On 19 October 2020 the president of the Supreme Court issued an Order on special measures from Article 83.a of the Courts Act due to the declared epidemic of the infectious diseases COVID-19 on territory of the Republic of Slovenia (the “Order”) pursuant to Point 2, paragraph 2 of Article 83.a of the Courts Act (“CA”). The said provision of the CA authorises the president of the Supreme Court to, in cases of extraordinary events, which are specified in paragraph 1 of Article 83.a of the CA, issue an order on special measures determining the courts’ operations, taking into account the specific extraordinary event, in order to maximise regular exercise of the judiciary branch of power.
The order was published in the Official Gazette on 19 October 2020 and is in effect from 20 October 2020 until its revocation, whereby the adopted measures shall be reviewed on a weekly basis. Unlike the measures, which were adopted in March, when the courts worked only in urgent matters, the Order does not (for the time being) stop the courts’ activities, instead it only sets out certain measures intended for courts to be working as smooth as possible during the new wave of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The specific measures that were adopted by the Order relate to the following areas:
- Access to courts
With regard to the entry into court buildings, the Order stipulates that, where possible, courts shall designate separate entry points for parties, their counsels and other users of court services on the one hand and for judges and court staff on the other hand. In doing so, preventive measures shall be taken at all points of entry in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including temperature checks for those entering and publication of a written notice on preventive measures imposed at the premises of that specific court.
Except in urgent matters, as they are determined by the CA:
- court writings may only be submitted to the courts by post or via the eSodstvo portal and
- for communication with the courts the published e-mail addresses and telephone numbers shall be used during office hours.
In addition, if a person is not invited to appear in front of the court, such person is only allowed to enter the court building during office hours with prior notice.
- Hearings, sessions and examinations
The Order provides a possibility of conducting hearings, sessions and examinations via videoconferencing systems, provided that the technical and spatial conditions are met, and with due regard to other procedural conditions for the performance of such procedural acts.
In case hearings, sessions and examinations are not held by videoconference, the following rules shall apply:
- the distance between judges, court staff, parties, their counsels and other persons shall be at least 1.5 meters,
- all persons present at a procedural act shall wear protective equipment,
- the room in which the procedural act takes place shall be disinfected and ventilated and
- an attendance list with contact details of all persons present shall be kept.
However, if in a specific case it is not possible to follow the above-mentioned rules, the courts shall, in accordance with the Order, cancel such hearings.
- Publicity of main hearings
From the viewpoint of constitutional and procedural rights or guarantees of the parties in court proceedings, the measure under which the (presiding) judge has the possibility to temporarily restrict the publicity of the hearing (or its part) or impose additional safety measures is also of high importance.
- Other measures
In addition to the measures determined by the Order, the Order also gives the possibility to the presidents of individual courts to take additional measures applicable only to specific courts. Therefore, before going to a specific court, it is necessary to check whether any additional measures have been taken for that court.