There's more to litigation than the Civil Procedure Code
Sometimes the Civil Procedure Code does not provide a satisfactory response to a litigation issue. The answer may lie in a less obvious source.
In Poland, civil procedure includes an extensive set of rules, frequently amended. The overwhelming majority of these rules are set forth in the Civil Procedure Code. For years, the code has been the longest statute in the Polish legal system. Nonetheless, it is not an exhaustive guide to this field of law. Litigation rules are also found in various other acts and decrees, and these non-code rules can be of vital importance for effective commencement and conduct of civil proceedings.
One of the most important non-code regulations supplementing the civil procedure system is the set of rules for operation of the common courts, published in the regulation of the Minister of Justice dated 23 February 2007. It contains numerous provisions that are useful to know for the parties to a civil case.
For example, this set of rules governs the technical procedure for rejection of a pleading with formal defects—an issue on which the Civil Procedure Code is silent. If often happens in practice that a party receives an order rejecting a pleading, but the party is confused because the pleading itself is not returned, but retained by the court. The reason? Under §110(2) of the regulation, if an order rejecting a pleading is appealable, the pleading itself is not actually returned to the party until the order rejecting the pleading is served on the party and becomes legally final (following an interlocutory appeal, if the party elects to pursue it).
This regulation also contains useful information about accessing and reviewing the case files (§90 ff). Another important provision is §46, governing the courts’ summer recess. Under this section, during July and August court sessions may be limited to urgent matters. This is why, for example, a straightforward debt collection case may have to give way on the summertime docket to a case that is more complex but falls within the list of urgent matters as defined in the regulation.
Another key regulation issued by the Minister of Justice, dated 16 October 2002, provides precise guidelines for determining the geographical territory covered by the specific courts of appeal, regional courts and district courts. This is crucial for applying the Civil Procedure Code rules governing venue. This is particularly important information for business litigants, because not all of the courts have commercial divisions with special competence in resolving disputes between business entities.
Among the acts of the Polish Parliament, probably the most important one for civil litigants apart from the code itself is the Act on Court Costs in Civil Matters. It contains detailed provisions concerning the amount of fees in all types of cases that may potentially be filed with a civil court. The act contains a schedule of the fees payable upon filing of the initial pleadings in a case (e.g. the statement of claim), and appellate pleadings, such as a full appeal, an interlocutory appeal and a cassation appeal. The act also includes essential information for the party that has to bear the costs after losing the case.
The issue of class actions is also governed separately from the code, in the Class Actions Act, and the issue of overlong proceedings is addressed in the Act on Complaints for Violation of the Party’s Right to Consideration of a Civil Proceeding without Unjustified Delay.
Finally, there is the Commercial Companies Code, which contains numerous provisions governing the litigation prerogatives of participants in commerce. These include such key issues as a petition to the court to exclude a shareholder from a limited-liability company (Art. 268), as well as civil liability of corporate authorities for injury to the company (Art. 295 and 486) and venue for such actions (Art. 298 and 489). Also notable is Art. 546 §2, which provides additional grounds for seeking interim relief to secure claims on the part of creditors of companies undergoing division. The Commercial Companies Code contains not only provisions that supplement the general rules of civil procedure, but also special provisions that exclude application of the rules in the Civil Procedure Code in certain situations. For example, pursuant to Commercial Companies Code Art. 252 §1 and 425 §1, the general rules in Civil Procedure Code Art. 189 concerning an action for a declaratory judgment do not apply to claims to set aside a resolution of the shareholders of a limited-liability company or joint-stock company.
EU and international law
European Union legislation and international treaties function as sources of law alongside national law. In the context of commercial litigation, rules governing jurisdiction, determining which country’s courts are competent to hear cases, are particularly important. Also of great significance are provisions of international law on recognition and enforcement of judicial rulings, designed to simplify and shorten proceedings so that national borders do not present excessive barriers to enforcement of judgments.
Bartosz Trocha, Dispute Resolution & Arbitration Practice, Wardyński & Partners