Basics of civil procedure

Agnieszka Gołąb
Ph.D. candidate in civil procedure at the University of Warsaw and judge’s assistant in the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland. She holds an M.A. in Law and Applied Linguistics from the University of Warsaw. She completed a work placement at the European Commission in Luxembourg. She is a former editor-in-chief of the Warsaw University Law Review.

The Polish Code of Civil Procedure of 17 November 1964 is the main legal act regulating civil proceedings in Poland. It was preceded by the Code of 1932, which was heavily influenced by Austrian and German legal solutions. The 1964 Code is an extensive codification encompassing (1) examination proceedings, (2) proceedings to secure claims, (3) execution proceedings, (4) international civil procedure and (5) arbitration. The 1964 Code applies to civil cases examined by courts of general jurisdiction and the Supreme Court. The subject-matter of civil cases covers matters regulated in civil law, family law, labour and social security law, as well as certain other matters specified in a range of other legal acts.

Examination proceedings comprise two modes: litigious and non-litigious. Provisions regulating the litigious mode may be used to some extent in other proceedings, either directly, without any adjustments, or mutatis mutandis. There are also some provisions that may only be applied in the litigious mode. As far as the litigious mode is concerned, it includes not only general provisions, but also a set of special provisions that are applicable to a select set of cases examined in specific procedures – by writ of payment, simplified procedure, small claims procedure, labour and social security procedure etc.

As far as the non-litigious mode is concerned, it is applied in cases regarding the personal status of the participants, i.e. adoption and guardianship, property, inheritance etc. The types of cases that are examined in non-litigious mode are specified by statute. The distinction between litigious and non-litigious modes usually concerns the nature of the case. As matters examined in the non-litigious mode are frequently of public interest, the participation of the court is more noticeable, because the court may exercise more powers ex officio.  The litigious mode is based on the two-party principle (claimant v. defendant), while the number of participants in the non-litigious mode may vary depending on the circumstances and nature of a given case.

Selected legal acts:

  1. The Polish Code of Civil Procedure of 17 November 1964 (Polish Journal of Laws of 1964, No 43, item 296 as amended).
  2. The Act on Court Fees in Civil Cases of 28 July 2005 (Polish Journal of Laws of 2010, No 90, item 594 as amended)
  3. The Act on Group Action of 17 December 2009 (Polish Journal of Laws of 2010, No 7, item 44)
  4. The Act on Enforcement Officers and Enforcement of 29 August 1997 (Polish Journal of Laws of 2011, No 231, item 1376 as amended)
  5. The Bankruptcy and Reorganisation Law of 28 February 2003 (Polish Journal of Laws of 2003, No 60, item 535)