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How to Defend against a Decision of Czech Administrative Authorities

Most likely we have all, at some point, participated in administrative proceedings, be it a driving offence, application to obtain a certificate, or a construction permit. However, not always do the clerks decide to our liking. How should we defend ourselves against such decisions, and what are the typical problems that we encounter during administrative procedures?

Jak se bránit proti rozhodnutí ve správním řízení?
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Although administrative procedures often do not involve a barrister, people who feel cornered sometimes do turn to us. We have drafted a list of frequently-asked questions regarding administrative decisions and the ways to defend against them. Moreover, we’ll share an example from our practice, when we were able to turn the tide.

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What to do if I disagree with an administrative decision?

The one piece of information that we’ll need from you is whether the decision is legitimate or illegitimate. You must always be notified about your rights to demand remedy, including the filing period and to which authority you need to turn. Czech administrative law recognizes the following types of remedies for illegitimate decisions:

  • Appeal any participant of first-degree administrative proceedings may appeal within 15 days of the decision. Bear in mind that an appeal only challenges the decision itself, not its grounds. However, these grounds may be discussed to support argumentation against the decision. The appeal ought to be addressed to the first-degree authority that issued the decision in question, which may either opt for self-remedy (simply, the authority admits its mistake and doesn’t complicate matters further by an appellate procedure) or pass it on to a second-degree authority – an appellate procedure is then commenced.
  • Remonstrance is similar to an appeal and is filed under the same conditions. Unlike an appeal, however, it challenges a decision of a central administrative organ or ministry. It is resolved by the head of the given institution (typically a minister or chairperson), who may change, withdraw or confirm the original decision.
  • Opposition to an order issued by an administrative authority may be filed when a minor offence administrative procedure issues an order. If you oppose within 8 days of the issue, the order is revoked, and the matter is further examined by means of standard administrative proceedings. The opposing person may rest assured that they will not face a penalty more severe than that which they’re challenging. When the order is revoked, a standard minor offence procedure commences, and another decision is issued. If the alleged offender disagrees with this as well, they’re free to appeal.
Jak se bránit proti rozhodnutí ve správním řízení?

Tip: An on-the-spot fine represents a well-known example of an administrative order. Typically, this would be a spot fine for a traffic law violation. However, as this is a legitimate decision, it may not be challenged by filing an opposition. Therefore, if you disagree with the fine, refuse it and call for a standard administrative procedure.

May I sue right away?

If you disagree with an administrative decision, do appeal (or call for remedy otherwise) before anything else. First, your appeal is examined by other people, who may view your issue from a different perspective. And second, this is a condition required before you proceed with a petition to an administrative court.

I’ve missed the period of appeal

Once a decision becomes legitimate, it may only be remedied by an extraordinary proceeding. We wouldn’t like you to cling to the false hope that when you miss the period of appeal, you may automatically save the situation by merely filing one. However, if the matter is grave, it might be worth your while to consult a solicitor to see whether one of the following extraordinary remedies could be applied:

  • A review of administrative action may be called for if a suspicion exists that an unlawful decision has been made. Unlawfulness is truly the key word here, as review proceedings cannot be initiated for any other reason. Any person is free to point it out, i.e., this person needn’t directly participate in the proceedings.
  • A renewal of administrative proceedings may be demanded when new facts that already existed during the procedure but couldn’t have been taken into account are discovered after the decision became legally valid. For example, a new document clearly proving certain actualities has emerged, or a new witness has appeared. Furthermore, proceedings may be renewed if the evidence upon which the matter was decided is undoubtedly untrue;g., a witness is found guilty of a lie or false accusation during a parallel criminal prosecution. A renewal may be applied for within 3 months of the day on which the new actualities that may serve as grounds for the renewal were discovered. At the same time, the proceedings may not be renewed later than 3 years of the decision’s coming into force. The procedure is renewed by the authority that issued the last-degree decision.

Petitioning an administrative decision

If you feel that despite the remedies, your rights have been limited by an administrative decision, you might wish to bring action against a decision of an administrative court. A remedy (appeal or remonstrance) must precede your petition. Only when it doesn’t meet your expectations are you allowed to sue within 2 months of its delivery.  Please note that the term fixed for action is shorter in certain cases. Any decision may be re-examined when petitioning an administrative decision, with the exception of the explicitly excluded ones.

Jaké máte možnosti, když s rozhodnutím ve správním řízení nesouhlasíte?

A case from our practice:  Michal had a dispute with his mobile network operator at a time when mobile data wasn’t yet common. He only used a bare minimum of his data, as he normally got online via his computer with a satellite internet connection. His phone bills normally amounted to hundreds of crowns. However, one day, his operator surprised him with a bill of 5,500 crowns. Michal was absolutely sure that on the day that he was supposed to download huge amounts of data, he didn’t use his mobile phone at all. He even remembered that he was in a meeting, with the phone lying in front of him, which was witnessed by several people. He lost the dispute with the Czech Telecommunications Office despite filing a remonstrance, and therefore turned to us. We examined the whole case including the operator’s argumentation and the terms of use valid at the time of the incident. During the trial, we presented a series of new evidence, pointed out that the operator was bound to obtain their clients’ approval with the use of new mobile data packages, which they didn’t, and brought in the witnesses who confirmed that the mobile phone was not used at the particular time. With our assistance, Michal won the dispute in the end.

Where to file a petition against an administrative decision

The Czech legal system divides these petitions into two branches, depending on whether the rights in question are individual or public.

In the former case, such as the aforementioned telecommunications dispute, services, or disputes over the Land Register, the petition is addressed to a civil court (precisely, to a civil department of a local court), which then proceeds in accordance with the civil code.

In the latter case, e.g., taxes, construction permits, tax offences, trademarks or business competition, the petition is addressed to an administrative court, which proceeds in accordance with legal enactments in the area of administrative justice.

Must I be represented by a solicitor in the administrative court?

No, you needn’t be. This is only mandatory with cassation complaint trials held at the Supreme Administrative Court. However, as it is easy to get lost in the system of petitions against administrative decisions, we advise you to consult a lawyer, so that you don’t lose your claim. A solicitor will also tell you what the complaint must include, how to argue, and what the period for filing the petition is (some laws prescribe an exception to the usual two-month period for filing a petition).

What fees are paid when filing an administrative petition?

Some procedures come free of charge, for instance, those connected with a disabled pension and other matters related to pension insurance, guardianship benefits, foster care allowances or unemployment benefits. For a complete list, see the Act on Court Fees. Be prepared to pay between 1 – 5 thousand crowns for other procedures, depending on their type. The particular amount can be found in the appendix of, again, the Act on Court Fees, items 18 – 20.

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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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