When is an application for the reopening of civil proceedings admissible?


As a rule, the fact that a court decision becomes legally valid means that it cannot be challenged, i.e. appealed, appealed or appealed against in a different manner. This rule is intended to safeguard the stability and certainty of court decisions obtained by the parties through a civil process. However, the Code of Civil Procedure provides for an exception in the form of a complaint to reopen the proceedings, the lodging of which allows for a substantive re-examination of our case by the court. Under what circumstances are we entitled to an application for the reopening of civil proceedings?

Complaint for the reopening of civil proceedings - when is it due?

The Code of Civil Procedure allows the following reasons for the resumption of proceedings before a civil court:

  • where the judgment under appeal was based on a forged or forged document, or on a criminal conviction which was subsequently quashed;

  • where the judgment under appeal has been obtained by means of a crime;

  • in the event of a later detection of a final judgment relating to the same legal relationship or the discovery of such facts or evidence, which could affect the outcome of the case, and which the party could not use in the previous proceedings;

  • if the content of the judgment was influenced by the non-concluding decision of the proceedings in the case, issued on the basis of a normative act recognized by the Constitutional Tribunal as inconsistent with the Constitution, a ratified international agreement or with the act;

  • in the event that the Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that a normative act is inconsistent with the Constitution, a ratified international agreement or with the act on the basis of which the judgment was issued;

  • if an unauthorized person participated in the composition of the court or if a judge excluded by law ruled, and the party could not demand the exclusion before the judgment became final;

  • if the party did not have judicial or procedural capacity or was not properly represented, or if, as a result of violation of the law, was deprived of the ability to act; However, it is not possible to request a resumption if, before the judgment becomes final, the inability to act has ceased or the lack of representation has been raised by way of an objection or the party has confirmed the procedural steps taken.

What judgments can I challenge?

A complaint to reopen civil proceedings may be brought before a common court, regardless of whether the proceedings ended in the first or second instance. The appealed judgment must, however, substantially resolve the dispute (adjudicate as to which party is right) and be legally valid.

It is recognized that a complaint for the reopening of civil proceedings is also available against valid orders for payment issued in the order for payment and writ proceedings [Yes: A. Zieliński (ed.), Code of Civil Procedure. Comment. Ed. 9, Warsaw 2017, Legalis].

Who, how and where can file a complaint?

A complaint to reopen civil proceedings may be brought by a party that participated in the proceedings in which the judgment under appeal was issued. This right is also vested in the person for whom the action was brought by the public prosecutor, the legal successors of the party who joined the proceedings, the probation officer, an incidental intervener, the public prosecutor, the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children, non-governmental organizations, labor inspector and poviat consumer ombudsman (on the basis of their concerning).

A complaint to reopen civil proceedings should be brought within three months from the date on which the party learned about the grounds for the resumption, and if the basis is the inability to act or the lack of proper representation - from the date on which the party, its authority or its statutory representative. In the event of lodging a complaint in connection with a ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal, the three-month period shall be counted from the entry into force of the ruling.

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The jurisdiction of the court for an action for reopening is determined in two ways, depending on the type of ground on which it is based. A complaint based on the reasons which result in the nullity of the proceedings (i.e. incorrect composition of the court, lack of judicial or procedural capacity of the parties, incorrect representation of the parties) shall be brought to the court of the instance in which the infringement giving rise to the complaint took place. If the case was ruled by the courts of two instances, the document instituting the proceedings should be submitted to the higher court. A similar jurisdiction of a court occurs when a petition to reopen civil proceedings is related to a judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal. In other cases, the court to which a petition for reopening should be lodged is the court that adjudicated the case last, deciding on its merits.

Procedure for reopening

Filing a petition to reopen the proceedings begins with the court examining whether the complaint meets the conditions for its lodging and whether it was based on one of the admissible grounds. A positive consideration of the complaint at this stage results in the court issuing a decision to reopen the proceedings.

Subsequently, the same court re-examines the case from the moment when the defect to which the complaint relates appeared. Importantly, if the complaint for the reopening of civil proceedings concerns participation in the case or conduct of a given judge, then this judge will not participate in these proceedings.

The complainant must also remember that even the reopening of the proceedings by the court does not render the final judgment in this case non-enforceable (it may become the basis for enforcement). The applicant himself has to take care of his interests by applying to the court to stay the enforcement of the judgment. This is possible, inter alia, where compliance with that decision could result in irreparable damage to the applicant.

What does the court rule as a result of reopening?

The decision which the court will issue in the reopened proceedings depends on the point at which the proceedings have returned. Thus, depending on the stage to which the process has withdrawn, the complainant will or may not be entitled to a specific remedy - under the same conditions as in the original proceedings.If the ruling of the court of first instance, the parties will again be entitled to appeal to the court of second instance. On the other hand, if the court of second instance adjudicated - the parties may be entitled to a final judgment, provided the statutory conditions are met, a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court.

It is worth knowing that despite the judicial remedy for their error by re-conducting the defective proceedings, the parties may claim compensation from the State Treasury for the damage they have suffered as a result of the judgment being issued or for the damage resulting from its execution. Regardless of this, it should be remembered that the complainant may also request the court to award the court immediately, without conducting a separate proceeding, to reimburse the benefit that the complainant has performed (or that has been enforced from him) in connection with a final court decision. The court, depending on the subject matter of the case, may also decide to restore the previous state.