Cyprus enacts interim fast track civil procedure for delayed cases
The Supreme Courts of Cyprus, exercising constitutional powers and having regard to the extensive delays in the adjudication of civil cases before District Courts in Cyprus, has enacted an interim fast track civil procedure for delayed cases.
The new interim civil procedure rules were enacted on 25 November 2022 through the publication of the Adjudication of Delayed Cases (Special Procedural Rules) of 2022 and were adjusted through an amendment on 23 December 2022 (the Interim CPR).
Scope of application of the Interim CPR
The Interim CPR apply with immediate effect to all pending cases filed between the calendar years 2014 and 2018 and in which the hearing of the merits of the case has not yet started.
The main provisions of the Interim CPR on the process
In all cases to which the Interim CPR apply, the following shall apply:
The Registrar of each District Court is mandated to send promptly a letter to the parties or their lawyers, by mail to their address of service or by email, requesting that an application is filed by the parties within 10 days from the date of the notification, so that the case is fixed for trial. If the parties fail to file this application, although notified to do so, the case will be considered abandoned and shall be brought before the competent Judge for dismissal subject to the right of any party to file a reinstatement motion within a reasonable time.
For all cases which are already scheduled for hearing or which shall be scheduled for hearing as a result of an application to be filed by the parties, as aforesaid, the parties are not allowed to file any interlocutory application or motion, unless they get permission to this effect by the Court. The relevant permission shall be sought verbally and the Court, exercising discretion, will grant or deny the relevant permission and give relevant directions by reference to the interests of justice in the given situation.
The hearing of each case will begin and continue without interruption and the Court will manage the entire process with the aim of the swift adjudication of the dispute and the preservation of costs. Where the Court schedules date(s) for hearing, unless it is unfeasible, it shall give directions that the dates are successive.
On the first date when the case is scheduled before the Court, the Court will be responsible to draw up a list of witnesses that will give evidence from each side. The Court, in co-ordination with the lawyers of the parties or the parties themselves, shall exercise its best endevours so that the number of witnesses is limited, having regard to the extent of the dispute, as this arises from the relevant pleadings.
The Court shall have the power, after considering the position of the parties, to set time frames within which the examination and cross-examination of witnesses will take place, depending on the nature of the case and the respecting allegations in the pleadings.
The Court may decide, regardless of the extent or value of the dispute, that considerations of swift adjudication of the dispute and preservation of costs justify that evidence in the case is given solely on the basis of written testimony and that verbal evidence will be wholly or partly excluded on any issue.
Any motion or application in the course of the hearing of the dispute shall be made verbally before the Court and directions shall be given by the Court.
The introduction of document bundles
For the first time in Cyprus civil procedure, the Interim CPR introduces the concept of document bundles. Subject to any different directions of the Court, the claimant shall files a document bundle for the hearing, which contains documents that are required by any Court order (e.g. the documents disclosed). The claimant shall file the documentary bundle not more than 7 days and not less than 3 days before the commencement of the trial.
The new Interim CPR comprises a fast track civil procedure framework for cases filed between 2014 – 2018. It aims to fight the delays in the civil system and introduces considerations of proportionality in the civil justice system, by prioritising in delayed cases the swift adjudication of the dispute and the preservation of costs. While District Court Judges maintain discretion to deviate from its provisions for the purpose of ensuring that the interests of justice are safeguarded, it is expected that it will give a substantial boost in the adjudication of delayed cases and the decongestion of the civil justice system in Cyprus. This measure, together with the new Civil Procedure Rules which shall come into effect in July 2023 as well as the existing backlog system for pre-2014 cases, are expected to improve substantially the time needed for an adjudication of a civil case in Cyprus and reinstate Cyprus as a reliable dispute resolution forum in the coming years.