Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: 50 Lawyers, No Secretary, No Hearing

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When I decided to start a section on TCN called Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Story, I really didn’t think I would be writing about lawsuits filed against me. 

Little did I know that being sued in Croatia would be as fascinating as this. And so far, I have only spent 3 minutes inside a courtroom. I knew this would take some time, but I am genuinely stunned at how the Croatian judicial system is working (I use the last term with some reservation). There is also very little information online in English about the process of being sued, so I thought it might be a useful public service to document my cases. Perhaps someone who is in a position of power can intervene. Not in my case, I am happy to defend myself on both lawsuits, especially with the legal legendica Vanja Juric at my side. By intervention, I mean that the more publicity this farcical system gets, perhaps someone will step in to stop wasting people’s time and public money. 

Have you poured yourself a large glass of wine? Let’s begin.  

On June 12, 2020, an article appeared online in the Croatian media. Part of the article featured me, including some quotes. The article was written by someone else on a portal I have no official connection to. In October, I received a lawsuit form the Croatian National Tourist Board, seeking 50,000 kuna in damages for alleged defamation in that article. The journalist who wrote the story was not sued. The portal which published the lawsuit was not sued. No request for unpublishing or a retraction was made. Indeed, the article is still live on the Internet and you can see it here

A couple of weeks later last October, I received another blue envelope from the Zagreb court. Another lawsuit from the Croatian National Tourist Board, also for 50,000 kuna. This time, the lawsuit was related to uploading a satirical version of the tourist board logo, without comment. 

I will confess to being a little intimidated. At least until dear Vanja assured me that all would be alright. Probably the most effective lawyer in media law, she has her hands full dealing with lawsuits with the likes of Index.hr, so this was a tiny case for her. 

My first hearing was set for April 10. This being Croatia, the second case (logo satire) was heard first. In we went, my first lawsuit in 52 years. It was really happening. 

There were five of us in total – the judge, the CNTB lawyer, Vanja, myself and the stenographer. Three minutes later, it was all over. 

Vanja started with a couple of logical arguments why the case should be thrown out, but then the judge informed us that CNTB had filed another motion the previous evening. Such a late filing, in fact, that my lawyer was not given a copy before the hearing. Apparently, the reason for the late filing was due to the fact that the CNTB lawyer had been in hospital the previous week.

It was only later that I learned that the law firm consists of 6 partners and 50 lawyers. I hope that they were not all unwell for the whole week. 

The judge ruled that this new motion had to be considered, and we rescheduled for July. 


I actually didn’t mind too much. Vanja is a very cool – but extremely busy – lady, but we agreed that we would have pints after each hearing. Thanks to these lawsuits, I will have more quality Vanja time than I could have imagined. Thanks for that, guys. 

May 3 was destined to be an historic day. At 09:40, the first hearing in the first lawsuit – defamation for the article I didn’t write on the portal I don’t own. Then at 10:00, the launch of our Total Croatia portal in Dubrovnik, a project directly inspired by these lawsuits.

While the Total Croatia launch went ahead as scheduled (see the press conference with Croatian and English subtitles), things did not go so smoothly with the lawsuit. Four days before the hearing, Vanja received a request form the CNTB lawyer,requesting a delay in the hearing as he was double-booked. When Vanja refused, the court ruled that the hearing would be rescheduled until May 31. 

The law firm must be incredibly busy and successful, as none of the other 49 lawyers were in a position to take the appointed lawyer’s place. Given that I knew the date of the hearing three months ago, so too presumably did the CNTB lawyer. The only possible explanation for the double booking, therefore, must be that the firm has 50 lawyers and no secretary to manage the booking.

Guess what date it is on Monday?

May 31! The rescheduled court case for the defamation case for the article which is still online a year later, written by someone else on a portal I don’t own (I was the only one sued). In rather exciting news, I learned that if I applied in advance, the court could give me permission to photograph and even video the proceedings. How cool would that be?

I fired off my application this very morning. The response was not long in coming: Curiously – and I am sure it was a coincidence, as I am a big believer in coincidence after many years dealing with life here – Vanja got an email at almost exactly the same moment. 

My email informed me that my application had been denied because. my case had been postponed AGAIN. I messaged Vanja to ask if she knew anything. 

Her email was to inform us that the CNTB lawyer had double-booked again, and so the hearing would have to be rescheduled. 

You see the problem with not having a secretary? These double bookings seem to be a big issue. I assume that none of the other 49 lawyers in the firm were available (or perhaps they were all in hospital), and so we get to do this again on – wait for it… 

November 22. 6 months from now, and almost 18 months since the article which is still online went online. 

Having said 6 months, I must confess that I did not check with Vanja if that was November 22, 2021, or perhaps 2026. 

And so there you are, dear readers, fully updated on the current situation. I must confess a touch of sadness at the latest postponement, as i had been looking forward to morning pints with Vanja. And we have much to discuss since these lawsuits were brought up in the Croatian Parliament by another legendica, Centar MP Marijana Puljak. You can read more in You Promised Not to Sue Me, PM: Will You Also Back Anti-SLAPP Bill?

On the other hand, I now have at least two more articles for the series, Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Affair. One in July and one in November. The publicity that this case has generated for our new Total Croatia portal in many languages, is literally priceless – have you checked out Total Croatia yet? 

Croatian justice, the blogging gift that keeps on giving. Stay tuned for more updates in our Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Affair section






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