Supplementing the Federal Council's decision, the Federal Administrative Court has handed down rulings on judicial deadlines and the delivery of documents relevant to proceedings. The Court ensures the continued operation of judicial business through extended teleworking inter alia.
The pandemic has also impacted the judiciary which must essentially remain operational even under the more arduous circumstances. The Federal Administrative Court ensures the continued operation of its judicial business through extended teleworking and by adapting the rules on judicial periods and the delivery of relevant documents for proceedings. Since pressure on the Court, already high under normal circumstances, was threatening to reach peak levels, the Federal Council’s decision on 20 March 2020 extending the time limits in civil and administrative proceedings over the Easter holidays (21 March to 19 April 2020) was particularly welcome.
Treatment of judicial periods
With regard to judicial periods, the Federal Administrative Court has supplemented the Federal Council’s decision as follows: all periods set by the Court which fall within the scope of the Federal Council decision of 20 March 2020 and expire on a specified date before 19 April 2020 shall end on 20 April 2020. Supplementing the aforesaid decision of the Federal Council, the Federal Administrative Court decided that, in proceedings where the standstill period under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) does not apply by reason of special legislation, the exceptional circumstances must be taken into account when setting new judicial periods. Judicial periods may be suitably extended on request in accordance with Article 22 paragraph 2 APA, or a period may be waived on due reconsideration. This does not apply in the case of urgent proceedings.
Delivery of relevant documents
Owing to the pandemic, problems have arisen with the delivery of court documents. Swiss Post deliveries to certain countries are restricted or altogether impossible, for example. Even inside Switzerland, deliveries can be impeded; some post offices have been closed. As a result, the Federal Administrative Court has decided, supplementally to the Federal Council's decision, that when it is not possible to deliver documents that are relevant to proceedings in Switzerland or abroad, the proceedings concerned will be deferred. This will apply until normal service is resumed.
Apart from ensuring the ongoing operation of judicial business, the top priority of the Federal Administrative Court is the health of its employees. As a safeguard, the Court has dispensed with any in-house events that are not essential to judicial business. Moreover, Division Presidents have been advised to postpone all non-urgent public hearings and proceedings. Since the outbreak of the crisis in February, the Court has continuously taken additional precautions in keeping with the worsening situation and FOPH directives. At the present time, in addition to those persons at higher risk, all judges and staff members whose presence on Court premises is not essential are teleworking. Furthermore, employees with children to care for also work from home whenever possible. Special protective measures have been put in place for the reduced staff whose presence is required on the premises in St. Gallen.