Accelerating Civil Proceedings in Croatia
relatively low (less than € 100). From past experience in similar situations, judges are reluctant to impose fines in civil proceedings, and if they use them, the mini- mum amounts are preferred. It can be supposed that a similar practice will continue with respect to the new fines, especially because it will surely be quite a while until the broad legal standard of ‘significant abuses of procedural rights’ will be clarified by case-law and legal theory.45 For a resolute application of the new sanctions, a judge of impeccable ability, will and discipline is needed. In the present circum- stances, this condition will probably not easily be met.
7.3.2 Avoiding vexatious motions on the delegation of court jurisdiction and challenges to judges
In relation to the fight against abuses of procedural rights, a more practical impact may be obtained from some other, minor changes aimed at reducing or disabling some of the delaying tactics which are widespread in practice.
One such change relates to petitions to delegate court jurisdiction (motions to have a case adjudicated by another competent court, e.g., because of reasons of con- venience and costs). Until now, the competent court has been obliged to suspend the proceedings until a decision on such a motion was made by the highest court of the specific branch of that jurisdiction. In practice, this might cause delays of several months due to the case-load of the Supreme Court or the High Commercial Court. As some parties used such a motion only to gain time, new rules provide for the continuation of the trial while these courts decide on such motions.
The second, similar change excluded ungrounded challenges to judges, or general requests for the exclusion of all the judges of a certain court, or repeated challenges. The judge who is challenged may now exceptionally continue to act if he/she considers that the challenge is manifestly ill-founded and aimed at obstruc- ting the proceedings.46
7.3.3 New rules of delivery
In the opinion of many, one of the most important sources of inefficiency has been inefficient rules and practices relating to the delivery of written communications. Problems in the application of these rules have provided parties with abundant op- portunities to obstruct proceedings by avoiding delivery.
Admittedly, the rules of delivery in the Code of Civil Procedure originated in the nineteenth century. They were better adjusted to rural areas than to the new cir-
All the more so because the concept of the ‘abuse of rights’ is unclear. Some even argue that this term is a contradictio in adiecto, since ‘rights’ refer to actions that are generally permissible and available to parties, and therefore these parties cannot be punished if they make use of them. See ‘Abuse of rights in the Civil Proceedings’, Newsletter of the Forum of the Zagreb Law School, 2002, p. 2 (available at <http://www.zakon.pravo.hr>). Changes to Articles 73 and 74 Code of Civil Procedure. If a petition is manifestly ill-founded and vexatious, the court is also authorized to fine the applicant and rule immediately on the costs incurred by the other party.