March 18 2003
The Finnish Code of Judicial Procedure was amended on January 1 2003 to introduce changes to civil procedure. The primary objective of the new legislation is a faster, cheaper and more effective trial procedure. In order to achieve this, the pre-trial preparation procedure has been simplified. The court now has a duty to inform the parties with regard to the status of the proceedings at different phases and emphasis is placed on the role of the judge as the active leader in the proceedings.
Previously, the civil procedure followed an almost identical pattern in every case. A matter under dispute began with a written preparation followed by a preparatory hearing before the main trial hearing. However, procedures are now more flexible to suit different types of cases.
The preparation serves no purpose in itself, but rather ensures that the case is ready for the main hearing. Thus, the amendments introduce two new options. First, if a preparatory hearing is not necessary the court can proceed from the written preparation to the main hearing of the trial. Alternatively, with the consent of the parties, the court can decide the case after the written preparation if the nature of the subject matter is such that it does not require a main hearing. However, as pointed out in the government bill, these simplified procedures are an exception to the main rule of three-step proceedings.
The new provisions also allow the use of telephones at various stages of the proceedings.
For example, if an application for a summons is incomplete the court can ask the applicant by telephone to supplement it. The preparatory hearing can also be
held by telephone or by other means of communication. The reference to other 'suitable
means of communication' is made so that new means
of communication can be introduced as technical development progresses in the future.
The court now has a specific duty to inform the parties of the progress of the preparation and the estimated timetable of the proceedings. Most importantly, the parties must be informed as to who will be presiding over the preparation. Further, they must be provided with all necessary information concerning the progress of the proceedings. The plaintiff shall be informed
of the beginning of ligitation, the issuing of the summons and the time
limit given for the response, as well as on the possible extension of that term.
Both parties must be informed if the court requests one of them to file an additional written statement.
The court must draw up a summary containing the parties' claims and the grounds
for them, and the evidence submitted by the parties during the
preparation (if necessary). The summary must be sent to the parties well in advance of the
preparatory hearing. The provisions leave room for discretion - the summary
can be delivered orally or omitted if it is unnecessary due to the nature or
scope of the matter. On the other hand, a written summary is compulsory if the
matter progresses to the main hearing without a preparatory hearing, or if no
hearing is held. The parties must be given the opportunity to express their
opinions on the summary.
The purpose of the summary requirement is to promote legal certainty, clarify the process and inform the parties on how the court has understood and acknowledged their submissions.
These amendments should expedite and simplify Finnish court proceedings, and help to provide a more efficient legal remedy to parties seeking judicial relief.
For further information on this topic please contact Bernt Juthström or Gisela Knuts at Roschier Holmberg Attorneys Ltd by telephone (+358 20 506 6000) or by fax (+358 20 506 6150) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
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