge of cassation appeals,
- the seven-member Electoral Chamber decides on election complaints for the elections to the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, the European Parliament and the election of the President of the Republic, on motions concerning the registration of candidates for the office of President of the Republic and on the registration of candidates and lists of candidates for the elections to the European Parliament, on cassation complaints concerning local and regional referendums, and on motions to dissolve a political party or a political movement, to suspend or to reinstate its activities,
- a seven-member competence chamber shall rule on competence actions,
- the seven-member or nine-member extended chamber – decides on cases referred to it by another chamber if the decision reaches a different legal opinion from that expressed in another decision of the chamber.
Some simple procedural decisions may also be taken by the President of the Chamber. All the judges form a full court, which, on a proposal from the President, decides on the number of panels of the court. In order to ensure uniformity of court decisions, the Supreme Administrative Court publishes the Collection of Decisions.
Decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court
Many decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court attract media attention, either because of the subjects they concern or because of their broad impact.
In the past, for example, the rejection of a cassation complaint by the Prague City Council against a decision of the Municipal Court in Prague, which annulled the approval of the building permit for part of the Blanka tunnel complex, has attracted media attention. The reason was the failure to comply with one of the conditions of the building permit.
The extradition of the Russian hacker Yevgeny Nikulin to the USA was a case followed by the media. Here too, the Supreme Administrative Court was one of the important players, ruling on Nikulin’s cassation complaint. However, before its decision came down, Nikulin was extradited on the instructions of the then Minister of Justice Pelikán, which was, however, assessed as a premature step and prompted the payment of compensation for non-pecuniary damage in the amount of a quarter of a million crowns.
The Supreme Administrative Court also intervened in the case of an illegally constructed solar power plant built by so-called “godfathers” associated with ODS. The power plant was built on the basis of an illegal zoning decision and building permit, which was confirmed by the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem and subsequently by the Supreme Administrative Court.
Cases concerning covid measures taken hastily by state authorities were also monitored. According to one of the Supreme Administrative Court’s decisions , the Ministry’s measure on the compulsory wearing of respirators was unlawful; May’s measure was contrary to the law due to insufficient justification and incomplete evaluation of benefits and risks.