23 March, 2020
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Deadlines in court proceedings on “pause” because of the COVID-19 pandemic – obsolete*

Since the declaration of the state of emergency in Serbia on March 15, 2020, authorities have issued a number of decisions aimed at maintaining order and preventing the economy and the judicial system from collapsing. The latest in line with such protective measures were introduced on March 20, 2020 when the Government adopted the Decree on deadlines in court proceedings during the state of emergency (“Decree”).

 

What does the Decree stipulate?

Although it comprises only three articles, the Decree effectively brings to halt deadlines in most court proceedings as of March 15, 2020.

Firstly, the Decree suspends all deadlines for filing constitutional complaints, civil, administrative and private criminal lawsuits, as well as deadlines for initiating non-litigation and enforcement proceedings. Any deadline set for procedural activities in these proceedings, such as submission of appeals and other legal remedies, is also put on “hold” during the state of emergency.

Furthermore, the same solution applies to criminal, misdemeanor and economic offense proceedings – deadlines for submitting appeals or applying for extraordinary legal remedies in these cases are also paused until further notice.

 

What does this mean for parties in court proceedings?

It should be noted that, in most cases, deadlines “paused” by the Decree are preclusive in nature. In other words, a party that fails to submit a claim or an appeal before a set deadline would lose the right to submit it after the deadline passes. The Decree was adopted for this very reason – to prevent the detrimental effects of preclusion on such a party’s rights, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, since parties are less likely to respect the deadlines due to reasons beyond their control.

But what does this mean in practice, exactly?

For instance, when litigation ends with a judgment, the dissatisfied party has the right to appeal within 15 days following the receipt of the judgment. If the judgment was delivered to the party on March 10 (five days before the state of emergency was proclaimed), then the deadline for filing an appeal would fall on March 25 in the normal course of events. Having in mind the ongoing pandemic situation, it is possible that the party would omit to appeal the judgment on time, which could have negative consequences on the party’s rights. However, as a result of the Decree, that deadline will now be paused on March 15 (when the state of emergency was declared) and will continue to run once the state of emergency is lifted, essentially giving the dissatisfied party additional 10 days to submit the appeal once the state of emergency ceases to be in place.

 

For more information, please contact us via covid19@geciclaw.com