RJRC Interregional Group Discussed Amendments to the Civil Procedural Code
On January 28, the Interregional Working Group of the Regional Justice Reform Councils (RJRCs) held a meeting dedicated to the “Optimization of the Civil Procedural Code”. Judges, lawyers, and academia from all across Ukraine practising in the civil jurisdiction, together with the national and international experts of the EU Project Pravo-Justice, highlighted and discussed the drawbacks of the Civil Procedural Code and came up with some recommendations on how to eliminate them.
“After four years of the procedural codes being in place, it can now be stated what does work in practice and what does not. Our goal is to discuss the problematic aspects of application of the civil procedures in order to develop a joint opinion of the RJRC Interregional Working Group on how it can be improved, address existing drawbacks, and submit consolidated proposals of amendments to the legislator,” said Oksana Tsymbrivska, Key National Expert of the EU Project “Pravo-Justice”, Component “Justice Sector Policy and Coordination”.
“Greater involvement of practicing lawyers from the regions and RJRC representative allows participating in amending the procedural codes while applying the evidence-based approach, which is very important” added Eric Svanidze, Acting Team Leader of the EU Project “Pravo-Justice”.
In his introductory speech, EU Project “Pravo-Justice” International Expert Remco Van Rhee talked about the latest trends in improvement of the civil process in European jurisdictions.
“The model rules of civil procedure developed by the European Law Institute should become a guide to the legal reform in various EU member states. It is based on best practices, which we define as activities that lead to fast, high-quality and cost-effective proceedings, which are available to all legal entities and individuals and fit in the context of a case and due law. I hope that these rules will be relevant for Ukraine,” said Remco Van Rhee.
The following model rules were mentioned:
- Parties, their lawyers and the court must work together to facilitate a fair, effective, and expeditious resolution of a dispute.
- The court must facilitate the peaceful settlement of a dispute at any stage of proceedings.
- Parties and their lawyers must cooperate with the court to facilitate a proportionate dispute resolution process.
- Parties are obliged to cooperate in order to avoid unnecessary disputes and costs, to facilitate the earliest possible settlement of their dispute by mutual agreement and, if such dispute resolution is not possible, to organize proportionally further proceedings.
- The preliminary hearing must be held as early as possible.
- The rules are currently being translated into Ukrainian and will become available soon.
In his turn, Semen Kravtsov, National Expert of the EU Project Pravo-Justice, spoke about the prospects of simplifying the civil process and changing the general attitude to the role of court in the process. He also presented the infographics developed by the Project and displaying some general principles which should underlie changes to any procedural code. Such principles cover, among others, general arrangements, case management, procedural conduct of participants, digitalization, and appeal.
During the next part of the meeting, the RJRCs members presented and discussed their proposals on how to address procedural problems they face in their respective regions, starting from the CPC general provisions and trial in the first instance up to reviewing and enforcing court decisions. Each participant had the opportunity to present their opinion, as well as receive feedback from International Expert Remco Van Rhee.
The discussion was moderated by Roman Chumak, coordinator of the Kharkiv RJRC, lawyer, and managing partner of Ares Law Firm.
Among other things, the RJRCs representatives highlighted the following issues:
- The need to strengthen the role of the court in civil proceedings to ensure effective administration of justice. The need for the court to determine the case management framework.
- Simplification of court procedures in certain categories of disputes.
- Improving mediation procedures in civil proceedings, introduction of mandatory pre-trial mediation.
- The need to address the issue of liability for contempt of court or abuse of procedural rights.
- Risks relating to groundless self-recusal of judges.
- Alternative nature of the use of summary and simplified proceedings, which delays the process and overburdens judges.
- Inconsistency in the terms of consideration of the application for a court order.
- Lack of regulation of how to proceed if a lawsuit has been filed to a court of wrong instance.
- Excessively long term of the preparatory stage within the general contentious proceedings.
- Excessively high threshold in terms of the amount of claim for admission to the cassation review, which affects the accessibility of the court of cassation.
- Excessively long deadline for filing a cassation appeal complaint and deciding whether to initiate cassation proceedings, etc.
The discussion will be followed up by a comparative table (current draft, proposed amendments, and issues they address) which will contain the consolidated RJRCs’ proposals on optimizing the Civil Procedural Code. The proposals will be submitted to the Working Group on Optimization of the Procedural Codes under the Legal Policy Committee; three RJRCs’ members sit in the said WG.
Regional Justice Reform Councils (RJRCs) have been established with support of the EU Project Pravo-Justice and function in Chernivtsi, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Lviv, Odesa regions and Donbas. To date, Councils members have been actively participating in drafting a bill on mediation, amendments to the Bankruptcy Code, proposals to improve legislation on enforcement proceedings, introducing e-court and discussing the concept of transitional justice.
RJRCs act as permanent working groups to promote bottom-up reforms: bringing region-specific challenges and potential solutions thereof to the level of central government.
One of the RJRCs’ working formats is interregional working groups to analyze the existing state of affairs and develop proposals for reforming various areas of justice. Some previous efforts of the interregional working groups translated into the proposals for the Strategy of Sustainable Development of the Judiciary for 2021–2025, the report on mediation in administrative cases, and the report on mediation in civil and commercial cases. The latter have been presented and approved by the Legal Reform Commission under the Office of the President, by the Ministry of Justice, by the High Council of Justice, and other top- politicians.