When can an appeal be used in civil proceedings?

An appeal in civil proceedings is one of three extraordinary remedies that can be used to change a final court decision. The concept and regulation of appeals have undergone major legal changes in recent years. Under what circumstances is an appeal now admissible, what is the procedure before the Supreme Court, and what are your chances of success?

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Chapters of the article

The extraordinary remedies offered by the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) include a motion to reopen proceedings, a motion for clarification, and an appeal. We have addressed the first two of these remedies in a separate article; we will now focus on the appeal.

Are you considering an appeal?

You must be represented by an attorney in order to litigate in the Supreme Court. Don’t underestimate the importance of your selection and be sure to choose a law firm with a proven track record. Our legal filings are meticulously prepared in every respect.  We will conduct a thorough analysis of your case and take care of the preparation of the lawsuit and representation in court, where we will vigorously enforce your rights.

Appeals and grounds of appeal

The former law on appeals contained several grounds of appeal. It was amended following a ruling of the Constitutional Court, which abolished some of the grounds. Subsequently, new legislation was adopted with effect from January 1, 2013. Now, appeals are allowed only against final decisions of appeal (i.e. regional or high courts).

In particular, a decision terminating the appeal proceedings may be challenged if the contested decision depends on the resolution of a question of substantive or procedural law:

  • In which the appellate court departed from the established case law of the Supreme Court– to properly define the grounds for the appeal, it is necessary to describe the legal question that was decided by the appellate court contrary to the case law of the Supreme Court. The appellant should also refer to the relevant decision of the Supreme Court, with which the challenged decision is in conflict, and describe the nature of the conflict.
  • Which has not yet been resolved in the decisions of the Supreme Court – in this case, the object of the appeal proceedings is to assess whether or not the Supreme Court has dealt with the legal issue in question in the past. At the same time, the proceedings should provide a general solution to the legal situation in question. However, it is not relevant for the fulfillment of the ground of appeal whether the question has already been dealt with, for example, by the Constitutional Court, but it is undoubtedly advisable to mention this fact in the appeal.
  • Which has been decided differently by the Supreme Court – that is to say, there is no uniform solution to the legal issue in question, since the individual chambers have decided differently and it is in the public interest to establish a uniform procedure.
  • That should be assessed differently by the Supreme Court. In this case, there is already case law of the Supreme Court, but the appellant has a reason to deviate from it. It is necessary to identify the relevant precedents to which the appeal related and explain why the perspective on the matter should be changed.

For an appeal to be admissible, it is sufficient if one of the above conditions is met.

The only new ground of appeal is the fact that the contested decision is based on an error of law. The decisive criterion for the admissibility of an appeal is therefore exclusively the legal criterion of the case. New facts or evidence are not relevant in this case. Put simply, it can be said that a departure from the settled case-law of the Supreme Court in similar cases is likely to result in an error of law on the part of the Court of Appeals or in the need to resolve a question of law in a different way.

The Supreme Court 

The only appellate court is the Supreme Court, located in Brno. In addition to the Constitutional Court’s annulment ruling, the change in the legal regulation of appeals was also influenced by the fact that the Supreme Court was overwhelmed by the large number of appeals, leading to an increase in the length of proceedings.

The Supreme Court rules in specialized chambers composed of a chairman and two other judges, or in one of the two large senates of a collegium, which consist of a chairman and at least eight other judges of the respective collegium. The judges form two collegia: the criminal collegium, and the civil and commercial collegium. The large senates decide only when a  three-member senate reaches a legal opinion that is different from the previous case law of the Supreme Court.

Inadmissibility of the appeal

The law regulates several cases in which the possibility of an appeal is not allowed. To mention at least some of them:

  • most matters relating to family law (i.e. divorce, maintenance, etc.), as well as matters governed by the Registered Partnership Act,
  • judgments and rulings issued in proceedings concerning monetary claims not exceeding CZK 50,000, with the exception of consumer contracts and employment relations,
  • in matters regarding stay of execution of decisions, and execution,
  • decisions on interim measures, disciplinary measures, expert opinions or interpreting fees, or decisions on costs of proceedings,
  • decisions by which the appellate court that annul the decision of the court of first instance and refer the case back to the court of first instance for further proceedings.

Deadline and procedure for filing an appeal

The deadline for filing an appeal is set by law at two months from the delivery of the decision of the appellate court. However, it is filed like other extraordinary appeals with the first instance court, although the second instance decision is always challenged. If it is filed within the deadline at the Supreme Court or the appellate court, the deadline is considered preserved. However, missing the deadline cannot be forgiven.

The appellant can file an appeal, i.e., the person who was a party to the previous proceedings before the appellate court, or their legal successors.

Only a party to the proceedings who has suffered harm as a result of the contested decision is entitled to appeal. Thus, a party who has been fully satisfied by the judgment of the appellate court cannot file an appeal.

Due to the high level of expertise and emphasis on the legal aspect of the matter, the appellant must in principle be represented by a lawyer (or a notary within the scope of their activities), unless they have a university degree in law themselves. An exception is also made for appellants who are legal entities, regions, municipalities, or the state, provided that they are represented by a person with a legal education.

What must the appeal contain?

  • Which decision it is directed against, whether it is a resolution or a judgment. It should also include the designation of the court that issued the decision, as well as the case number.
  • The extent to which the decision of the appellate court is contested (i.e. which judgments or parts thereof).
  • The grounds of appeal – the identification of the legal assessments considered incorrect by the appellate court, and the nature of this incorrectness.
  • The appellant must indicate the fulfillment of the conditions for the admissibility of the appeal. It is necessary to state why the appellant believes that the Supreme Court should admit the substantive examination of their appeal, according to the conditions specified in the Civil Procedure Code.
  • What the appellant seeks (e.g. annulment or amendment of the decision).

Procedure and decision-making of the Supreme Court

In practice, the Supreme Court does not review factual findings and does not conduct evidence proceedings. It therefore decides only on the basis of the case file and, as stated above, it therefore examines the legal aspect of the case. As a rule, it decides without ordering a hearing and therefore without the participation of the public.

The Supreme Court may:

  • reject the appeal if it was brought incorrectly or suffers from any defects. The court must give a decision rejecting the appeal within six months of the date on which the case was brought before it,
  • dismiss the appeal if it considers that the decision of the court at second instance was correct,
  • reverse an incorrect decision of the appellate court if the case can be decided directly on the basis of the case-file. However, this is more likely to happen in exceptional situations,
  • set aside the incorrect decision and remand the case for a new hearing.

Tip: Given the specifics that limit the filing of appeals (especially given that their main purpose should be the creation and unification of case law), the success rate of appeals is very low, around 5%. The majority of appeals filed in civil proceedings are rejected by the Supreme Court because they do not contain a sufficient statement of the presumption of admissibility or the grounds of appeal. In this case, it is always worth finding a lawyer who is experienced not only in legal practice but also in legal theory.

According to figures reported in the media, the average time taken by chambers to process appeals in criminal cases is 42 days; for civil appeals, the average time taken is about 160 days. However, there are also exceptional cases that can take up to two years to be processed.

The Supreme Court’s decisions are again delivered to the parties by the first instance courts, but the parties can find out the outcome within 24 hours of the decision being issued electronically on the court’s website.

If you disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, then you have only one defense. However, there are no further remedies, but rather a constitutional complaint, provided that there has been a violation of a party’s fundamental rights and freedoms in the previous proceedings.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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