Strasbourg, 5 May 2004

CCJE (2004) 22
English only

Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)

Questionnaire on management of cases, judges’ role in the proceedings, and use of alternative dispute settlement methods: reply submitted by the delegation of Bulgaria

A. ACCESS TO JUSTICE

1. Have measures been taken, by legislatures and/or the court system, in order to inform the public on the functioning of the judicial system? If so, please comment on the impact of such actions on the amount of cases brought before courts.

Neither the legislature, nor the court system does use any special norms or procedures to inform the public about the functioning of the Judiciary. The Supreme Judicial Council, which is the supreme administrative body of the Bulgarian Judiciary, and the Bulgarian Judges Association, both have official web-sites. NGO-s, professional associations and the media organize constantly seminars and public discussions on information problems and issues.

All courts in Bulgaria received in March 2004 a Citizen’s Guide to the Courts in Bulgaria, a manual containing information for the public about courts and court procedures. It also contains brochures which can be copied and handed out to the public on areas of public interest such as what it means to be served with a summons, what it means to be a juror, the rights of a victim of a crime, and the rights of a judgment creditor. This material was all produced with the assistance of the USAID Judicial Development Project for Bulgaria. Each court can make the Citizen’s Guide and the brochures available to the public.

It is too early to comment on whether this public information material has had an impact on the amount of cases or the volume of requests for information from the public.

2. Have measures been taken, by legislatures and/or the court system, in order to reduce the costs of bringing actions before the courts (e.g., by simplifying and/or standardizing legal documents to commence or continue litigation; by waiving, at least in some circumstances, the need to employ a lawyer; etc.). If so, please comment on the impact of such actions on the amount of cases brought before courts.

For many types of cases, such as labour-law cases, judicial protection of children’s rights, or maintenance, etc., the court proceedings are free of charge for the citizens. The Chief Judge of the court may release citizens with financial difficulties from their duty to pay court taxes. This is a very frequently used practice.

The criminal proceedings are free of charge for the defendant. If and when the procedural law requires compulsory legal aid and the defendant cannot afford it, the court ex officio appoints a lawyer to perform legal aid and pays his/her fee from the court budget. These resources do not have to be repaid by the defendant.

3. Have measures been taken to ensure an effective "legal aid" system? If so, please describe the system, with specific reference to:

(a) eligibility requirements;

In criminal cases, in which the defendant cannot afford to organise and pay for his/her legal aid duties, the court informs the Bar Association by sending a letter to it, stating these circumstances. The Bar Association chooses one of its lawyers to represent the defendant before court and to perform all kinds of legal aid, required in the case, for him. The court formally appoints this lawyer and his/her fee is paid by the court budget.

These proceedings are followed in cases when the procedural law requires compulsory legal aid. They include cases, where the defendant is juvenile, or for reasons of mental or physical health cannot defend himself, or does not speak Bulgarian, or is absent, or wishes to hire a lawyer, but cannot pay his/her fee, or is accused of crime, punishable with incarceration for life or for more than 10 years.

(b) identification of authorities entitled to grant the aid;

Only the Bar Associations /and syndicates in labour cases/

(c) budgetary arrangements.

In cases when the legal aid is free of charge, the court pays the lawyers’ fees by the court budget.

At present, under a pilot project, a Specialised Bureau for Legal Aid has been established in Veliko Turnovo, where regional, district and appellate courts function.

A law for legal aid is in process of draft preparation under a PHARE project.

4. Have other measures been taken? For example,

a) conditional fee agreements (“CFAs”), whereby a party does not have to pay his or her lawyers if he or she loses, but his or her lawyers are entitled to charge the losing party up to a multiple of the normal fee if her or she wins;

No.

b) legal costs insurance for

- a party’s own legal costs and/or
- any costs which if her or she loses he or she has to pay to the winning party;

There is no practice on any such kind of legal insurance.

c) fixed costs, so that the winning party can only recover a limited amount from the losing party, whatever he or she may have chosen to pay to his or her own lawyers.

No. In civil case the losing party pays all the costs, including the legal aid expenses to the wining party. If the wining party has won partly the case, the losing party pays the costs accordingly.

In criminal cases the convicted person pays the whole amount of expenses, unless his/her defense is compulsory by law and he/she cannot afford it.

B. REDUCTION OF EXCESSIVE WORKLOADS IN THE COURTS

1. Have measures been taken to relieve judges from non-judicial tasks such as those listed, as examples, in the Appendix of Rec. No. R (86) 12 concerning measures to prevent and reduce the excessive workload in the courts? Please give comments as to any other tasks performed by judges that, according to the particular circumstances of the country, could be assigned to other persons or bodies; please identify tasks that could be entrusted to administrative court staff, whose jobs would thus be enriched.

These problems have been a subject of a long public discussion over the years. Now the law foresees the implementation of the legal figure of the court administrator to manage non-judicial tasks and unburden the Chief Judges from them. However, for financial reasons such persons have not been appointed yet. Long year discussion on the problem

This area is currently being studied by a JDP working group. In general, it appears that judges in Bulgaria have many responsibilities relating to ministerial tasks such as approving copies of documents, approving methods of serving a summons, approving issuance of alias summons, approving a request for access to a court file, etc. Most of these could be reassigned to judicial staff.

Judges in Bulgaria have extensive responsibilities concerning company registrations. A USAID funded Commercial Law Reform Project is studying methods and will be making recommendations to remove company registration activities in Bulgaria from judicial responsibilities, leaving judges responsible only for adjudicating civil disputes concerning activities in the company registration process.

2. Are there bodies, outside the judicial system, at the disposal of parties to solve specific "small claims" disputes? If so, please comment on the impact of the vailability of such procedures on the amount of cases brought before courts.

Only NGO-s . Practically no impact

Various mechanisms at the disposal of parties to solve specific claims disputes exist only on a pilot-projects-base. They have not been legally regulated yet.

3. Is there a regular review of court workloads, and are consequent measures (i.e. changes in courts' geographical distributions; variations in the territorial, monetary and subject matter competence of courts; variations in the court personnel) taken to ensure a balanced distribution of the workload? Please identify bodies responsible for such review and for consequent policy choices; please also describe the role of the judiciary in this process.

The responsible body for the regular official reviewing of the court workloads is the Supreme Judicial Council. The basic measures are connected with the increasing or decreasing the number of judges and administrative staff in courts due to the workload.

4. What role do judges (especially chief judges) play in the management of judicial infrastructures, human resources, information and technology equipment? Do they receive regular training in management techniques? What role, on the contrary, is played by administrative top officials?

The Chief Judges of courts play the main role in these spheres and the administrative work takes a considerable part of their time. They do not receive regular training.

The administrative top officials coordinate and distribute the tasks among the court personnel. They are responsible for the book-keeping. The unrealized but foreseen by the law court administrator will accept most of the functions of the Chief judge, including those related to budget and staff. Due to budgetary difficulties court administrators have not been appointed in the courts yet.

C. QUALITY OF JUSTICE AND ITS ASSESSMENT; QUANTITATIVE STATISTICAL DATA; MONITORING PROCEDURES

1. Is there any system in operation in your country having the aim of assessing quality of judicial activity? Please comment on indicators chosen for such assessments, as well as on results obtained.

There is no such system.

2. Please describe the operation of quantitative statistical data collection concerning judicial activity. Please identify, in particular:

(i) institutional subjects (centralised and/or decentralised) in charge of data collection, data analysis, as well as receiving follow-up;

All courts make statistics for the case management on 6-months and yearly bases. The statistical reports are collected and summarised by the Supreme Judicial Council and the Ministry of Justice. The data are analysed each year.

(ii) judicial activities that form the object of data collection and analysis;

These judicial activities are: number of cases initiated, number of cases solved, average workload on a single judge per year, number in % of cases solved in a three months time at a single judicial instance.

(iii) relevance of statistical data in professional evaluation of individual judges;

In the Judicial Power Act: in case of promoting and accepting a status of irremovability statistical data are relevant in professional evaluation.

(iv) relevance of statistical data in evaluation of performance of judicial offices and/or chief judges.

This statistical data is relevant in the performance of the judicial offices and of chief judges. In most regional courts these functions are performed by a manual review of records of cases. In some district courts, a few of the needed reports can be generated by computer systems.

In the courts working with the SJC approved electronic Case Management System (CMS) all statistical reports required by the MOJ can be produced by an electronic report generating program. In addition, the CMS permits creation of specialized statistical reports requested by a chief judge on the case management by particular judges or on caseload data.

3. Please describe monitoring procedures in operation in your country that, employing assessment data as above, may result into actions aimed at a better control of reasonable duration of proceedings or better allocation of resources (such as variations of judicial and/or administrative staff, revision of territorial or subject matter distribution of cases, "performance contracts" and the like);

The reports generated through the CMS are used to measure judicial productivity and identify delay. Reports can be generated to identify cases older than a target date, and older cases assigned to a particular judge. The chief judge can reassign cases and adjust workloads to compensate for unusually complex or lengthy cases. The chief judge can also intervene with a particular judge to improve productivity.

Every single court, as well as the Supreme Judicial Council, on yearly-based analyses, increases and decreases the number of the administration and judicial staff.

The number of the cases per year is very difficult to define beforehand. The law determines the territorial jurisdiction and no administrative body is competent to shift or influence it.

4. In case that some or all of the above actions are the task of agencies other than the judiciary, what is the role played by the judiciary in the same actions?

The general body to manage the Judiciary is the Supreme Judicial Council, which consists of 25 members, including judges.

D. ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

a) in general

1. Please produce a list of ADR schemes in operation in your country, identifying private and public schemes, generalist and specialised schemes (both according to qualities of litigants and subject matter, with especial reference to family mediation, criminal mediation, administrative and civil mediation), voluntary and mandatory schemes (please clarify whether your system bars access to a court or allows a judge to stay court proceeding, in respect of some disputes, either in favour of ADR or pending ADR). Please specify if the parties or the State bear the costs of ADR.

A bill establishing a court referral mediation program is currently pending in the Bulgarian Parliament. A pilot project in court referred mediation was conducted in Sofia Regional Court Family Division. A court referral mediation project is ongoing with an NGO and lawyer mediators in Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria.

2. Are there legal provisions ensuring State supervision over ADR agencies, as well as training of mediators?

The decisions of the Arbitrary Courts, both in compulsory and in voluntary procedures, are subject to compulsory execution. Only this issue has been legally solved by now.

3. Is legal aid applicable to all or some ADR procedures?

Legal aid is applicable to all ADR procedures.

4. Is confidentiality protected? Is any document of the ADR procedure apt to be produced in court, in case mediation failed?

5. May the judge consider refusal to access ADR or to accept an amicable settlement when making orders relating to trial expenses or costs?

Yes, the judge may consider refusal to access ADR or to accept an amicable settlement, closed by the parties during the proceedings but all this is not yet regulated by law.

b) in-court ADR

1. What is the role of the judge in mediation during a court proceeding? May the judge recommend or order that the parties appear before a mediator, even without their consent? May the judge serve himself or herself as a mediator or a conciliator, or is a conflict of role envisaged? If so, please indicate solutions found. Please give details as to costs of the in-court mediation.

Under the enforced legislation, the judge may invite (encourage) the parties to settle their dispute. His/her role is very restricted, though, because the law requires that his impartiality be kept intact.

2. If the judge is entitled, by law or court practice, to appoint a mediator or a conciliator, what qualifications do these subjects have? What training have they received? What responsibilities do they incur? How is their independence guaranteed? Is equality among the parties guaranteed, so that no unfair agreement is concluded?

Under the current legislation - not.

3. What legal relevance does an in-court conciliation or mediation agreement have (in particular, as to its enforcement)? Are there specific provisions for agreements reached before certain accredited mediators and/or endorsed by a judicial homologation?

The settlement has the relevance of a court decision or a contract before court depending on the object of the case. It can be compulsory enforced. There are no specific provisions for agreements reached before certain accredited mediators.

c) out-of-court ADR

Out of court ADR exist only on experimental bases. The draft law about the ADR has not yet been adopted

1. What kind of judicial control is possible on out-of-court ADR agreements?

d) ADR in administrative law disputes

1. Is it possible under your system that a public entity participates in an ADR procedure? Does the person representing the entity have the power to settle the dispute, or is an administrative proceeding needed to conclude the amicable settlement?

It is possible but not yet regulated by law

e) criminal law and ADR

1. Please describe the role and extent of ADR proceedings vis-à-vis criminal investigations and/or criminal proceedings in your country. What are the respective roles of police, public prosecution and the judge?

Not yet ADR proceedings in criminal investigations and/or criminal proceedings

E. CASE MANAGEMENT

a) in general

1. Please give details as to the average duration of a civil and a criminal proceeding (where charges are brought against an identified individual) in your country, with separate figures as to first degree and appellate proceedings, as well as Supreme Court proceedings. Please provide relevant information as to data used to calculate the average. Please also give details as to duration of simplified and accelerated procedures. Please state the source of data.

Based on the statistics of the Ministry of Justice, the number of new filed civil and administrative case in first instance in all Bulgarian first instance courts in the last three years are:

2001 - 458 156 new filed cases, 474 860 finalized cases in first instance;
2002 - 459 130 new cases, 472 750 finalized cases in first instance;
2003 - 521 580 new cases, 533 330 finalized cases in first instance.

More than 60 % are finalized in the first instance in tree months.

Limited information from civil case appeals statistics (25 random cases each from 17 district courts) show an average of 13 months for cases in the first instance, and five months for second instance cases for the other 40 %.

2. Does in general the judge have sufficient powers to control the parties' activities, to choose between written or oral procedures, to resort to a summary judgement, to determine the calendar and the time-limits for presentation of arguments and evidence, to sanction delaying tactics and/or abusive behaviours?

The judge’s powers to interfere in these spheres are strictly limited by the procedural law. He/she cannot choose between written or oral procedures. He/she has the right to resort to interpretative decisions of the Supreme Courts and the Constitutional court.

The judge has the right to determine the calendar for presentation of arguments and evidence, but the time limits are fixed in the procedural law. The judge has the right to sanction delaying tactics, but only in civil cases.

A working group studying ways to reduce case delay has tentatively concluded that judges do not have sufficient power and that the power judges do have is not always exercised. Parties can easily cause a postponement for medical reasons or for allegedly new evidence. The only power the judge has to schedule the next hearing. The only thing judges can do if they believe it is intentionally for delay is impose article 65 sanction and this is not done very often. Most judges are afraid if they do not grant entry of new evidence the result will be overturned in a higher instance. As a result, judges generally allow presentation of new evidence.

3. Have measures been taken to assure that most cases are adjudicated by a single judge, rather than by a panel?

b) in civil disputes

All civil first instance cases are adjudicated by a single judge.

1. Please describe, in general, implementation in your country of Recommendation No. R (84) 5 concerning principles of civil procedure designed to improve the functioning of justice. Some specific aspects will be dealt with by following questions.

2. Please specify characteristics of procedures existing in your country that may qualified as accelerated, simplified, and/or summary. Please refer to materials (available on the Council of Europe's website) presented during the European Conference of Judges on the theme "Early settlement of disputes and the role of judges" held in Strasbourg, 24-25 November 2003.

3. As to simplified procedures, please indicate (and provide details) if law or court practice, even if on the basis of "protocols", allow in your country:

(i) simplified methods of commencing litigation;

In Bulgaria the methods for commencing litigation are the most simplified possible. The only requirement is that the initial document be written, but there are exceptions even from this requirement.

(ii) no hearing or convening of only one hearing or, as the occasion may require, of a preliminary preparatory hearing;

Under the Bulgarian legislature there are no such opportunities.

(iii) exclusively written or oral proceedings, as the case may be;

In general the proceedings are the same in all kinds of cases with very minor exceptions.

(iv) prohibition or restriction of certain exceptions and defences;

In the procedural law there are norms, which exists certain facts to be proved only by written evidence.

(v) more flexible rules of evidence;

They are flexible.

(vi) no adjournments or only brief adjournments;

(vii) the appointment of a court expert, either "ex officio" or on application of the parties, if possible at the commencement of the proceedings;

Court experts may be appointed both ex officio and on parties application. Court experts are very frequently used in the civil procedures, mostly on the application of the parties. The law allows the judge to appoint court experts ex officio only in exceptional cases.

(viii) an active role for the court in conducting the case and in calling for and taking evidence;

After the reforms in the Bulgarian procedural law after 1998 the active role of the court in calling for and collecting evidence is strictly restricted. The conducting of the case, however, is less restricted.

(ix) the rendering on the part of the judge of a mere "oral" judgement.

The Bulgarian law does not allow the judge to pronounce a mere oral judgment.

4. As to summary proceedings (in which the examination of the case on the part of the judge is done on the basis of what is only evident), please indicate if in your country:

”A summary proceeding” shall be understood to mean deciding on a case issue only according to written evidence, without invitation of the parties to a public hearing in the courtroom.

4.1 the judge has the power to decide summarily on:

(i) disputes on which an early decision is required (urgent cases procedure);
Yes. These are cases of securing the claim.

(ii) disputes concerning recovery of certified uncontested debts;

The question is not clear.

(iii) small claims (please specify monetary limit);

The amount of the claim is not definitive.

(iv) employer-employee relations;

Yes.

(v) landlord and tenant relations;

No.

(vi) questions of family relations (divorce, custody of children, maintenance);

No.

(vii) disputes involving consumers;

No.

(viii) disputes relating to road accidents;

No.

(ix) manifestly ill-founded claims.

No.

4.2 a summary judgement has or does not have the force of "res judicata";

No, the summary judgment does not have such force.

4.3 a summary judgement is liable to determine rights and obligations of the parties even if a procedure on the merits is not initiated.

Yes, in some cases.

5. Please describe the extent to which injunction relief is available in your system (judicial orders of payment or to perform contractual obligations).

Judicial orders, similar to injunction relief, are required mostly for securing payments, as well as for temporarily deciding disputes before their final settlement (custody, maintenance).

6. Please describe the relevance of time-limits and interlocutory judgements to assure a reasonable duration of ordinary proceedings.

Under the enforced Bulgarian law, these court orders are directed not so much as to securing reasonable duration of ordinary proceedings, but to securing the future effective execution of the judgment and to the protection of some important values (for example, right of children).

7. What protective measures are available in your system? You may refer to protective measures aimed to protecting the practicability of enforcement, or to anticipate enforcement; protective measures aimed to "freezing" a certain situation of fact pending the trial, e.g. through appointment of a receiver; measures that can be indicated as protective in a very broad sense, since they aim at anticipating the decision in the substance of the case. Please specify the cases in which urgency is required, and cases in which remedies may be granted without both parties having been heard.

Proceedings of securing evidence prior to the due civil process are carried out when there is a reasonable danger that the evidence might be lost or damaged. Many protective measures, concerning children’s welfare, are in force. For example, in a divorce process the court decides preliminarily upon the custody and maintenance of the children. Another example is the duty of the court to invite through publication in the Official Gazette a defendant who cannot be found at his address and to appoint a lawyer to represent him/her and perform legal aid for him/her.

Freezing of assets is possible, when there is a danger that during the proceedings the defendant may free himself from property and thus to endanger the compulsory execution of the judgment. Most of the measures are taken by the court without delay and on the application of the interested party with both parties having been heard.

8. Does your system provide, besides protective measures in view of the taking of evidence (provisional hearing of witnesses, experts reports, site inspections, taking of samples), also measures that enhance the possibility for the plaintiff to gather information before the trial (see the Anton Piller order in the English experience)?

No.

9. In what circumstances is a first degree judgement provisionally enforceable? If provisional enforcement is granted by the judge or by the law, upon which conditions the party filing an appeal may obtain suspension of enforcement?

The first degree judgment is provisionally enforceable in cases of maintenance, labour cases and in other cases, strictly formulated in the law. The party filing an appeal may obtain suspension of enforcement by ensuring enough sources for the future payment.

10. Please describe implementation in your country of Recommendation No. R (95) 5 concerning the introduction and improvement of the functioning of appeal systems and procedures in civil and commercial cases. Under what circumstances, if any, is a court decision not subject to appeal? Is in your country in force a system that admits appeal, at least for some disputes, only upon court leave? If not, would such a system be desirable?

All first degree judgments are subject to appeal in strictly determined procedural deadlines. If the deadlines are missed, the judgments gain ‘res judicata’ and become enforceable. The court does not have the right to freely decide whether the judgment of the first instance is subject to appeal, or not. Such a power of the court would not be desirable, because it will restrict the rights of the parties.

11. Please express your view concerning measures to improve:

(i) enforcement of court judgements and effectiveness of the activity of enforcement agents;

In Bulgaria the legal foundation of the enforcement agents, called enforcement judges, is too old and does not adequately meet the requirements of the market based competitive economy. The ineffectiveness of the judgments enforcement in a great degree compromises the effectiveness of the jurisdiction system as a whole. At present, the Ministry of Justice works on a draft law on the legal activity in accordance with the European requirements

(ii) transparency of information concerning assets of debtors;

The enforcement judge and the creditor through the enforcement judge have access to information concerning assets of debtors (bank accounts). The Company register and the Land property register is public.

(iii) recognition of judicial decisions rendered by judges from another Member State of the Council of Europe.

Now all foreign court judgments are subject to judicial recognition procedure. When Bulgaria becomes Member State of the European Union such a procedure will not be necessary, because Bulgaria will respect the principle of mutual recognition of judgements

c) in criminal matters

1. Please describe, in general, implementation in your country of Recommendations No. R (87) 18 concerning the simplification of criminal justice and No. R (95) 12 on the management of criminal justice. Some specific aspects will be dealt with by following questions.

The requirements of Recommendations No. R (87) 18 concerning the simplification of criminal justice and No. R (95) 12 on the management of criminal justice are met by the Bulgarian national legal system.

2. Please specify characteristics of procedures existing in your country that may qualified as accelerated, simplified, and/or summary. Please refer to materials (available on the Council of Europe's website) presented during the European Conference of Judges on the theme "Early settlement of disputes and the role of judges" held in Strasbourg, 24-25 November 2003 (although these materials mainly concern civil justice).

In the law, there have been adopted different procedural mechanisms for simplification and acceleration of the criminal process, when the defendant is juvenile, or military-person, or has been arrested at the place of or during the process of committing the crime, or the case is not very complex, etc. An independent method for simplifying the criminal procedure is the opportunity for the parties to settle the criminal dispute before court, if the compensation for the injuries has been paid to the victim by or on behalf of the offender and the matters of guilt and penalty have been agreed upon.

There is a specific category of crimes, which may be prosecuted and punished only on the application of the victim. The criminal procedure of these crimes does not include preliminary investigation.

These procedures differ from the general procedure. Their time-limits are restricted, the procedural requirements are simplified and/or they lack the stage of preliminary investigation. Their regimes are determined, taking due account of the gravity and complexity of the case, personality and the effects of conviction upon the alleged offender, the likely sentence of the court, and the rights of the victim. They are limited to case where the simplification may appear useful for the completion of the case and the subsequent establishment of guilt of innocence of the suspect.

3. Please indicate (and provide details) if in your country:

(i) discretionary decisions to waive or discontinue proceedings are possible, although adequate evidence of guilt has been found (please identify cases and competent authorities);

In Bulgaria the prosecutor is the only public body, which determines whether to initiate judicial criminal proceedings by accusing a person before court, or no. If he/she is convinced that the case is too minor and the person does not deserve to be criminally repressed, he/she may discontinue the proceedings. If the defendant is juvenile and has committed a minor crime in a mental state, influenced by specific emotions, the prosecutor or the judge may release him from criminal liability for the crime and impose on him administrative sanctions.

Yet, it is possible to waive or discontinue proceedings, even though evidence of guilt has been found, by the victim. Some crimes, determined exhaustively by law, may be punished only on the request of the victim. If the victim does not ask the court to initiate criminal procedure within a legally determined time-limit, it may not and will not be initiated. Even if the proceedings have been thus initiated, the victim may ask the court not to execute the sentence and the convicted person will not be punished, though convicted.

The waive or discontinuation are temporary, or final, determined by law.

(ii) mass offences such as road traffic, tax and customs law, if they are minor, are decriminalised;

Some mass offences, such as road traffic, tax and customs law offences, if they are minor, are decriminalised and punished only under the administrative law.

(iii) out-of-court settlements are possible;

Out-of-court settlements are not possible. Without court approval, any settlement between the parties is void.

(iv) penal orders such as those described in Recommendation No. R (87) 18, or equivalent simplified proceedings are employed (please provide information as to percentage of crimes so tried);

(v) the procedure of "guilty plea" (whereby the alleged offender is required to appear at an early stage to declare whether he or she accepts charges, and court may decide the case in an accelerated way without investigations), or equivalent procedures are employed;

Under the Bulgarian law it is absolutely prohibited to accelerate the proceedings by not calling or gathering additional evidence, or to decide a case, only on a "guilty plea" base. If such a sentence is pronounced, the higher judicial instance is under the compulsory legal requirement to cancel the judgment.

(vi) declarations of voidness of proceedings are limited to cases in which failure to comply with procedural requirements have caused real damage to the interest of the defence or prosecution;

Declarations of voidness of proceedings are not limited only to cases in which failure to comply with procedural requirements have caused real damage to the interest of the defence or prosecution. However, such a failure is the main reason.

(vii) notification of summons and decisions of the court is done through simple, rapid procedures, including by mail;

Yes.

(viii) trial court is exempted, when parties agree or the case is not serious, from issuing the decision in writing (please also refer to simplified forms of written decisions).

No, the court is always obliged to issue its decision in writing. Otherwise, the decision is legally void.

4. Please describe the role of the bench in the several stages of investigations (concentrating on the three stages referred to Principle III, a.6 of Recommendation No. R (87) 18). Please also describe the role of the bench as to "guilty pleas" and sentencing, if such phases may take place out of court. Please describe the respective role of professional judges and juries in findings of guilt and determination of penalties, in those cases that are tried before a jury.

Under the Bulgarian law the judge controls the police and investigation office activities at the inquiry stage. The procedural law forbids that some investigation procedural activities be taken by the investigation or police authorities without court’s approval or permission.

At the stage where suspects are remanded in custody upon completion of police inquiries until their appearance before court, these actions are supervised in all cases by an independent judge. He is always different from the judge, who tries the case at the stage of court hearing.

Jurors participate at the stage of first instance court hearing of criminal cases. They have the powers, obligations and status of the professional judge.



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