Public access to court case-law contributes to predictable decision-making by the courts, unification of the decision-making practice and transparency of court decisions, and thus also to promotion of the right to a fair trial. The Ministry of Justice has to provide for proper functioning of online records of court case-law.
During a 2016 survey, the Ombudsman found that the relevant records were basically not functioning. The public part comprised only 2,875 decisions. About 800 decisions had been added since 2011. For comparison, the database of the Supreme Administrative Court alone comprised more than 95 thousand decisions at that time and the Slovak database launched in 2012 contained over 1.9 million decisions.
The situation did not improve even after another two years. The Ombudsman therefore suggested to the Ministry that:
- the courts’ duty to publish all their decisions be incorporated in the Courts and Judges Act;
- the new database also comprise older court decisions disclosed under the Free Access to Information Act and decisions in private commercial databases;
- the contents of the new database be made accessible to the public via a web browser enabling basic classification of documents; and
- the courts be provided with the necessary staff and technical background for publication of the decisions.
On 28 February, the Ombudsman discussed the situation and possible solutions with representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament, the courts (including supreme courts) and those who use the database most frequently (academicians, lawyers, non-profit organisations and journalists).
Source: Office of the Public Defender of Rights, Czech Republic