How do I defend myself against a decision in an administrative procedure?

We all go through administrative procedures at some point in our lives: whether you have committed a traffic offence, applied for a certificate or are going through a building procedure. But often the officials don’t decide to your satisfaction. How can I defend myself against the decision and what are the typical problems that a party to an administrative procedure faces?

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People often handle administrative proceedings without the help of a lawyer. But sometimes they get stuck and turn to us for help. We have compiled a list of common or typical questions concerning decisions in administrative proceedings and the possibility of defending against them. We also give examples from our legal practice where our advice has helped to save the situation.

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What should I do if I disagree with an administrative decision?

The basic information we need to know from you is whether the decision is final or non-final. You must always be informed about the possibility of lodging an appeal, including to which body and within what time limit. Administrative law recognises the following types of ordinary appeals that can be lodged against non-final decisions:

  • Appeal – can be lodged within 15 days of the judgment by any party to the first instance administrative proceedings. Only the operative part of the decision may be challenged, not just its reasoning. However, you must work with the reasoning to support your arguments against the statement. Always address your appeal to the administrative authority that issued the contested decision. The latter may decide in what is known as ‘self-medication’ (the administrative authority effectively acknowledges its own wrongdoing and does not complicate the matter further by appealing) or it may refer the file to a higher authority, which will initiate the appeal procedure.

Tip: Do you have administrative proceedings coming up and would you like to prepare for them? Or are you a participant in the ongoing process and want to know the next steps of the administrative authority? Learn how an administrative procedure works, who the participants are and what to do if the administrative authority does not fulfil its role.

  • Adissolution is similar to an appeal and is filed under the same conditions. However, unlike an appeal, it is lodged against a decision of a central government body, ministry or other central administrative authority. Thus, under the Administrative Procedure Code, the appeal is always decided by the head of the institution concerned, who may amend or annul the decision or reject the appeal. Typically, therefore, the Minister or the President of the authority himself will decide.
  • Resistance against an order in administrative proceedings – this is an appeal against an administrative procedure concerning an offence in which the administrative authority has made a decision by order. If the opposition is lodged within eight days of the decision, the order is completely annulled and the matter proceeds to the normal proceedings. The advantage for the party filing the opposition is the certainty that the penalty subsequently imposed will no longer be more severe than the one against which the opposition was filed. Once the order has been revoked, the standard offence procedure takes place, resulting in a decision on the offence. If the party does not agree with this decision either, it is possible to appeal against it.

Tip: One form of order is an on-the-spot fine for an offence. Typically, this is a situation where an officer gives you a ticket for a traffic violation. However, because the issuance of a block warrant is a final decision, it is not possible to defend against it by filing a notice of appeal. Therefore, if you do not agree with the fine or the amount of the fine, do not consent to it and let the normal administrative procedure take place. Find out more about how to legally defend yourself against a traffic fine in our article.

Can I file an administrative action?

If you disagree with the decision of the administrative authority, you should always file an appeal (or any other appeal that is appropriate under the Administrative Code). Firstly, it is decided by other people who may have a completely different legal opinion on the matter, and secondly, it is an important condition for you to be able to proceed with an action in the administrative court system.

What to do if the time limit for appeal is missed?

If the decision becomes final, the Administrative Procedure Code offers the possibility of so-called extraordinary remedies. We do not want to give you false hope that if you miss the deadline, you can just reach into another pot of remedies and the administrative proceedings will continue. However, in the case of more significant proceedings, it is undoubtedly worth consulting a lawyer to see if any of the exceptional circumstances apply to your case. Exceptional remedies include:

  • Review proceedings – these can be used if there is a suspicion that an administrative decision is not in accordance with the law. It is the illegality of the decision that is crucial in this case, as review proceedings cannot be brought on any other grounds. Anyone who suspects that the decision is unlawful (it does not have to be a direct party to the proceedings) may initiate review proceedings.
  • Reopening of administrative proceedings – applies if, after the judgment has become final, new facts have come to light which existed at the time of the proceedings but could not be applied for objective reasons. For example, a new document has appeared which may serve as evidence, or a previously unknown witness has come forward. Another reason may be that the evidence that led to the original decision is demonstrably false, which will be revealed, for example, in other proceedings (i.e. it is not just a party’s allegation). An application for a retrial may be lodged no later than three months after the date on which new facts have come to light which may give rise to a retrial. It is also provided that the proceedings may not be reopened after the expiry of three years from the date on which the decision became final. The reopening of proceedings shall be initiated by the administrative authority which issued the decision at the last stage of the proceedings.

From law practice: Mr. Michal embarked on a dispute with his telecommunications operator. At a time when data packages were not yet common, he used only minimal data and used his computer with satellite internet to access the internet. His regular phone bills were in the hundreds, but the operator surprised him with a bill of 5,500. Mr Michal was absolutely certain that he had not used his phone at all on the day he was supposed to download large amounts of data. He even knew that he was in a meeting and had the phone in front of him, which he had witnesses to. However, the dispute with the Czech Telecommunications Office, including the appeal, did not go in his favour, so he turned to us. We went through the whole case and the operator’s arguments together. We also looked at the terms and conditions in force at the time of the incident. At trial we argued a series of new evidence, pointing to the operator’s commitment to have the client approve the use of new data packages, which the operator had not documented, and we also argued from witness testimony confirming the non-use of the phone at the time of the incident. With our help, Mr Michal won the court case.

Action against a decision of an administrative authority

Do you feel that your rights have been restricted in the administrative procedure despite the appeals you have lodged? If so, you can appeal against the decision of the administrative court. The action must be preceded by one of the ordinary legal remedies, i.e. an appeal or a statement of appeal. If the decision of the appeal body does not meet your expectations, you can bring an action within two months of receiving the decision (in some cases this period may be shorter). In the case of an administrative action, all decisions are reviewable. The only exceptions are those decisions that are specifically excluded by law.

Tip: Administrative justice is an area of law that is still not very well known among lay people. However, this does not mean that it is not used. On the contrary: administrative courts are overburdened and the Supreme Administrative Court is crying out for strengthening. What is on the agenda of the administrative courts and how can the administrative courts help you? Find out in our article.

Where can I take legal action against an administrative decision?

Our legal system divides actions against an administrative decision into two branches. The key is whether the decision before the administrative authority was about private or public rights.

If you have acted on your subjective rights, such as the telecommunications or energy disputes mentioned above, or disputes concerning the land registry, the action is brought before the civil court (the civil section of the district court), which proceeds according to Part Five of the Code of Civil Procedure.

If your matter concerns, for example, taxes, construction proceedings, tax offences, trademarks or competition, you should bring your case before the Administrative Court and follow the Administrative Procedure Code.

Is representation by a lawyer required for proceedings before the Administrative Court?

The law does not prescribe the need for representation by a lawyer. Representation by a lawyer is mandatory only in cassation appeal proceedings before the Supreme Administrative Court. Due to the certain lack of clarity that prevails regarding actions in the administrative court system, it is advisable to consult a lawyer to avoid losing your claim. A lawyer can also advise you on what to include in your claim, what to argue and the time limit for filing it (some laws provide for an exception to the normal two-month time limit for filing a claim).

What are the fees for filing an administrative action?

Some proceedings are completely exempt from fees – this applies, for example, to disability pension proceedings and other pension, care allowance, foster care or unemployment benefit matters. The full list of these proceedings is set out in the Court Fees Act. If the proceedings are subject to a fee, the fee is CZK 1,000 – 5,000, depending on the type of proceedings. The specific figures are set out in the Annex to the Court Fees Act under headings 18-20.

Tip: We’ve outlined what to do if you disagree with a disability pension decision in our article.

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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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