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Procedural Amendments for Courts of Appeal - International Law Office

International Law Office

Litigation - Finland

Procedural Amendments for Courts of Appeal

September 16 2003

On October 1 2003 a number of changes to the appeals system and procedure in the Finnish courts of appeal will enter into force. The new system is geared towards reducing the amount of work in the courts of appeal and shortening appeal times.

The new rules uphold the unlimited right to appeal decisions of the district courts. However, they will introduce a screening procedure under which generally only appeals that are likely to be successful will be subject to the full appeal procedure. The new rules are thus intended to render the procedure in the courts of appeal more flexible and enable a better focus of the courts' resources. This will hopefully also reduce the costs of the appeal procedure for both the parties and the courts, as well as making the appeal procedure less time consuming.

The courts of appeal will screen applications by superficially reviewing the correctness of the district court decision and the procedure in the district court. If the appeal undermines confidence in the correctness of the district court decision, the court of appeal will review the appeal under the full procedure, subject either to an oral hearing or the written procedure. However, if the court of appeal is unanimously of the opinion that the appeal would not be successful, the appeal will be struck out without any further review.

The screening process must be undertaken by three judges and a decision to strike out the appeal requires a unanimous decision of all three. This requirement is intended to ensure that appeals are not struck out without good cause - that is, that only those appeals which would clearly not lead to a variation of the district court decision are struck out at this stage.

To protect further the parties' interests, screening is discretionary and the court of appeal can refuse to strike out an appeal after the initial review even if it deems that the grounds to do so seem to exist.

Where the outcome of a matter depends on the credibility of the evidence presented, the matter must generally proceed to a main hearing and the evidence should be presented again. In such cases a main hearing can only be avoided where there is no doubt as to the correctness of the district court's evaluation of the evidence.

For further information on this topic please contact Bernt Juthström or Päivi Lindström at Roschier Holmberg Attorneys Ltd by telephone (+358 20 506 6000) or by fax (+358 20 506 6150) or by email (bernt.juthstrom@roschier.com or paivi.lindstrom@roschier.com).

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