Court and enforcement proceedings are paused during the state of emergency

25.03.2020

Unlike the executive and legislative branch, which are working full time during the state of emergency in Bulgaria, the courtrooms will remain still. The only exception are some criminal and urgent civil proceedings, which will be heard behind closed doors with severe restrictions of their publicity.

After a period of uncertainty, the Bulgarian Parliament and the administrative body responsible for the functioning of the court system – the Judges’ College of the Supreme Judicial Council (“SJC”) approved the rules regarding the fate of the court and enforcement proceedings during the state of emergency.

The Judges College of the SJC adopted a decision suspending the hearing of all criminal, civil and administrative proceedings, with some exceptions, among which:

  • Civil and commercial proceedings: Child custody proceedings (only with regard to provisional and protective measures); proceedings under the Protection of Domestic Violence Act (only with regard to orders for immediate protection and their amendment, as well as appeals for their rejection); permissions for withdrawal of funds from child deposits; interim and precautionary measures (of an underlying lawsuit or before its filing) and for securing of evidence;
  • Administrative proceedings: Appeals against the preliminary enforcement of administrative acts, proceedings for disclosure of tax and social security secret and for appeal of tax audit acts establishing public liabilities of natural persons and companies, appeal against police detention, as well as interim and precautionary measures (of an underlying lawsuit or before its filing) and for securing of evidence. With a subsequent decision dated 01.04.2020 the list is supplemented with the appeals against unlawful acts and omissions of the administration.

It is notable that there are some differences from the list of cases which are heard during the summer vacation of the courts. The most important “absentee” are the insolvency proceedings which undoubtfully represent the highest percentage of the cases heard during the summer vacation. During the state of emergency, these cases will also be paused.

All other court proceedings will remain paused during the emergency measures and the scheduled court hearings during this period shall be postponed after 13.04.2020 (in case of extension of the state of emergency, the SJC will adopt a new decision) but prior to the summer vacation – 15.07.2020.

New court hearings will not be scheduled, except for the urgent proceedings described above.

All communication between citizens/companies and the courts will be conducted online or by phone. Access to the court buildings will be granted only to the parties to the urgent proceedings.

Meanwhile, the State of Emergency Act was promulgated in the State Gazette. The Act contains numerous epidemiological, economic and other measures, but, in particular, the following measures were adopted with regard to the court and enforcement proceedings:

– During the state of emergency all court, arbitration and enforcement deadlines are paused (with the exception of deadlines in the urgent proceedings which will be heard during this period). I.e. if there is a deadline for submission of evidence to the court or for appeal of court judgments or attachments of enforcement agents, the deadline will expire only after the end of the state of emergency;

– The limitation periods for the exercising of citizen rights will be paused. These are the maximum periods after which legal proceedings may be initiated (3 years for recurring receivables such as rents, utilities, salaries, interest and 5 years for all other receivables). This amendment of the Act, added during the second round of voting, is of great importance. Otherwise, the legal persons would have been obliged to bring actions before the courts, putting their health at risk, in order to preserve their receivables. Meanwhile, the court would not administer such actions prior to the end of the state of emergency;

– All other statutory deadlines regarding citizens rights are extended with one month after the end of the state of emergency. E.g. deadlines for filing of appeals against acts of the administration;

– All procedures for public sale of real estates and coercive seizure of possession are paused, the bank accounts, salaries and pensions of natural persons cannot be attached and real and personal property of natural persons cannot be inventoried during the state of emergency (with limited exceptions).

Since the Act is effective as of 13 March 2020, the citizens shall not worry about deadlines which have expired before the promulgation of the Act – such deadlines will be retroactively restored by virtue of the law.

Only the restriction on the enforcement proceedings has become effective after the promulgation of the law. Therefore, the attachments imposed between 13 and 23 March are valid. Naturally, since the situation is dynamic, all measures described above are subject to change and may be supplemented. Follow the legal updates on our internet site for additional news and reviews!

For further information contact:

Philip Kiossev, Senior Associate
Philip.Kiossev@tbk.bg