Following decades of effective fusion of decision-making on matters in public law (administrative) justice and private law justice (cf. the “History” section of this website) in the Czech Republic, the 2002 reform of administrative justice separated them once again. Necessary part of this reform was also the establishment of a mechanism which would ensure that private law matters are not brought before administrative courts and that issues relating to public law are not dealt with by the civil courts, i.e. courts normally deciding issues of civil, commercial, labour or family law.
This mechanism is established on two levels: procedural and institutional.
The procedural one is laid down in the Code of Civil Justice (for issues of private law) and the Code of Administrative Justice (for administrative law issues). Both procedural codes provide for the possibility to reject an action brought before a non-competent court, i.e. an administrative action before a civil court and a civil lawsuit before an administrative court. In such a scenario, the courts of both jurisdictions are obliged to advise the petitioner as to the competent court. At the same time, if the petitioner follows that advice and submits the petition accordingly to the competent court, the time limit for filing the action is deemed to have been observed.
It might be difficult to determine whether a decision of an administrative authority in a given case is a public or private law issue. Questions relating to the distinction between private and public law and the so-called legal "dualism" are among the most complex legal issues. Disputes may arise between the administrative and civil courts as to competence, be it a positive competence dispute (i.e. both jurisdictions claiming to be competent) or a negative one (i.e. both denying their competence).
The task of resolving these types of disputes has been assigned to a special judicial body – a judicial panel – created by Act no. 131/2002 Coll., on Deciding Certain Conflicts of Competence. The panel consists of 6 judges, appointed for 3 years: the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appoints three of them to the panel from the Justices of the Supreme Court. The other three are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Administrative Court from the Justices of the Supreme Administrative Court. The panel decides which jurisdiction is competent to hear the case in question. In practice, this means that the panel will decide whether the administrative authority's decision is one of private or public law. The decision of the special panel is binding to all courts involved in the dispute.