Law on civil procedure amended – Simpler rules are to be expected

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The proposal to amend the Code on Civil Procedure is now being debated in the Hungarian legislature. If enacted, it will bring important changes to the civil court procedure, including the simplification of rules for applicants who act without legal representation. The Streewlayer Association’s standpoint of the proposal reads as follows.

On the 13th of October 2020, the government initiated the amendment of Act CXXX of 2016 on Civil Procedure.

The Streetlawyer association commends the proposal and summarizes its content as follows:

As its main novelty, the proposal would abolish the mandatory use of the official court procedure form for those who act without legal representation, i.e. without an attorney. If the proposal is enacted, the use of this court procedure form will only be optional. We welcome the amendment as our clients often find it cumbersome to fill out these forms. The length and legalistic language of these documents potentially scares our clients away from enforcing their due rights. The amendment could therefore have an empowering effect on our clients, who are not versed in the intricacies of the law.

The content requirements of submissions will also be simplified. Even under the current rules, parties acting without a legal representative do not in principle have to indicate a legal ground or present a legal case in their applications, but according to the new proposal, in the future it will be sufficient to explain the factual details of the case. In practice, this means that clients will be absolved from the duty to make intricate legal arguments and instead will be allowed to just describe the facts leading to the alleged infringement.

The Streetlawyer Association believes that the following prescription gives an important relief to applicants who do not have a legal representative: „in case of an incomplete application, in its call to remedy deficiencies the court should detail each hiatus of the application and should fully inform the parties on how to remedy these taking into account the applicant’s inexperience in law.”

According to the explanation enclosed to the proposal, prior experiences suggest that „due to the complicated wording of court decisions calling on remedying deficiencies, it often happens that parties do not even attempt to re-submit their applications”. The explanatory note adds that „therefore it is also justified to mandate courts to formulate their decisions calling on  remedying deficiencies in a way that takes into account the applicants’ lack of legal knowledge and inexperience in law. This proposal also provides the appropriate ground for this by simplifying the content requirements of applications.”

While we welcome these amendments, we believe that additional changes are needed to ensure due process also for parties without legal representation.

In particular, the current requirements for objecting to court injunctions remain unchanged. Courts issue an injunction when a person against whom a lawsuit is brought (i.e. the defendant) is absent from the scheduled court hearing and does not file a case for their defense either. If this happens, the defendant has 15 days to object, otherwise the court obliges them to comply with the demands laid out in the action and they must also cover the costs of the proceeding. According to the law, when a court junction is issued, it does not suffice for the defendant to dispute the action, instead they should elaborate the reasons for that (Section 181 Subsection (2) of the Code of Civil Procedure). Our association’s experience suggests that this regulation gives the type of discretion to the court that is already part of the substantive assessment of the application. There is no such opportunity during the written preparatory stage of the proceedings. Parties acting without a legal representative are usually not in the position to make their case in detail, as in this case the option to provide remedies is not available.

The Streetlawyer Association therefore calls on lawmakers to revise these rules – allowing remedies in this case as well – and to mandate courts to fully inform parties in accordance with their inexperience in the law. Based on the legislative timetable, the proposal will be accepted already this year, and its rules should be applied for the proceedings that start after the 1st of January 2021.

Fordítás/Translation by: Szabó Imre, önkéntes/volunteer