Action for declaration of unlawfulness of a court decision

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A complaint for declaring a legally valid court ruling unlawful was introduced into the Code of Civil Procedure along with the amendment of 2004. Contrary to its name, it is not, however, a means of appeal, by means of which we can obtain a change or revocation of a judgment unfavorable to us. The purpose of the proceedings triggered by the lodging of this particular legal measure is only to find that the final judgment was issued by a court in breach of applicable law.

When is a complaint due?

An action for a declaration of non-compliance may be brought from:

  • a final and binding judgment of the second instance court terminating the proceedings in the case,

  • against a legally binding decision on the merits of the case issued by the court of second instance, which ends the proceedings in the case,

  • from the final and binding decisions issued in proceedings concerning judgments issued by the authorities of foreign states.

A complaint may be lodged against the above judgments when their change or revocation has not been and is not possible by other legal means.

By way of exception, a complaint may also be lodged against a final judgment (also a decision) of first instance terminating the proceedings in the case - that is, in a situation where such a judgment has not been appealed by any of the parties to the appellate court. Similarly, only exceptionally, a complaint will be entitled to a final judgment of the second instance, against which the parties have not resorted to other legal remedies available to them. It takes place when the unlawfulness of such a ruling results from violation of the fundamental principles of the legal order or constitutional freedoms or human and civil rights.

On the other hand, judgments of the second instance court against which a cassation appeal has been lodged and judgments of the Supreme Court are not subject to appeal. A complaint for a declaration of non-compliance is also not applicable to judgments issued in enforcement or restructuring proceedings and against decisions relating solely to procedural issues.

A complaint the subject of which is a judgment issued before the entry into force of the amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure introducing this institution, i.e. before September 1, 2004, is also considered inadmissible.

A complaint for declaring the legality of a final court ruling to be unlawful may be brought if the ruling violates substantive law or the provisions of civil procedure. At the same time, these infringements must entail harm to the complainant. It should be remembered that the basis for an appeal cannot be allegations concerning the establishment of facts and evaluation of evidence in the proceedings conducted so far.

Importantly, a complaint may be brought only once from the same judgment.

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Who, how and where can file a complaint?

A complaint for a declaration of legality of a final judgment may be brought by the parties involved in the case, an incidental intervener, if there was one in the case, the prosecutor, non-governmental organizations, the Public Prosecutor General, the Ombudsman or the Ombudsman for Children.

The complaint shall be lodged with the court which issued the judgment under appeal within 2 years from the date on which it became final. On the other hand, the Supreme Court is competent to consider the complaint, to which the court will transfer the complaint submitted by us together with the case files.

In proceedings before the Supreme Court, an attorney-at-law coercion is obligatory, which means that a professional attorney must draw up and file a complaint.

The complaint must be paid according to the general rules. In property rights cases, it is necessary to pay a proportional fee of 5% of the value of the subject of the dispute or the subject of the appeal, but not less than PLN 30 and not more than PLN 100,000.

What is the court ruling?

According to the case law of the Supreme Court: An unlawful judgment is a judgment that is undoubtedly contrary to fundamental and not subject to different interpretations regulations, with generally accepted standards of decisions or issued as a result of a particularly grossly incorrect interpretation or application of the law (judgment of the Supreme Court - Civil Chamber of September 10, 2015 r., II CNP 60/14, Legalis). It is also indicated that: The action for declaration of the unlawfulness of a final judgment may be effective only if the infringement indicated therein is of a qualified and elementary nature (judgment of the Supreme Court of 9 January 2014, I BP 5/13, Legalis; post by the Supreme Court of October 15, 2014, III CNP 13/14, Legalis; the judgment of the Supreme Court of April 25, 2013, II CNP 60/13, Legalis; October 2, 2014, IV CNP 70/13, Legalis ).

The court therefore decides whether the appealed judgment is unlawful. However, it will adjudicate this only when the violation of the law does not raise any doubts and is gross. The Supreme Court de facto qualifies in these proceedings which judgments are affected by violations of the law, which are so reprehensible that the resulting damage to property should be repaired.

It should be remembered that when filing a complaint for a declaration of non-compliance with the law of a final judgment, we can only receive a judgment which, on the way to receiving compensation from the State Treasury, is only preliminary. However, this judgment is necessary for further pursuing your claims. The effect of the proceedings will not be the elimination of such a ruling from legal circulation - it will still be binding on the parties and authorities.

What can I do if I am not entitled to a non-compliance complaint?

As already indicated above, in many cases a party is not entitled to an action for a declaration of unlawfulness.

The Constitutional Tribunal was concerned with this problem, in its opinion: The fact that a final judgment does not end the proceedings in the case does not justify the differentiation consisting in the complete exclusion of the possibility of claiming compensation for damages caused by all final and non-ending judgments. Such differentiation is not rationally related to the purpose and content of a given regulation, nor is it based on constitutional values, principles or norms (judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal of April 1, 2008, SK 77/06, Legalis).

As a result of the above judgment, it was found that the inability to obtain a court confirmation of the unlawfulness of the judgment, which was issued to our disadvantage and caused us damage, should not and does not close the way to obtain compensation in a standard compensation process. It is only necessary to show that we have used all available legal remedies to amend or revoke this decision.