Why did the Supreme Court decide to deprive a citizen of the right to a court?

one star - bad ruling of the Supreme Court
Piotr Kłodziński|
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Critical commentary on the decision of the Supreme Court of March 29, 2023. III CZ 427/22

stating that submitting a document to court via the Internet does not produce any legal effects.

 

Many court practitioners have known the topic and the problem itself for a long time. Sometimes on legal forums there was a question, sometimes a suggestion - what should a lawyer or a citizen do if, for reasons partly beyond their control, they have trouble sending a letter to the post office on time. Well, can he send them to court online? Well, the Supreme Court in 2023. in a civilized country, in the middle of Europe, he found it absolutely unacceptable.

 

Why has such a problem with submitting documents not only arisen, but is even increasing?

Well, in the career of every experienced representative, i.e. a lawyer or a legal advisor, there has certainly been the need to submit a letter on the last day of the deadline several times. Sometimes due to the child's illness, sometimes due to holidays, sometimes because the client reported his case to the law firm exceptionally late, and sometimes another client had to be taken out of custody and the time to prepare an appeal or cassation was dramatically reduced. Citizens of our country face similar problems and, without professional help, they act on their own in their cases before the courts.

At this time, the most common postal operator in Poland, Poczta Polska SA, is one of those organizations that has not significantly improved the standard of services provided over the last 30 years, and has recently even lowered this standard. For example, by closing the last 24-hour open post office in the second largest Polish city, Krakow, in the coming days. This means, of course, that a citizen no longer has the right to submit a letter, as the regulation says - until 24:00 on the last day of the statutory deadline, and this deadline will expire at 21:00 or 22:00, when the last post office is closed. Of course, in many smaller cities, the shortening of post office hours has already taken place a long time ago.

It is a pity that the procedural rights of the citizens of our country suffer as a result.

The key issue is what should be the motivation of the adjudicating panel adjudicating on the adoption of such a letter?

The task of us - lawyers, is not only to protect the interests of our clients, in accordance with the legal advisor's oath, we should also contribute to the protection and strengthening of the legal order of the Republic of Poland. Judges take a similar oath: "as a judge of a common court, serve faithfully the Republic of Poland and uphold the law." But let's start by determining the proper motivation - it starts with the question: why do we need this Republic of Poland and what is it? Is it some abstract creation? For the good of the state apparatus? How can we best serve her?

According to the Constitution, the Republic of Poland is the common good of all citizens. This is our common country. A country that we established together to make life better for all of us. By serving citizens, we serve the Republic of Poland.

The key question - what to do to make life better for the citizens of the Republic of Poland - should have been asked by the judges of the Supreme Court when they started adjudicating on the case on which they were supposed to decide - whether a letter submitted to the court via the E-PUAP platform, despite the lack of appropriate regulations, is brought fully effectively. Of course, due to the lack of appropriate provisions at the statutory level, they would be forced to answer this question "probably not" - although no one would probably object excessively if they filled such a legal loophole, in an area in which the legislator clearly cannot keep up, by creating and adopting the need for a pro-citizen interpretation of this matter by analogy from other regulations and procedures.

Potential effects of a legislative ruling using per analogiam interpretation

If the Supreme Court were to consider that since other documents and almost all documents can be submitted to public administration bodies, the obligation to accept a procedural document submitted electronically also results from the principle of a democratic state of law...

If, in its clemency, the Supreme Court held that since the Constitution states that "everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing without undue delay by a competent, impartial and independent court", After all, everyone is also a citizen who submits a document to the court via the Internet...

…this would fill the obvious gap that exists today in our legal system. Today, the court can serve documents to professional attorneys via a special information portal which, for unknown reasons, only works in one direction. At the same time, there is the infrastructure of the EPUAP system and (although it must be admitted that it would be inconvenient for this purpose) it can also be used to receive letters to courts.

Finally, such a ruling could result in a radical acceleration of the incomprehensibly slow IT and legislative work aimed at full computerization and ensuring the possibility of fully electronic participation in court proceedings.

In other words, if the Supreme Court ruled on the effectiveness of the letter submitted via the E-PUAP platform, the Ministry of Justice would finally have to do something about it. Although I am convinced that our citizens would cope well, as usual, even without introducing these obvious functionalities to the ministerial system, and only using the good old inbox provided within the E-PUAP system.

Potential effects of a compromise ruling

The Supreme Court judges could also have acted slightly differently. They could have said (and this was an interpretation supported so far by many lawyers and judges) that the letter was then submitted to the court, but it was a document containing a formal deficiency. There is a formal deficiency in the form of a missing signature, which must then be supplemented within 7 days by submitting a signed letter to the invoice or by sending it by post. A good emergency solution for those who need to use the court's services and, for various reasons, were unable to send a letter on the crucial day before the post office closed.

Such a ruling would maintain the current status quo. No one who didn't have to used this solution, it was not abused, and it was only a safety valve to maintain the procedural guarantees of the citizen or, as in the case of attorneys, the client.

What are these procedural guarantees and how were citizens deprived of their rights as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling?

Procedural guarantees include the right to have the case heard - in two instances, by "competent, independent, impartial and impartial court",

In this case the situation is very simple. The Supreme Court ruled that a letter submitted to the court via the EPUAP platform does not produce any procedural effects. This means, for this particular citizen, the loss of the right to argue his case in court. And it does not matter whether he used the help of a professional attorney. The effect is the same - he lost the right to substantive examination of his case.

Is that good? In my opinion, no, no and no again. About the disease of formalism.

This ruling is another extremely blatant manifestation of the disease that has been plaguing our courts for years. This is a disease of extreme formalism, which in fact reduces the court process today to a formulaic trial. Well, everyday practice shows that many judges seem to just wait for any mistake made by the citizen, or even better his representative. Then, the fact of such an error is used by the adjudicating panel (even a single-person panel) as much as possible to end the consideration of a given case as quickly as possible for procedural reasons. It is easier to say so, because no one will look at whether the court ruled rightly or wrongly in this case - the only subject of the review is a purely formal check whether the court could have closed the case for procedural reasons. And no one cares whether it is good or bad and what problems such a ruling leaves the citizen with later. What is important is that the court found a reason not to decide it.

As a result of such a procedural decision, the case is closed, the statistics are correct and, as young people ironically say, "tick, time for CS".

Shame on you, Judges of the Supreme Court, for denying the citizens of our country the right to substantive consideration of the case. You were supposed to work for people and do everything to ensure that their civil rights, including the right to a court, are guaranteed as best as possible. Rhetorically, I will just ask whose rights would suffer so much if the court simply accepted the letter received via E-PUAP?

 

Author:

Piotr Kłodziński

Legal Counsel

 

PS It was pointed out to me that I was defending the professional error of the attorney, because I am one myself, and yet he should have foreseen that this form of submitting a letter may be considered ineffective by the court in the light of the regulations. Of course, this attorney had to anticipate such a risk and I do not know the significant reasons why he decided to take this risk, but I know that in the end it was a citizen who suffered unnecessarily as a result of the court's decision. As for the criticism of this representative's actions, I will use an analogy: when I walk through the Krakow Azores, overrun by fans of another team, wearing a Cracovia scarf, of course we all know that I am not very forward-looking and generally act unwisely, but am I really the one who deserves criticism, and not primarily those who will finally stab my body with this knife?

The attorney, of course, made a mistake or took a risk, but in this story, in my opinion, it was primarily the judges who found no other option than to deprive the citizen of the right to a court that were the "bad ones". And it is precisely such court decisions that should be criticized the most.

 

PS2. As for the change that was to take place in the courts - to make them more for people, it is sad to note that the decision described above was issued by the most prominent judges who, as part of this change, began their rulings in recent years Supreme Court.

4.4/5 - (5 votes)

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