An Introduction to the Czech Legal System and Legal Resources Online
By Michal Bobek
Michal Bobek is a Ph.D. researcher at the European University Institute in Florence and a legal assistant (law clerk) to the Chief Justice, Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic. B.A. (international studies, Charles University); M.A. (international relations, Charles University); M.A. (law, Charles University), Diploma (University of Cambridge); MJur (University of Oxford; Jenkins Scholar and Visegrad Fellow) further studies at l´Institut d´etudes européennes, Université libre de Bruxelles (Erasmus/Socrates) and T.C. Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland, Australia (Sasakawa Fellow).
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Table of contents
2.2. The Executive
2.2.2. The Government
2.2.3. The Ministries
2.3.1. Territorial Self-Government
2.3.2. Professional Self-Government
2.4. The Judiciary
2.4.2. Administrative Courts
2.4.3. The Constitutional Court
3.1. Sources of Law
3.2.1. Types of Legislation
3.2.2. Legislative Process
3.3. Case Law
3.4. Legal Doctrine
4.2.2. Public Prosecutor
4.2.3. Public Notary
5.1. Legislation Online
5.3. Legal Databases
5.5. Legal Publishers
5.6. Law Libraries
5.10. Links of Interest
The Czech Republic is a land-locked country in Central Europe. It is a relatively small country (surface 78 thousand sq km), neighbouring Germany in the West, Poland in the North, Slovakia in the East and Austria in the South.
The Czech Republic is one of the two successor states established in 1993 upon the peaceful and negotiated dissolution of the Czechoslovakia (the other successor being the Slovak Republic). The Czechoslovak Republic was in turn created following the break-down of the Austria-Hungary in 1918.
The capital of the Czech Republic is Prague (Art. 13 of the Czech Constitution). The legislature, the head of state and the most of the executive is located in the capital. The “capital” of the judiciary is however the city of Brno, where both Supreme courts are located (Supreme Court as well as Supreme Administrative Court), the Constitutional Court and other judiciary related offices (Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office, the Ombudsman etc.).
National currency is the Czech Crown (koruna). The Czech Republic intends to join the Single European Currency (Euro). No precise date has however been set yet.
The Czech Republic is a unitary state. The only official language is Czech. Czech belongs to the Slavic language family.
The population of the Czech Republic is about 10.2 million people (2006 est.).
The Czech legal system is a “continental” legal system, more specifically, due to common historical roots, it can be said to belong to the “Germanic” legal culture. The characteristics of the legal system are the following ones:
· principle areas of law and procedure are codified (Civil and Criminal Codes, Codes of Criminal, Civil and Administrative Procedure etc.);
· the system of legal sources is hierarchical, forming a pyramidal structure of legal force within the legal system;
· only written law (legislature) is, at least in theory, recognised as source of law.
The Constitution of the Czech Republic (hereinafter CCR) (in English), adopted by the Czech National Council on 16th December 1992 defines the Czech Republic as a sovereign, unitary, and democratic state governed by the rule of law, founded on respect for the rights and freedoms of man and of citizens (Art. 1 (1) CCR).
An important part of the Constitution and constitutional order generally is the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms (Art. 3 and Art. 112 (1) CCR). Albeit being in a separate constitutional law, it has the same force as the Constitution itself.
The political system is a parliamentary democracy. The head of state is the President of the Republic, elected in a joint session of both chambers of the Parliament (Art. 54 and f. CCR). The functions of the head of state are mostly representative; the genuine power is vested in the prime minister, who is in turn politically responsible to the Parliament (lower chamber, i.e. the Chamber of Deputies).
The central state power is divided into the classical three powers, namely:
· legislature = the Parliament of the Czech Republic, consisting of the lower house (Chamber of Deputies) and the upper house (the Senate);
· the executive = the head of state (the president of the Republic) and the government (as the highest body of the executive power);
· the judiciary = the courts of general jurisdiction (civil and criminal), administrative courts and the Constitutional Court.
There are other central bodies, which enjoy high degree of independence from the central government and cannot be therefore associated with any of the three classical powers: the Czech National Bank, the Supreme Auditing Office and the Ombudsman.
There are also territorial self-governing units: municipalities and regions.
The legislative power is vested in the Parliament (Art. 15(1) CCR). The Parliament consists of two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies (Poslanecká sn?movna) and the Senate (Senát).
The Chamber of Deputies has 200 members who are elected every four years. The renewal of the Chamber is always complete. The Chamber holds standing sessions. It elects its Chairperson and the Vice-chairperson, establishes committees and investigation commissions. The internal functioning of the Chamber is regulated by the Standing Rules of the Chamber of Deputies (law no. 90/1995 Coll., in English).
Members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected by secret ballot on the basis of universal, equal and direct right to vote, according to the principle of proportional representation.
The upper chamber, the Senate is a permanent body. It is composed of 81 senators, who are elected to a six-year term of office. Every second year elections for one third of the senators are held. There is thus partial renewal of the Senate every 2 years.
Senators are also elected by secret ballot on the basis of universal, equal and direct right to vote, however according to the principle of majority rule. The election has normally two rounds: in the first round, a person is elected who receives total majority of all votes given (i.e. more than 50% votes). If no one is able to unite the total majority in the first round, a second round is held; in the second round, simple majority of votes is sufficient (i.e. the first pass the post system).
The Senate has a stabilising role in the constitutional system; firstly, because of its permanent session, it is empowered to adopt legislative measures even when the Chamber of Deputies is dissolved (Art. 33 CCR). Secondly, because of its continuity, it tends to be a more moderate body than the Chamber of Deputies. The internal functioning of the Senate is regulated by the Standing Rules of the Senate (law no. 107/1999 Coll., in English).
The executive power is shared between the President of the Republic and the Government.
The President (president republiky) is the head of state. He/she is elected at a joint meeting of both chambers of the Parliament. The term of office is 5 years, with one re-election possible.
The powers of the president are mostly of representative and ceremonial nature. There is a number of powers the president is entitled to realise acting alone (i.e. without the consent of the prime minister or the responsible minister). These are contained in Art. 62 CCR.
The president’s powers contained in Art. 63 CCR and those established by law do, however, require the countersignature of the Prime Minister or of a member of the government designated by him. In the case of the exercise of these powers, which are more numerous than those of the president acting alone, the government is politically responsible for the decisions of the President.
The first president of the independent Czech Republic was Václav Havel (1993 – 2003). The second president, elected in 2003, is Václav Klaus.
2.2.2. The Government
The government (vláda) is the highest body of executive power. It consists of the Prime Minister, deputy prime ministers and ministers.
The government is politically responsible to the Chamber of Deputies. Following a general election, the President of the Republic designates a potential Prime Minister. Upon the proposal of the designated Prime Minister, the President of the Republic appoints other members of the government and entrusts them with the management of the respective portfolios. Within 30 days of the appointment, the government as a college shall go in the Chamber of Deputies and ask it for a vote of confidence (for the detailed procedure and its variations see Art. 68 CCR).
The government decides as a college by an absolute majority of all its members.
Members of the Government are generally at the same time heads of respective ministries. There are not many members of the government without a ministerial responsibility for a department (so-called “ministr bez portfeje”).
The ministers are appointed by the President of the Republic upon the proposal of the Prime Minister. The President of the Republic will also recall a minister or a member of the cabinet if the Prime Minister so proposes.
The number and portfolios of individual ministries are established by a statute (law no. 2/1969 Coll., on the Establishment of Ministries and Other Central Bodies of State Administration, as numerously amended). The current number of ministries is 15. These are:
- Ministry of Finance
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport
- Ministry of Culture
- Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Interior
- Ministry of Industry and Trade
- Ministry for Regional Development
- Ministry of Agriculture
- Ministry of Defence
- Ministry of Transport
- Ministry of Environment
- Ministry of Informatics
There is a considerable number of other central agencies, established by a statute, that perform vital administrative tasks. These agencies are not managed by a member of the Government. Their head is, however, appointed by the government. These agencies include:
- The Czech Statistical Bureau
- The Czech Survey and Land Registry Office
- The Office for Industrial Property
- The Office for the Protection of Competition
- The National Security Office
- The Czech Telecommunications Office
There are other central authorities, that are, to a high degree, independent of the government. The bodies are entrusted with realising administrative task sometimes running against the interests of the government of the day. Their independence is guaranteed by the special way of appointing the head of the body (typically for a fixed period of time) and financial independence.
The Supreme Auditing Office performs audits on the management of state property and the implementation of the state budget. The president and the vice-president of the Supreme Auditing Office are appointed by the President of the Republic on the basis of the nomination made by the Chamber of Deputies. The functioning of the Office is regulated by law no. 166/1993 Coll., the Supreme Auditing Office Act (in English).
The Czech National Bank is the state central bank, entrusted with maintaining the price stability, issuing of banknotes and supervision of banking regulations. Detailed regulation is laid down by law no. 6/1993 Coll., the Czech National Bank Act.
The office of the Ombudsperson (the Public Protector of Rights) was created in late 1990 modelled on the Scandinavian example. The task of the Ombudsperson is to protect people from administrative malpractice or inactivity. Detailed provisions are contained in the law no. 349/1999 Coll., the Public Protector of Rights Act (in English).
There are two types of self-government in the Czech Republic: territorial and profession. In both cases, the central government and the central legislative power (the Parliament) have delegated certain legislative and executive powers to specified bodies (cf. chapter 7 of the Constitution of the Czech Republic).
Territorial self-government (územní samospráva) is realised on two levels:
- Local communities (municipalities), which are the basic territorial self-governing units (obce);
- Regions, which are so-called higher territorial self-governing units (vyšší územn?-samosprávné celky).
The Czech Republic is a unitary state, which delegates two types of powers to territorial units:
(i) the power of self-administration in certain areas, where the territorial unit remains free to adopt legislation if it wishes to do so (area of independent powers of self-administration);
(ii) the exercise of public authority, where the territorial unit acts in the exercise of public authority and of concrete public competence and where it is obliged to act following detailed instruction issued by the central government. In this latter function, territorial units act as a kind of decentralised bodies of the government (area of the exercise of assigned public administration).
There are 14 regions. They were created by the constitutional law no. 347/1997 Coll., on the Creation of Higher Territorial Self-governing Units (in English). The composition, functioning and powers of the regions are set by law no. 129/2000 Coll., the Regions Act.
The composition, functioning and powers of municipalities are laid down by law no. 128/2000 Coll., Municipalities Act.
Article 105 CCR provides for the possibility of the state administration being delegated to self-governing bodies if so provided by a statute. Statutory basis for professional self-governance (profesní samospráva) can be found in a number of statutes setting up professional self-regulatory bodies, such as:
- The Czech Bar Association, established by law no. 85/1996 Coll., the Legal Profession Act (available in English);
- The Chamber of Tax Advisors, established by law no. 523/1992 Coll., Tax Advising and the Chamber of Tax Advisors Act;
- The Czech Chamber of Surgeons;
- The Czech Dental Chamber;
- The Czech Apothecary Chamber all three being established by law no. 220/1991 Coll., the Czech Chamber of Surgeons, the Czech Dentists´ Chamber and the Czech Apothecary Chamber Act;
- The Czech Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons established by law no. 381/1991 Coll., the Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons of the Czech Republic Act.
The chambers typically exercise certain degree of disciplinary, ethical and regulatory powers vis-à-vis its members, with membership being the precondition for the exercise of the respective regulated profession. Most of the decisions of the bodies of these chambers can be reviewed at administrative justice.
The basic regulation of the judicial function in the Czech Republic is provided by law no. 6/2002 Coll., Courts, Judges, Lay-judges and the State Administration of Courts Act [the Judges Act 2002], available in Czech.
There are three distinct jurisdictions: courts of general jurisdiction, administrative courts and the Constitutional Court. The two latter are specialised jurisdictions – their competence must be expressly provided for in law. If no such provision exists, the matter will be dealt with by the courts of general jurisdiction (civil courts).
There is no trial by jury. There is, however, the laic participation in the administration of justice in the form of laypersons sitting as judges in chambers, hearing cases at first instance. Laypersons are elected by local councils (§ 64 and f. Judges Act 2002). Two lay judges sit with a professional judge, hearing non-specialised cases at first instance. Appellate and Supreme courts´ chambers are composed of professional judges only.
The Czech Republic has a system of career judiciary; this system has, however, been recently modified by the requirement of 30 years of age for new judges (§ 60 (1) Judges Act 2002). The judges are appointed by the President of the Republic, following a three year period of specialised training within the courts. Judges are appointed for life and can be only removed following disciplinary proceedings conducted by a special judicial ethics panel, composed of senior judges (cf. law no. 7/2002 Coll., on Disciplinary Proceedings Concerning Judges and Prosecutors).
There is a limited self-administration of the courts, mostly at the supreme level. The state administration of courts has repeatedly been criticised on the international as well as domestic forum (cf. e.g. the decision of the Constitutional Court of 18th June 2002, case no. Pl.ÚS 7/02, English translation). The state administration of the courts is exercised by the Ministry of Justice and involves such crucial elements as the courts´ budgeting or the appointment of presidents and vice-presidents of the courts (cf. part III of the Judges Act 2002).
The territorial as well as personal competence of the courts together with the exact address of each court and other useful information may be found on the server of the Czech judiciary.
Civil and criminal courts share the same judicial structure. Together, they form the courts of general jurisdiction (obecné soudnictví). They are competent in all type of disputes with the exception of those expressly reserved for the administrative courts or the Constitutional Court.
The structure, functions and powers of the courts of general jurisdiction are regulated by law no. 6/2002 Coll., the Judges Act 2002.
The structure of the courts is as follows:
- Supreme Court located in Brno;
- 2 High Courts located in Praha and Olomouc;
- 8 Regional courts located in all the regional centres;
- 86 District courts.
As far as the access to the case-law of the courts of general jurisdiction is concerned, only the decisions of the Supreme Court are published. Firstly, there is the official selection of the Court’s case-law, published in its Collection of the decisions of the Supreme Court published by C.H.Beck Publishers. All decisions of the Court (from 2000 onwards) are also accessible electronically.
The decisions of lower courts are not published, apart from occasional case-notes in one of the legal periodicals.
The general courts of first instance are the district courts. In enumerated cases (Art. 9 CCivJ), the courts of first instance are regional courts. The list of cases when regional courts act as courts of first instance is quite long and complex, the most important cases are:
- slander, libel and generally disputes in matters of personal reputation;
- copyright and intellectual property;
- commercial law disputes, arising under the provisions of the law no. 513/1991 Coll., Commercial Code;
- cheques, bills of exchange, commercial instruments and their derivates.
Regional courts decide on appeals (odvolání) against the decisions of district courts rendered on the first instance. In cases where the court of first instance is the regional court, the appellate court is one of the two High Courts.
The Supreme Courts decides, as the court of third and last instance, about extraordinary appeals (dovolání) against the final decisions of regional or high courts, acting as appellate courts. This type of extraordinary remedy should be limited to cases of general legal significance (cf. Art. 237 CCivJ).
The procedural norm in the area of criminal justice is law no. 141/1961 Coll., the Code of Criminal Justice (CCrimJ), in Czech. A special procedural regime was recently introduced for criminal liability of persons under 15 years of age (law no 218/2003 Coll., Juvenile Criminal Justice Act).
The courts of first instance in criminal matters are generally district courts. If, however, the criminal offence is punishable by at least 5 years imprisonment, the courts of first instance become the regional courts.
An appeal against the first-instance decision of the district court goes to the regional court. Appeals against decisions rendered on the first instance by regional courts are assessed by a High Court on appeal.
The Supreme Court decides on extraordinary appeals (dovolání) against final appellate decisions of regional courts and high courts. An extraordinary appeal should be limited to questions of law only. There is another special remedy in criminal matters before the Supreme Court, the so-called complaint of illegality (stížnost pro porušení zákona). Only the Minister of Justice is entitled to file this extraordinary remedy before the Supreme Court; its availability is limited to substantial flaws in the procedure, which may have caused the illegality of a (otherwise final) decision (§ 266 CCrimJ).
Administrative judiciary (správní soudnictví) is a two-layer system: specialised administrative chambers within regional courts act as courts of first instance. The court of second and last instance is the Supreme Administrative Court (Nejvyšší správní soud), seated in Brno.
The organisation of the administrative justice is laid down in the law n. 150/2002 Coll., the Code of Administrative Justice (English translation), [CAJ 2002].
Specialised chambers of regional courts are the administrative courts of first instance. The general remedy against a final decision of a court of first instance in administrative matters is the cassation complaint , which is dealt with by the Supreme Administrative Court (§ 102 and f. CAJ 2002).
The task of the administrative courts is to protect individual rights in the area of public law. The task is realised in 4 main types of proceeding (cf. § 4 CAJ 2002):
- judicial protection against unlawful administrative acts taken by public authorities (judicial review of administrative acts);
- protection against the inaction of the public authority;
- protection against unlawful interference of an public authority into the protected sphere of an individual, where however no formal administrative decision is taken;
- competence complaints.
Administrative courts furthermore decide on election matters (registration, voting etc) and matters concerning political parties and political movements (registration, dissolution).
Competence conflicts between the administrative court and the courts of general jurisdiction (civil courts) are resolved by a special judicial panel composed of equal number of justices of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. Further details are set by law no. 131/2002 Coll., on Deciding Certain Conflicts over Competence (in Czech).
The decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court are published in two ways. Firstly, there is the official Collection of the Decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court (Sbírka rozhodnutí Nejvyššího správního soudu), which the Court publishes monthly in a paper edition in cooperation with ASPI Publishers. This Collection contains a selection of crucial decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court. Secondly, the Court’s decisions are also made publicly available (in Czech only) on the website of the Court.
The constitutional jurisdiction is represented by one specialised Constitutional Court (Ústavní soud), seated in Brno. The basic provisions concerning the functioning of the Constitutional Court are contained in Articles 83 – 89 CCR. Detailed provisions are to be found in the law no. 182/1993 Coll. - the Constitutional Court Act (English translation).
The structure and functions of the Czech Constitutional Court are, similarly to its Austrian and German counterparts, rooted in the Kelsenian conception of constitutional jurisdictions and constitutional review. The then Czechoslovak Constitutional Court, founded already in 1919, was one of the first constitutional courts worldwide.
The contemporary Czech Constitutional Court is the judicial body responsible for the protection of constitutionality (Art. 83 CCR). It is composed of fifteen justices appointed for a period of ten years (re-appointment possible). The justices are appointed by the president of the Republic with the consent of the Senate.
There are various types of procedure before the Constitutional Court (cf. Art. 87 CCR). The most important ones are twofold: the “abstract” and the “concrete” review of constitutionality.
In both cases, the Constitutional Court reviews the compatibility of an act with the constitutionally guaranteed basic rights and fundamental freedoms. The difference is the type of act subjected to review: “abstract” review is concerned with statutes which are in conflict with the constitutional order, no application onto the individual case being necessary. The number of potential applicants in this type of review is limited to state authorities: the president of the Republic, a group of deputies or senators or the government.
The second type of review of constitutionality is the “concrete” review: this is realised in the form of decisions over constitutional complaints against final decisions or other encroachments by public authorities infringing constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights and basic freedoms. In this type of proceeding, any type of an act or omission of a public authority or judicial decision can be challenged.
The decisions of the Constitutional Court are published in the official collection of decisions of the Court (Sbírka nález? a usnesení Ústavního soudu), published by the C.H.Beck Publishers, Prague. The Court’s jurisprudence is also available for free online, unfortunately only in Czech. There is, however, a representative selection of the Court’s judgments translated into English.
The Czech legal system is a civil law system. It can be grouped within the Germanic continental legal culture.
The substantial areas of law are codified. The main codes are:
- The Civil Code – law no. 40/1964 Coll. [CivC] – is the basic code, providing foundations for all the area of private law and the legal system generally, containing provisions on legal personality and subjects of legal relations, legal rights and obligations, types of obligations and contracts, unjust enrichment, civil liability, succession.
- The Commercial Code – law no. 513/1991 Coll. [ComC] – regulates the relationships between undertakings and commercial activity generally, types of commercial contracts and obligations, law of companies (types, incorporation, company rules, dissolution), some special provisions on liability in commercial transactions and competition law.
- The Criminal Code – law no. 140/1961 Coll. [CrimC] – defines the types of behaviour constituting a criminal offence, contains enumerative list of criminal offences and types of punishment.
The main procedural codes are:
- The Code of Civil Justice - law no. 99/1963 Coll.[CCivJ] – basic code of judicial procedure containing the rules for the courts of general jurisdiction acting in civil and commercial cases.
- The Code of Criminal Justice - law no. 141/1961 Coll. [CCrimJ] – contains procedural rules for the investigation, prosecution and execution of sanctions in matters falling under the Criminal Code.
- The Code of Administrative Procedure – law no. 500/2004 Coll. [CAP] – codifies the rules of procedure for administrative authorities when deciding on individual rights of natural and legal persons in the area of public administration.
- The Code of Administrative Justice - law n. 150/2002 Coll. [CAdminJ] – lays down the jurisdiction and competence of administrative courts acting in administrative justice, i.e. protecting individual public rights against unlawful decision or inactivity of public administration.
Sources of law are nowhere fully or exhaustively listed. The sources of law and their hierarchy are discerned by the legal doctrine and followed by the practice and in the case-law.
The legal order is assorted in a pyramidal-type structure (the Kelsenian pyramid of norms), where the lower levels of the pyramid have to be compatible with the higher.
The structure is as follows:
- Constitution and constitutional laws (including the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms)
- International treaties ratified by the Parliament (Art. 10 CCR)
- Statutes adopted by the Parliament
- Derived legislation (adopted by the government and ministries)
- Legislative acts of self-regulated entities (territorial as well as professional)
Since the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union, Community law and its legislative sources (primary law, secondary law – regulation, directives, decisions etc) also became part of the Czech legal order.
The various types of legislation are distinguished by two key elements:
- Who adopts the legislative act?
- The Parliament – constitutional laws, ratification of some international treaties, laws;
- The government, various ministries or state central bodies – orders and regulations (derived legislation);
- Self-governing units (derived legislation).
- What majority (or legislative procedure) is required for the adoption of the legislation? This distinction applies mostly to the Parliament, where various legislation may be adopted with different legislative majority being required:
- Constitutional majority – the concurring will of three-fifths of all the members of the Chamber of Deputies and three-fifths of all members of the Senate present (Art. 39 (4) CRR);
- Qualified majority in both chambers – the concurrence of an absolute majority of all Deputies and an absolute majority of all Senators (Art. 39 (3) CCR);
- Consent of both Chambers – only simple majority in both Chambers is necessary, but both have to agree on the bill, i.e. the Chamber of Deputies cannot outvote the Senate (Art. 40 CCR);
- Simple majority – simple majority of the present and voting members of each chamber is required, one-third of the members of each chamber constituting a quorum (Art. 39 CRR);
- Simple majority in Senate only (Art. 33 CCR).
Constitutional laws (ústavní zákony) are legislative acts of the highest force. They are passed by a special majority being necessary in both Chambers of Parliament and with the agreement of both chambers (the concurrence of three-fifths of all Deputies and three fifths of all senators present – Art. 39 (4) CRR).
There is a plurality of constitutional laws (i.e. not a single constitutional document), all the constitutional laws forming the so-called constitutional order (ústavní po?ádek) of the Czech Republic (Art. 112 CCR).
The most important constitutional laws are:
- Constitutional law no. 1/1993 Coll., the Constitution of the Czech Republic, in English;
- Resolution no. 2/1993 Coll. of the Presidium of the Czech National Council of 16 December 1992 on the declaration of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms as a part of the constitutional order of the Czech Republic, in English;
- Constitutional law no. 110/1998 Sb., on the Security of the Czech Republic, in English;
- Constitutional law no. 347/1997 Coll., on the Creation of Higher Territorial Self-Governing Units, in English.
International treaties ratified under Art. 10 CCR take precedence over simple laws. This means that in the case of conflict between a provision of a law and a provision of an international treaty adopted under Art. 10 CCR, the latter shall prevail. The most important treaty in this category is the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Laws (zákony) are the universal form of decision making adopted by the Parliament. For a law to be adopted, the simple majority of the present members in the Chamber of Deputies and the simple majority of present senators (i.e. simple majority in both houses) are required (Art. 39 (1) and (2) CCR).
In the legislative process leading to the adoption of a simple law, the political will of the Chamber of Deputies is decisive. If, in the course of this legislative procedure, the Senate rejects a bill, the Chamber of Deputies can uphold the bill and pass it against the will of the Senate by an absolute majority of all Deputies (Art. 47 CCR). The same goes for the veto of the President of the Republic, which can also be overturned and the bill approved by an absolute majority of the all the Deputies (Art. 50 (2) CCR).
Consent laws are special sort of laws, for the adoption of which is basically required the concurrence of the will of both chambers, i.e. the Chamber of Deputies cannot overturn the negative vote in the Senate. These are types of laws are provided in Art. 39 (3) CCR and Art. 40 CRR (by absolute majority and qualified majority respectively) and include issues such as electoral laws, laws concerning the principles of dealings and relations of both chambers, movements of troops or declaration of war.
Senate’s legislative measures are a special type of legislation with the force of law (Art. 33 CCR). Their purpose is to keep the legislative power of the Czech Republic operational even if the Chamber of Deputies is dissolved. Should such a situation arise, the Senate is empowered to adopt legislative measures concerning matters which cannot be delayed and which would otherwise require the adoption of a law. The legislative measures of the Senate must be ratified by the Chamber of Deputies at its first meeting. Should they not be ratified, they cease to be in force. This special type of legislative acts has, however, not yet been used.
Government orders are a form of derived legislation, adopted by the government as a college. Albeit being a form of derived legislation, an express provision authorising the government to adopt a precise order is not necessary. The government is entitled to pass orders of its own motion, provided that the orders are strictly limited to the implementation of the laws and that they remain within the bounds thereof (cf. Art. 78 CCR).
Regulations (vyhlášky) – are the other principle form of derived legislation, adopted by the ministries and other central administrative bodies or self-governing bodies. Unlikely the government orders, regulations can be issued only upon an express empowerment contained in the respective law. They must of course also stay within the bounds of the law (Art. 79 (3) CCR).
The legislative process varies according to the type of legislation adopted. If concentrating on the legislative process in the Parliament (i.e. adoption of laws), all the bills (návrhy zákon?) are introduced in the Chamber of Deputies. Bills may be introduced by Deputies, groups of Deputies, the Senate, the government, or representative bodies of higher self-governing territorial units (i.e. regions) (Art. 42 CCR). In practice, the great majority of the bills are introduced by the government.
The detailed provisions of the (floor) debate in both chambers of the Parliament are regulated by the Rules of Procedure of both chambers (by law no. 90/1995 Coll., Standing Rules of the Chamber of Deputies Act, in English, and by law no. 107/1999 Coll., Standing Rules of the Senate Act, in English, respectively).
For legislation to be valid, it must be duly promulgated first (Art. 52 CRR). The mode of promulgation of legislation is laid down by the law no. 309/1999 Coll., the Collection of Laws and the Collection of International Treaties Act. Generally speaking, all the abstract legal acts of general application must be published in the Collection of Laws. All the international laws by which the Czech Republic is bound must be published in the Collection of International Treaties, where the authoritative foreign version, as well as the Czech version, is published simultaneously.
If an act is published in the Collection of laws (Sbírka zákonu, abbreviated in Czech as “Sb.”), the standard form of citation is:
“number of the document”/”year of the publication” Coll.
The number of every document is unique. The document number 1/1993 Coll. thus refers to the first document published in the Collection of laws in the year 1993, which was the Constitution of the Czech Republic. The publication in the Collection of International Treaties (Sbírka mezinárodních smluv, abbreviated in Czech as “Sb.m.s.”) follows the same numbering principles.
Both Collections are published in a printed version by the Ministry of Interior. They are also fully accessible online in a “pdf” format (portable document format) from 1945 onwards at the Ministry of Interior page or on the Sagit Publishing site (access free of charge).
From the traditional continental dogmatic point of view, case law is not a recognised source of law. This perception still holds true of the Czech legal theory. In practice, however, the decisions of the courts, especially the decisions of Supreme Courts and the Constitutional Court, shape the legal system considerably.
From the 1989 onwards, there is an undeniable and continuous rise of the importance of case law in the Czech legal system.
Legal doctrine is not a source of law in the Czech legal system.
The general legal programme offered by the Czech law public law schools is the 5 year lasting M.A. (magistr, abbreviated with Mgr. before the name). It is the qualifying degree and the minimal requirement for any traditional legal profession (attorney, prosecutor, judge).
Higher degrees are the JUDr. (iuris utrisque doctor, so-called “small” doctorate in law, written before the name) and the research degree of Ph.D (“normal” doctorate in law, written after the name). The small doctorate is obtained by submitting a written piece of work anytime after completing the Magister. The normal doctorate is obtained by research and after submitting a dissertation. Other academic titles one may encounter especially with more senior lawyers are the CSc. (Candidate of Science) or the higher degree of DrSc. (Doctor of Science), both written after the name. These titles are no longer awarded.
The Czech law faculties will gradually be obliged to implement the Bologna model of higher education consisting of 3 years Bachelor, 2 years Master and 3 years Doctorate.
There are 4 public law schools that offer full legal education: Praha (Prague), Brno, Plze? (Pilsen) and Olomouc. There are also some private law schools in Prague, Brno and Karlovy Vary. These however lack the state accreditation for providing full magister education in law. They offer only bachelor education in law, often accredited by foreign educational institutions.
The Charles University Law Faculty is the oldest and can be said to be the most respected law school in the Czech Republic. The University (together with its Faculty of Law) was founded in 1348. It is the oldest then German speaking university northern the Alps (more historical information). The current student body numbers about 5,000.
The Masaryk University Law Faculty was founded in 1919. Its name is derived from the first Czechoslovak president, T.G. Masaryk. The faculty was closed down in 1950 by the Communist regime and re-established in 1969 at the time of the so-called Prague Spring. The faculty has been, especially in the last few years, a more dynamic institution than the Charles University Law Faculty. The faculty comprises about 3.000 students.
The Western Bohemia Law Faculty is situated in Pilsen. It is a relatively small faculty, founded in 1991.
The Palacky University Law Faculty was originally founded in 1566, closed however in 1860. The University was re-established in 1947, the Law Faculty in 1991. The current number of students is about 1300.
The Anglo-American College School of Law is a private institution of higher education based in Prague. It runs a BA(Hons) in Comparative Law, which is validated by the University of Wales.
Apart from the teaching institutions, there is also the Institute of State and Law within the Czech Academy of Science. The Institute is a research-only institution.
There is a special institution established for the continuing education of judges and prosecutors, the Judicial Academy (Justi?ní akademie) located in Krom??íž.
Attorneys provide individuals with legal services for remuneration. The provision of legal services means representation before a court of law and other authorities, defence in criminal cases, granting legal advice, drawing up legal papers, processing legal analyses and other forms of legal aid if carried out systematically and for a fee.
An attorney is a person who completed a master’s degree in law followed by a 3 years of professional training with a senior attorney and successfully passed the bar exam. The list of attorneys entitled to practice may be viewed here.
The exercise of the profession is regulated by the law no. 85/1996 Coll., on the Legal Profession (in English).
The professional body is the Czech Bar Association
Public prosecutor represents the state (public interest) in criminal proceedings.
Public prosecutors are appointed following a 5 years study of law (magister), 3 years period of training and a professional exam.
The functions, organisation and hierarchy of the public prosecution are laid down in law no. 283/1993 Coll., Public Prosecutor’s Office Act.
Public notary is a private person entrusted with the public office of notary, which entails activities like the drawing of deeds and documents of sale of land, verification and legalisation of documents etc.
The profession is regulated by law no. 358/1992 Coll., Public Notaries and their Functions Act.
The professional body is the Czech Notary Chamber.
Judges are appointed by the President of the Republic, following 5 years of legal studies (magister), 3 years of legal clerkship and the successful pass of judicial examinations. A judge must be at the time of his/her appointment at least 30 years old. The list of current judges may be viewed online.
A new legal profession, created by the law no 120/2001 Coll., On Judicial Executors and Executions. Executor is a private person entrusted with the enforcement of civil and commercial judicial decisions and awards.
The access to the profession is conditional upon having completed 5 years degree in law (magister), 3 years of professional training and a successful pass of the professional exam.
The professional body is the Executors´ Chamber (Exekutorská komora).
The most important servers providing update on the newest developments in Czech and European law are:
- Collection of Laws (Ministry of Interior);
- LexData Online (private collection);
- Sagit (legislation online).
- The decisions of the Constitutional Court:
- Are published in the official (printed) collection of decisions of the Court (Sbírka nález? a usnesení Ústavního soudu), published by the C.H.Beck Publishers, Prague.
- The Court’s jurisprudence is also available for free online (in Czech only). There is also a representative selection of Court’s judgments translated into English.
- The decisions of the Supreme Court:
- There is the official printed selection of the Court’s case-law, published in its Collection of the decisions of the Supreme Court (Soubor rozhodnutí Nejvyššího soudu), published by C.H.Beck Publishers.
- All decisions of the Supreme Court (from 2000 onwards) are also accessible electronically online.
- The decision of the Supreme Administrative Court:
- Are published in the official printed Collection of the Decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court (Sbírka rozhodnutí Nejvyššího správního soudu).
- All the Court’s decisions are also made publicly available (in Czech only) on the website of the Court.
- The Salvia Database is a private collection of some of the case law of the Czech courts.
- Most of the legal databases listed below in point 5.3. contain also a selection of some of the case law.
The following legal databases are available upon subscription. They contain compendium of all the valid law (consolidated versions) and most of the available case law.
- Lexgalaxy - the most elaborated legal database available, with multiple research functions and perhaps with the greatest amount of information.
- ASPI – a more “user-friendly” and accessible database, in which the navigation is easier even for a less experienced user.
- LexData – offers most of the standard functions, integrates substantive amount of doctrinal literature and full-text articles.
- Právník [The Lawyer] – the oldest Czech academic law journal published since 1862, currently being published by the Institute of State and Law within the Czech Academy of Science.
- Právní rozhledy [Legal Horizons] – most widely read professional journal, published every 2 weeks by C.H.Beck;
- Soudní rozhledy [Judicial Horizons] – monthly journal, published by C.H.Beck, specialising in case-notes and case-law monitoring;
- Jurisprudence [Jurisprudence] – monthly journal specialising in case-law comments and annotations;
- Bulletin advokacie [The Advocacy Bulletin] – monthly journal published by the Czech Bar Association;
- Právní fórum [Legal Forum] – monthly legal journal, published by ASPI Publishing;
- Casopis pro právní v?du a praxi [Journal for Legal Science and Practice] – quadrennial law review, published by the Masaryk University Law Faculty;
- Právní rádce [Legal Advisor] – monthly praxis- oriented legal journal, online contents (with a selection of free articles);
- Trestneprávní revue [Revue of Criminal Law] – monthly journal published by C.H.Beck;
- Ad notam – monthly journal of the Czech Chamber of Notaries;
- Správní právo [Administrative Law] – monthly journal published by the Ministry of Interior, focusing on administrative law and administrative issues;
- Revue církevního práva [Revue of Ecclesiastic Law] – occasional journal focusing on issues of ecclesiastic and canon law;
- Soudce [the Judge] – professional journal of the Czech judiciary, published monthly by LexisNexisCZ;
Major Czech publishers of legal literature include:
- C.H.Beck Praha;
- Linde Publishing;
- Aspi Publishing;
- LexisNexis CZ (formerly Orac Publishing);
- Aleš ?en?k Publishing;
- Sagit Publishing;
- Charles University Press;
- Masaryk University Press.
- The catalogue of the Charles University Law Faculty Library. It contains the greatest collection of legal literature available in the Czech Republic.
- The catalogue of the Masaryk University Law Faculty in Brno.
- The online catalogue of the National Library of the Czech Republic. The National Library is a copyright library, i.e. it receives a mandatory copy of every book published in the Czech Republic.
Theory of law
- Knapp, Viktor, Teorie práva. Praha: C.H. Beck, 1995.
- Weyr, František, Teorie práva. Brno: Orbis, 1936.
- Holländer, Pavel, Základy všeobecné státov?dy. Praha: Všehrd 1995.
- Malý, Karel, D?jiny ?eského a ?eskoslovenského práva do roku 1945. 3rd Ed., Praha: Linde, 2003.
- Kühn, Zden?k, Aplikace práva soudcem v é?e st?edoevropského komunismu a transformace: analýza p?í?in postkomunistické právní krize. Praha: C.H. Beck, 2005.
- Kincl, Jaromír, Urfus, Valentin, Sk?ejpek, Michal, ?ímské právo. 2nd Ed., Praha: C.H. Beck, 1995.
- Heyrovský, Leopold, D?jiny a systém soukromého práva ?ímského. 7th Ed., Bratislava: Právnická fakulta Univerzity Komenského, 1929.
- Sommer, Otakar, Prameny soukromého práva ?ímského. Bratislava: Právnická fakulta Univerzity Komenského, 1928.
- Klíma, Karel (ed.), Komentá? k Ústav? a Listin?. Plze?: Vydavatelství a nakladatelství Aleš ?en?k, 2005.
- Pavlí?ek, Václav (ed.), Ústava a ústavní ?ád ?eské republiky: komentá?. 2. díl, Práva a svobody. 2nd Ed., Praha: Linde, 2002.
- Pavlí?ek, Václav (ed.), Ústava a ústavní ?ád ?eské republiky: komentá?. 1. díl, Ústavní system. 2nd Ed., Praha: Linde, 1998.
- Šimí?ek, Vojt?ch, Ústavní stížnost. 3rd Ed., Praha: Linde, 2005.
- Hendrych, Dušan (et al.), Správní právo: obecná ?ást. 5th Ed., Praha: C.H. Beck, 2003.
- Hoetzel, Ji?í, ?eskoslovenské správní právo: ?ást všeobecná. 2nd Ed., Praha: Melantrich, 1937.
- Hoetzel, Ji?í, Weyr, František (eds.), Slovník ve?ejného práva ?eskoslovenského. Brno: Rovnost, 1948.
- Šámal, Pavel (et al.) Trestní zákon: komentá?. 6th Ed., Praha: C.H. Beck, 2004.
- Novotný, Oto (et al.), Trestní právo hmotné. 4th Ed., Praha: ASPI, 2004.
- Šámal, Pavel (et al.) Trestní ?ád: komentá?. 5th Ed., Praha: C.H. Beck, 2005.
- Šámal, Pavel (et al.) Zákon o soudnictví ve v?cech mládeže: komentá?. Praha: C.H. Beck, 2004.
- Knapp, Viktor (et al.), Ob?anské právo hmotné. Volumes I – III. 3rd Ed., Praha: ASPI, 2002.
- Rou?ek, František, Sedlá?ek, Jaromír (eds.), Komentá? k ?eskoslovenskému obecnému zákoníku ob?anskému a ob?anské právo platné na Slovensku a v Podkarpatské Rusi. Praha: Codex Bohemia, 1998.
- Bureš, Jaroslav (et al.), Ob?anský soudní ?ád: komentá?. 7th Ed., Praha: C.H. Beck, 2006.
- Winterová, Alena (et al.), Civilní právo procesní: vysokoškolská u?ebnice. 3rd Ed., Praha: Linde, 2004.
- Hora, Václav, ?eskoslovenské civilní právo procesní: se stálým z?etelem ke Slovensku a Podkarpatské Rusi. Praha: V. Hora, 1932.
- Bej?ek, Josef (et al.), Kurs obchodního práva. Obchodní závazky. 3rd Ed., Praha: C.H. Beck, 2003.
- Eliáš, Karel (et al.), Kurs obchodního práva. Obecná ?ást, Sout?žní právo. 4th Ed., Praha: C.H. Beck, 2004.
- Eliáš, Karel (et al.), Kurs obchodního práva: právnické osoby jako podnikatelé. 3rd Ed., Praha: C.H. Beck, 2001.
- Pelikánová, Irena, Obchodní právo. Praha : ASPI, 2005.
- Gateway to the Czech public administration;
- Land Registry;
- Commercial Register (containing information about all the natural or legal persons exercising commercial activity and being registered under the Czech Commercial Code);
- Register of Enterprises (containing information about all economically active entities in the Czech Republic, i.e. the register is broader than the Commercial Register);
- Bankruptcy Register (information about enterprises which entered bankruptcy proceedings);
- Governmental website containing information and unofficial translations of Community legislation.
Czech searching engines
- The Prague Post;
- Hospodarské noviny;
- Mladá fronta Dnes;
- Lidové noviny;
- Týdeník Respekt;
- Literární noviny;
- The New Presence.