What consequences does COVID-19 have for the functioning of the courts and bailiffs?

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COVID-19 and the various measures promulgated by the Belgian authorities in the fight against the virus have far-reaching consequences for the functioning of the Belgian courts and bailiffs.

The most important consequences are listed below:

 

All courts throughout Belgium have changed their standard operating procedures. There are no exceptions. The changes apply to courts throughout Belgian territory.

The changes are the following:

  • At least until 19 April 2020, no more hearings will take place, with the exception of urgent cases. Courts and tribunals will also decide in cases that can be dealt with in writing (without the appearance of lawyers or parties at a hearing).
  • The clerks of the courts work with a minimum of service. Interpersonal contact is avoided as much as possible.
  • New cases are initiated after 19 April 2020 and cases already scheduled are postponed until after 19 April 2020 (with the exception of the urgent cases and the civil cases that can be dealt with in writing).
  • In addition, each court or tribunal may elaborate on these general guidelines by means of its own measures (these measures may not conflict with the general rules set out above).

The measures per court and tribunal can be consulted on the following websites:

  1. https://www.advocaat.be/coronavirus (for an overview of the measures for Dutch-speaking courts, the Brussels Court of Appeal and the Cassation Court)
  2. https://avocats.be/fr/coronavirus (for an overview of the measures for French-speaking courts, including the Brussels Court of Appeal and the Cassation Court).

  • As to alternative (new) ways of organising hearings, there are some initiatives concerning video conferencing.
  • The bailiffs continue to provide their services but the service is limited.

 

This means the following:

  • Service of deeds: it remains possible to notify writ of summons, provided that a writ of summons has to be notified for a court date after 19 April 2020. This rule may be deviated from in case of special urgency under the express authorisation of the president of the court. Other types of deeds may be served, provided priority is given to urgent deeds and to the electronic means of service. 
  • Enforcement (attachment, eviction, forced opening of doors): the National Chamber of Bailiffs urges that all pending measures of enforcement be suspended as far as possible and that follow-up be guaranteed by written, electronic or telephone means.
  • Findings by the bailiff: these can continue provided that all the necessary precautions have been taken.
  • Public access to the judicial officer's office must be strictly limited.

 

This is the current situation.

This situation and measures will undoubtedly change depending on the spread of the virus and the measures taken by the Belgian authorities. 

We will therefore update this overview as soon as the situation and measures change.

For further questions please contact the Dispute Resolution Team.

 

The above information is merely intended as comment on relevant issues of Belgian law and is not intended as legal advice. Before taking action or relying on the comments and the information given, please seek specific advice on the matters that are of concern to you.

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