As coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the world, the Turkish government and relevant authorities have implemented various response measures. Accordingly, the Ministry of Justice (“Ministry“), the Istanbul Bar Association (“IBA“) and the Head of the Mediation Department (“HMD“) issued non-binding decisions and announcements dated March 17, March 20 and March 16, 2020 respectively that have important consequences for the Turkish litigation practice.
Non-binding Decisions and Announcements
– Ministry’s Decision
The Ministry advises that, except for hearings concerning detained suspects and other urgent matters, all hearings and on-site examinations be postponed.
– IBA’s Announcement
The important points of IBA’s announcement following the mutual agreement with the courts located in central courthouses are:
- All hearings will be postponed. Hearings will be held after April 14, 2020.
- There is no need for lawyers to submit written excuses for hearing postponements.
- The number of court clerks will be limited. Lawyers are advised to take this into account and limit their requests to urgent matters only.
- Hearings within the scope of criminal investigations and prosecutions that concern suspects under arrest will be held. Hearings of other criminal investigations and prosecutions will be postponed.
- The statute of limitations will continue. Lawyers are advised to be aware of the foregoing, and to complete the necessary legal procedures in due time.
– HMD’s Decision
The HMD recommends that (i) for ongoing processes, mediation meetings be held online; and (ii) for new applications, meeting dates be set for the last days of the legislative time limit and that meetings be held online.
Our Observations of the Practice Following the Decisions
After the decisions, courts began postponing hearings and informing lawyers accordingly through the online judicial system.
Court clerks began taking turns with each other and a decrease has occurred in the number of court clerks. They have been insisting on the online submission of petitions and discouraging lawyers from physically comings to courthouses.
Mediators have also taken the decisions into consideration and they began either postponing mediation meetings or holding online meetings.
COVID-19 has substantially affected the Turkish litigation practice, and within the scope of the precautions, we expect to see delays in litigation.
Although the authorities recommend that no hearings and on-site examinations be held, lawyers must diligently follow-up case files through the online judicial system, as these decisions are not binding for the courts.