The Bill which will improve the availability of procedural assistance, reduce the overburdening of courts and create the possibilities to implement simplified proceedings passed the second reading in the Riigikogu. The Bill is also intended to eliminate the deficiencies that have emerged in the regulation of the proceedings in judicial practice.
The Bill on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Court Procedure, the State Fees Act and the State Legal Aid Act, with a view to enhancing administrative court procedure (496 SE), initiated by the Government, will improve the availability of procedural assistance to persons who belong to social risk groups. Under the new regulation, a court will be able to more flexibly assess whether an applicant for procedural assistance needs the assistance. A court can exempt a person partially or fully from bearing legal costs which include the legal aid costs on the state fee, the security payable in relation to certain proceedings, the translation of procedural documents, as well as an advocate appointed. Procedural assistance is granted if the legal costs exceed two times the monthly income of the person from which essential costs for example for the performance of a maintenance obligation and reasonable cost of accommodation and transport have been deducted. In the future, a court will be able to deduct from the income also other inevitable costs to the extent of up to 75 per cent of the current minimum monthly wage rate.
To reduce the overburdening of courts, the right of action and the right of appeal will be delimited. The delimitation of the right of action and the right of appeal will concern actions that in most cases are motivated by bad faith of the applicant. Such actions are often brought by prisoners, but, for example, constantly bringing similar actions in court by “serial applicants”, who generally are also prisoners, will also be deemed to be abuse of the right of action. In order to avoid ungrounded restriction of the right of action, discretionary power will be retained for administrative courts and circuit courts. As a result of the amendments, significantly less effort and time will be needed in proceedings where a benefit which the applicant stands to gain would be disproportionately small compared to the expenses of the administration of justice.
The Bill will extend the possibilities to use simplified proceedings. Simplified proceedings are a type of proceedings that require less resources compared to ordinary proceedings as the court may hear a matter pursuant to the simplified procedure, for example, hear a party to the proceedings via the telephone, derogate from the formal requirements for documents or forgo convening a court session. As a major amendment, the threshold for the application of simplified proceedings will be raised from 200 euro to 1000 euro. In the case of a legal value that has a money value which remains below the threshold, it is possible to apply simplified proceedings. The aim of the amendments planned is to extend the use of simplified proceedings in administrative court proceedings.
Three motions to amend the Bill were submitted during the second reading which are motions specifying the wording.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/en/201711091000.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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