THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN POLAND
The Constitutional principles of organization and functioning of the judiciary in Poland cover the legal and organizational status of court authorities, proceedings before courts and the legal status of the judge.
Art. 173 of the Polish Constitution of 2 April 1997 provides for dualism of the judiciary's authority. It is composed of courts and tribunals. Courts encompass:
- the Supreme Court
- common courts
- administrative courts, including the Supreme Administrative Court
- military courts.
As regards tribunals, the Constitution lists the Constitutional Tribunal and the Tribunal of the State.
Common courts are established and closed by the Minister of Justice after the opinion from the National Judiciary Council. Proceedings before Polish courts take place in two instances. Common courts are divided into:
- Regional courts
- District courts
- Appeal courts
In Poland there are the following types of common courts of law:
- Regional courts [Sądy Rejonowe] - they are courts of the first instance and they handle most cases, except cases reserved for other courts; their jurisdiction usually covers an area of several Communes.
- District courts [Sądy Okręgowe] - they function as both first and second instance courts, handling serious cases and appeals; their jurisdiction covers an area of several district courts.
The decision whether a case should be handled by a district or a regional court of first instance depends on the type of the case.
- Appeal (Appellate) courts [Sądy Apelacyjne] - they are the second instance courts and their jurisdiction covers a territory of at least two regional courts. The
Currently, there are 376 common courts in Poland - 11 appeal courts, 45 district courts and 321 regional courts.
Judges of common courts are appointed by the President of the Republic of Poland at the motion of the National Judiciary Council for an unspecified period of time. Judges in Poland are independent, they are governed solely by the Constitution and Laws.
In the Polish court system there are no separate commercial courts. Commercial cases are handled by the commercial division of the common court.
The common courts are divided into divisions depending on the type of cases they handle (e.g. civil division, commercial division, commercial division of the National Court Register, land and mortgage register division, employment division, family division and bankruptcy division).
Not all district courts have a commercial division. There is usually a commercial division in one district court within the region of each regional court. Each regional court has a separate commercial division. Courts of appeal do not have commercial divisions at all, and therefore commercial cases there are heard in the civil division.
A major change affecting cases between entrepreneurs went into effect on 3 May 2012. The separate procedure for commercial cases was eliminated for cases filed after that date.
Consequently, the district court now acts as the court of first instance in commercial cases concerning proprietary rights where the amount in litigation/dispute does not exceed PLN 75,000. An appeal against a first-instance decision issued by the commercial division of a district court is heard by the commercial division of the regional court. If a decision is issued at the first instance by a regional court (i.e. where the amount in dispute exceeded PLN 75,000), the appeal will be heard by the civil division of the court of appeal.
A commercial case is heard in the first instance by the commercial division of the court. If the plaintiff files a statement of claim in a commercial case with the civil division of the competent court, it will automatically be forwarded to the commercial division. If the specific district court does not have a commercial division, the case will be moved to the district court with a commercial division, resulting in a change of venue.
The definition of commercial cases was significantly modified in connection with recent amendments to the Civil Procedure Code. A commercial case is defined as a civil case between businesses (i.e. individuals or other entities engaged in commercial or professional activity for their own account) within the scope of their business activity. The definition of a commercial case also includes several specific categories of cases:
- - Cases involving corporate relations, or claims for damages against members of the management board of a capital company (limited-liability company or joint-stock company) for alleged infringement of law or corporate regulations
- - Environmental cases against businesses (to cease environmental violations, redress injury to the environment, conduct environmental reclamation, or enjoin actions threatening the environment)
- - Cases heard by the common courts pursuant to competition law, the Energy Law, the Telecommunications Law, the Postal Law or railway law
- - Cases against businesses seeking to prohibit the use of unfair contracts.