In a judgment handed down on August 23, 2017 (file no. III. ÚS 3425/16), the Czech Constitutional Court held that the Czech Supreme Court ("SC") had violated the complainant’s right to court protection under Art 36 (1) and Art 38 (2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The judgment found that the SC had erred in not ruling on the complainant’s request to stay an earlier Prague High Court decision.

The Constitutional Court addressed the SC’s practice of only issuing "positive" judgments on requests to stay a decision. As things stand, the SC only issues rulings when granting a stay order. No express judgment is given when it dismisses these motions.

To date, the SC has claimed that it is neither authorised nor obliged to issue judgments about these dismissals. This opinion is based on an interpretation of Sec. 243 of Act no. 99/1963 Coll., the Civil Procedure Code, as amended ("CPC") as well as on the claim that this is merely a procedural issue decided in a single instance with no option for further judicial review. The SC has, thus, seen the call for a (reasoned) decision as unduly concerned with a "formality" that would do nothing to protect the applicant and would only burden the SC with additional work.

In contrast, the Constitutional Court rejected the SC’s long-time practice as unconstitutional and held that this procedural remedy was, in fact, crucial to the system of legal protection. Drawing on due process principles, the Court held that there was no scope for a court decision "by omission" except where this form of decision-making was explicitly prescribed by law. The SC therefore needed to issue a decision in writing in a form that met all statutory requirements, including a statement of reasons, and this should be delivered to the parties to the proceedings.

Concerning the deadline for handing down this decision, the Constitutional Court found that while CPC does not prescribe a specific period, this deadline could be extrapolated from due process principles. Courts were required to take action to ensure the effective – and, thus, also prompt – protection of the rights of parties who had duly requested this protection. Given the aim and purpose of this procedural remedy, the SC had to decide on motions to stay enforcement without undue delay if not immediately.

Based on this Constitutional Court decision, the SC will need to change its current practices around decisions on motions to stay enforcement. In particular, the SC will need to decide on these motions without undue delay and it will have to issue a written judgment including reasoning in all cases – that is, even when it is dismissing a motion. 

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