In 2016 important amendments to the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure Code in Poland will come into force. Most of the amendments aim to modernise Polish civil law and procedure. Consequently, the new provisions are said to constitute a series of facilitating measures for civil law relations and disputes governed by Polish law.
Some of the changes introduced by the act amending, among others, the Civil Code and Civil Procedure Code will be submitting electronic lawsuits, receiving court letters via email, and performing certain legal acts by means of new (document and electronic) forms. Most of the provisions will come into force in September 2016.
Main amendments to the Civil Code
Besides the already existing main forms of the legal acts, ie: (i) written, (ii) with a certain date, (iii) with signatures certified by a notary public, and (iv) notarial deed, there will be two new forms of legal acts: (i) document form, and (ii) electronic form.
The amendments to the act explains that a document constitutes any information-carrier enabling a person to become acquainted with the "carried" information. The declaration of will is made in document form, once it is made in the form of a document allowing one to verify the identity of a person making the declaration. The newly introduced document form will include modern forms of communication such as SMS text messages or emails, which are widely used in practice but do not fulfill the current requirements of a written form since they lack handwritten signatures.
The declaration of will is made in electronic form once it is signed with a secure electronic signature verified by a valid qualified certificate.
Electronic and written forms are deemed to be equivalent, ie, they can be used interchangeably. This equivalence, however, is only conditional as it can be excluded by an agreement or by the provisions of law.
If a written, document, or electronic form is required, the legal act performed without observing such form will be invalid only if the law provides for nullification, or the parties agree to nullify the legal act.
If the agreement was made in written, electronic or document form, it is sufficient that its termination, withdrawal or a notice are set out in document form, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, or stipulated by law.
Main amendments to the Civil Procedure Code
In connection with the introduction of document and electronic forms of legal acts, the rules of evidence will be amended accordingly to include these new forms.
Once the amendments come into force, it will also be possible to submit the letters to the courts (including lawsuits) electronically. The courts will be able to use electronic deliveries not only in selected proceedings (as is currently the case), but also in traditional ones. Within three years of the entry into force of the amendment, using the electronic system will be possible, provided that courts have the required technical capacities. After three years the courts will have to ensure that the possibility of submitting the court letters electronically in every case exists.
Consequently, the delivery of court correspondence will be confirmed in two ways: traditionally by placing a signature on an acknowledgment of receipt, or by means of a post operator sending information about such delivery to the court in electronic form.
The President of the court will be authorised to order that a trial be held in an open session – using electronic means (eg, via videoconference) – so that the parties, witnesses and other persons involved will be able to participate in the trial remotely. It will also be possible to participate in a hearing from a different court building.
Another amendment aimed at speeding up the proceedings is connected with the exclusion of judge –which is sometimes abused in order to extend the proceedings. In case a party applies for excluding a judge, the judge will be authorised to perform all usual tasks and actions related to a given case, eg, hear witnesses, appoint court experts until the application is examined. Until that time, however, the judge cannot issue judgments. If the judge is finally excluded, all actions carried out to that point will be considered null and void unless any undertaking can be shown to have been necessary and urgent. On the contrary, if the judge is not excluded (which often happens), all actions will remain to be valid.
All of the changes set out will lead to simplified and modernised civil law and procedure. Provisions introducing new forms of legal acts will cover modern ways of communicating and doing business such as the use of SMS text messages and emails, while the provisions on the use of electronic means in the proceedings will constitute the next level of the computerisation of civil procedure. Thanks to the amendments, court proceedings should also be quicker and easier going forward.
The newly introduced document form will include modern forms of communication such as SMS text messages or emails, which are widely used in practice but do not fulfill the current requirements of a valid legal written form.