Prospective legislative developments concerning electronic service of correspondence in civil litigation cases
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a series of legislative initiatives in Poland to begin using new technologies in civil cases in courts. As of the beginning of July 2021, two major legislative changes are envisaged concerning service of court correspondence.
The first change is an amendment to the Civil Procedure Code which will come into force as of 1 July 2021, under which:
- a court will serve court correspondence in civil cases to an address for electronic correspondence. The address will be listed in a database of e-mail addresses, provided that technical and organizational conditions allow, and if there is no such address, to the address for electronic correspondence associated with a qualified service for registered electronic correspondence from which the addressee submitted the correspondence,
- parties will be able to file pleadings by sending them to a court’s electronic submissions address as well, provided that technical and organizational conditions allow.
Also, attorneys-at-law will be required to have an e-mail address for correspondence registered in the e-mail address database, associated with a public service for registered electronic correspondence or qualified service for registered electronic correspondence.
This construct is something new in Polish civil cases. At the moment, electronic service in Polish civil cases by a court via an ICT system (service electronically) is possible subject to certain conditions. This is allowed only if a party or the party’s representative requests this in advance via the ICT system or opts to make submissions to the court via the ICT system (article 131(1) § 1 of the Civil Procedure Code). This procedure did not work, however, and was not popular among attorneys, and filings in the conventional manner, i.e. directly in a court or by conventional post, continued to be the norm. In addition, today many courts in Poland still do not have the appropriate technical infrastructure for submissions to be made via an ICT system, and in general it is not possible to make a filing ‘electronically’.
The legislation due to come into force on 1 July 2021 is intended to speed up and streamline communication between attorneys and a court, thus reducing the duration of a court case. For true change to occur, however, all courts will have to be fitted with the appropriate technical facilities and given the necessary human resources.
The other change to civil procedure relates to a bill that is in the final stages of the legislative process. This is a proposal for amendment of the Civil Procedure Code that introduces further rules on service of court correspondence electronically to attorneys-at-law. These are rules that are to apply during times of a state of epidemic threat or state of epidemic in Poland and for one year from the moment they are declared to have ended.
The most important provisions in the proposed change to the system of electronic service of court correspondence in civil cases concern the following:
- a requirement for an attorney-at-law to provide an e-mail address for service of correspondence and telephone number in the first pleading submitted in a case. If this information is not provided, this is considered a formal defect and the pleading will be returned,
- court correspondence will be served by a court to an attorney-at-law by being posted on the court portal (on the attorney’s individual profile) if the ICT system operating in the court proceedings cannot be used,
- electronic notice, i.e. the date on which court correspondence is served will be the date on which an attorney reviews correspondence posted on the notice portal, and if correspondence is not reviewed for 14/21 days it will be considered to have been served effectively after that time,
- correspondence served via an ICT system will have the same procedural consequences as procedural correspondence served by a court in the conventional way,
- a court continues to have the option of deciding not to serve correspondence via the ICT system in special situations.
As mentioned, this change is in the final legislative stage (the bill has returned to the Sejm following changes made by the Senate) and can be expected to be passed within the next month.
 Article 63 of the Act of 18 November 2020 on electronic correspondence, Journal of Laws of 2020, item 2320;
 address for electronic correspondence – an e-mail address as described in article 2(1) of the Act of 18 November 2020 on electronic correspondence, Journal of Laws of 2020, item 344), of an entity that makes use of a public service for registered electronic correspondence or public hybrid service, or a qualified service for registered electronic correspondence, whereby the sender or addressee of information sent in those services can be clearly identified;
 Article 131(2) § 1 of the Civil Procedure Code.