Work has resumed on a draft amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure presented by the Ministry of Justice.
The proposed changes in civil procedure relate to almost all stages of proceedings and introduce new solutions and procedural institutions as yet unimplemented in Polish legislation. Recognition of cases in civil courts in the first instance takes approximately 15 months on average, however, proceedings in cases with more legal difficulty or factual complexity may be pending for much longer.
The fundamental objective of the planned amendment is to further improve and expedite the functioning and completion of civil proceedings.
Why do disputes take so long to resolve?
Apart from many formal aspects, the parties themselves often undertake actions that affect the duration of proceedings. For example, calling too many witnesses, whose testimony or statements do not provide merit to the proceedings, or filing pleadings just before or at the hearing, which makes it necessary to postpone the hearing. In proceedings in which an expert opinion is required, issuance of a decision can be postponed for months, and in the worst cases, years.
The draft amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure introduces a new, additional phase of preparatory proceedings, with the goal of decreasing unnecessarily lengthy proceedings. In this phase of the proceedings a "Hearing timetable" is prepared, in which the parties must precisely specify and clarify their demands and accurately determine allegations. It is up to the judge to determine which facts remain disputable between the parties and to draw up a protocol for discrepancies.
During the preparatory proceedings the parties are obliged to submit all evidence. Evidence not submitted at this time will be omitted. The court must then decide whether or not to accept the evidence indicated by the parties in the "Hearing timetable".
Additionally in this stage, the schedule of proceedings, including the dates for the hearing and the date for announcement of the verdict, will be set. If the evidence is so extensive that it will not be possible to close the hearing on the first date, the next term will be set, if possible, in the following days.
The parties shall actively participate in the scheduling, and will have an influence on the development of the proceedings. This also means that the parties will share responsibility for the course of the proceedings.
The result of the introduction of the Hearing timetable
After the preparatory proceedings and creation of a Hearing timetable, the parties will be fully aware of what actions must be taken in each case, at what time and, most importantly, within what time frame they may expect a ruling.
The solutions proposed in the draft amendment are not new to dispute resolution and are based on practices developed by arbitration courts, where cases are settled extremely efficiently. Hopefully, after the introduction of the amendment, common courts will also conduct proceedings quickly and efficiently.