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Coronavirus alert

Changes in civil procedure following COVID-19 outbreak

In an effort to counter the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Justice has unveiled a set of emergency regulations designed to mitigate the impact it has on, i.a. civil procedure.

The regulations proposed by the Ministry of Justice have been included in the draft bill on amending the act on emergency solutions designed to prevent, counteract and combat COVID-19, other infectious diseases and emergency situations caused thereby (the “Draft Bill”), which is currently the subject of inter-ministerial consultations.

Key changes:

1. Urgent matters

1.1. The Ministry of Justice is to compile a list of urgent matters. The idea behind the list is to avoid a standstill in the administration of justice in respect of the most urgent matters, which must be dealt with by the courts, even if the court with territorial jurisdiction over the matter is shut down due to COVID-19, e.g. in the case where judges, associate judges and other court staff need to be quarantined.
In accordance with the Draft Bill, the act currently in place would be to include a provision listing the following matters (among others) as urgent:
– preventive detention applications,
– arrest cases,
– cases regarding criminal preventive measure orders,
– European arrest warrant cases,
– cases regarding temporary release from a correctional facility with the use of electronic monitoring system,
– cases regarding detention orders where a foreigner in placed in a detention center or under arrest,
– cases regarding imprisonment or other sentences or coercive measures resulting in imprisonment, so long as the court’s decision regards the release from jail or prison or is necessary to enforce the sentence or coercive measure,
– cases regarding the removal of a person from the care of a parent or legal guardian,
– the case referred to in the Act on Mental Health Protection,
– cases regarding the placement of a juvenile offender or extension of a juvenile offender’s stay in a juvenile detention facility,
– cases regarding the placement of a minor in a child and youth care facility,
– preliminary injunction applications,
– cases involving the examination of a person for the purpose of securing evidence or examination of a person with respect to whom examination in a trial may not be possible,
– administrative cases which must be heard by a court within the deadline prescribed by law and cases regarding applications to prevent the enforcement of an act or performance of an action.

1.2. The course of action for a case which ends up on the urgent matters list would be the following:
– if a common or military court has been shut down due to COVID-19, the chief judge of the appeals court will be able to assign cases of urgent nature within the jurisdiction of the court which has been shut down to a different court of the same instance, located within the same appellate circuit;
– if all common or military courts within an appellate circuit have been shut down due to COVID-19, the First Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, upon the request of the chief justice of the appeals court within the appellate circuit all courts of which have been shut down, will be able to assign cases of urgent nature within the jurisdiction of the court which has been shut down to a different court of the same instance, located (as far as possible) within the adjacent appellate circuit;
– if a voivodship administrative court has been shut down due to COVID-19, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Administrative Court would be able to assign cases of urgent nature within the jurisdiction of the court which has been shut down to a different voivodship administrative court.

1.3. The court assigned to an urgent case in accordance with section 1.2 above would handle the case until the end of proceedings within given instance.

2. Deadlines

2.1. In accordance with the Draft Bill, following the announcement of a state of epidemic threat or the state of epidemic due to COVID-19, the procedural deadlines in court proceedings, incl.:
– administrative court proceedings;
– enforcement proceedings;
– criminal, fiscal penal and minor offence proceedings;
– administrative and administrative enforcement proceedings;
– as well as the deadlines in other proceedings pending on the basis of the act;
would not be triggered and, if they have already been set running, would be suspended until the state of epidemic threat or the state of epidemic announced due to COVID-19 is called off.

2.1.1. The abovementioned rule would also apply to:
– the deadline for declaring an administrative case handled as a result of an implied decision;
– deadlines in other cases where the lack of a public agency’s objection, decision, ruling or another determination serves as the grounds for a party to proceedings to take action or complete a formality or affects the scope of the party’s rights and obligations;
– the deadline for a public agency to issue a ruling of general or individual nature.

It should be noted that before the deadline referred to in section 2.1.1 expires, a public agency or entity would be able to issue ex officio a decision on full acceptance of the party’s request, statement on the lack of grounds for objection and a ruling of general or individual nature.

The relevant public agency, court or entity would be able to request a party to proceedings to perform certain action within the prescribed deadline, if a failure to perform the action might result in:
– danger to human or animal life or health;
– severe damage to the public interest;
– irreparable property damage.

In such a case, the party to the proceedings should perform its obligations within the deadline.

Actions performed as part of the proceedings listed above during the state of epidemic threat or the state of epidemic are effective.

Moreover, pursuant to the Draft Bill, during the state of epidemic threat or the state of epidemic announced due to COVID-19:
– the regulations covering public agencies’ idleness and the obligation of a public agency and entity to notify a party to the proceedings about the failure to deal with the case on time would not apply;
– public agencies or entities would not be liable to a fine in the case where they fail to issue a decision within the prescribed deadline.

The Draft Bill also provides that legal measures cannot be pursued on the grounds of idleness, excessive length of proceedings or the right of a person to have their case handled without undue delay in the case where a public agency or entity has stopped operating during the state of epidemic threat or the state of epidemic announced due to COVID-19.

2.2. In addition, certain other deadlines, provided for in civil and administrative law, would not be triggered or would be suspended, namely:
– deadlines which must be met in order to obtain legal protection before a court or a public agency, and deadlines for the performance of actions which affect the scope of rights and obligations of a party to a legal relationship;
– periods of adverse possession, statute of limitation, prescription;
– final dates which, if not met, produce adverse effects for a party to proceedings;
– deadlines for entities or bodies required to be listed in the register of business or register of associations, other community and professional organizations, foundations and independent public complexes of health care facilities, the National Court Register (Krajowy Rejestr Sądowy) or a different register kept by a public administration agency to perform an action which must be reported to the relevant register, as well as deadlines for the above-named entities or bodies to perform obligations resulting from regulations pertaining to them.

Similarly as in the case of deadlines discussed in section 2.1, the relevant public agency, court or entity would be able to request a party to proceedings to perform certain action within the prescribed deadline, if a failure to perform the action might result in:
– danger to human or animal life or health;
– severe damage to the public interest;
– irreparable property damage.

It is pertinent to mention that actions performed to exercise a right or discharge an obligation at the time when the deadlines listed above are stopped, triggered or interrupted are effective.

3. Pleadings

The Ministry of Justice intends to use the Draft Bill to add a provision to the applicable act stating that, during the state of epidemic threat or the state of epidemic, or if a universal postal service provider stops its operations, a pleading may be filed with the court through e-PUAP platform. A pleading filed in this manner should be executed by a qualified electronic signature.

In addition, a pleading with a qualified electronic signature or an electronic copy of a pleading signed by hand may be filed with the court through e-mail.

If a pleading is sent from the sender’s e-mail addressed provided beforehand or if there are no doubts as to the sender’s identity, the pleading is deemed to be executed with a signature producing legal effects equivalent to the effects of a handwritten signature.

Appendices to pleadings filed in one of the above manners should be submitted in digital form, with no need to provide them in hard copy.

It should be noted that the Draft Bill is a work in progress, which means that the final shape of the changes discussed above is yet unknown.

Let us know if you have any questions:

Jacek Bieniak
Attorney-at-law / Managing Partner
+48 601 298 869
jacek.bieniak@actlegal-bsww.com

Piotr Smołuch
Attorney-at-law / Managing Partner
+48 662 108 222
piotr.smoluch@actlegal-bsww.com

Dominika Michalska
Attorney-at-law / Partner
+48 600 851 763
dominika.michalska@actlegal-bsww.com

Marek Miszkiel
Attorney-at-law / Partner
+48 603 553 566
marek.miszkiel@actlegal-bsww.com

25.03.2020

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