Summary of Contents
1. GENERAL INFORMATION
Formally, Republic of Poland is a unitary state, with representative democracy, semi-presidential system of executive power, tripartite division of powers and multiple rule of law and human rights warranties. Since late 2015, however, the government has been evolving towards post-liberal democracy with authoritarian elements, limited division of powers and somewhat limited warranties of the rule of law and human rights, as well as increased power vested in the executive branch.
According to the 2011 census, population of Poland is 38.512 million (by 2018 estimates, 38.411 million). Poland remains relatively uniform ethnically, but the available data does not take into account substantial migration that had occurred in the last few years. Ethnic groups by members’ own declaration in the 2011 census are as follows: Polish: 94.8%, mixed Polish and non-Polish: 2.3%, non-Polish only: 1.5% (main non-Polish ethnic groups: German 0.2%, Kashubian: 0.6%, Silesian: 1%). Official language is Polish. Religious groups (2011 census) are Catholic 87.7%, Orthodox 0.4%, Protestant 0.3%, not having religion: 2.41%, refuse to answer: 7.1%.
In 2019, Poland ranked as the 56th economy in the world by nominal GDP per capita, (41st in the world by purchasing power parity). Gross national income (GNI) per capita in Poland is 27626 $ (2011 PPP). Chart 01 indicates Poland’s GDP at current prices since 2010.
Chart 01: Poland’s GDP at current prices since 2010
Poland ranks as a country of moderate inequality. The coefficient of human inequality is 8.0. 15% of the population lives below the income poverty line (national poverty line). Life expectancy at birth in Poland is 78.5 years. The number of expected years of schooling comes to 16.4. Poland’s HDI is 0.872.
2. LEGAL SYSTEM
Polish legal system belongs to the civil law tradition, with strong influences from French and German legal systems. Limited remnants of the communist legal legacy still persist.
Poland’s justice system consists of two separate branches: common courts and administrative courts, each operating independently both in organizational terms and as far as scope of adjudication is concerned. The common court system consists of the Supreme Court (comprising 4 semi-independently acting chambers: Civil Chamber, Criminal Chamber, Chamber of Labour and Social Insurance, Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs), 11 Appellate Courts, 45 District Court and 318 Regional Courts. Common courts are divided into a number of specialized sections: criminal, civil, labour, business, family, juvenile, consumer & competition (only 1 section exists serving the entire country). Also land register is run in the form of a specialized section in regional courts. A separate system of military courts exists to serve the needs of the military. In principle, a three-tier system of judicial review exists, but cassation appeals to the Supreme Court are extraordinary measures.
The administrative court system consists of 16 Provincial Administrative Courts and the Supreme Administrative Court. While provincial courts hear appeals from second instance administrative decisions, the Supreme Administrative Court hears cassation appeals from Provincial Courts’ verdicts. Three-tier system of review of administrative decisions is thus established, with one review instance at the administrative level and two at the court level.
Another independent entity within the justice system is the Constitutional Tribunal, tasked with resolving issues of unconstitutionality and other types of invalidity of law. As of early 2020, the Constitutional Tribunal is largely defunct due to a number of faulty appointments of justices after 2015.
Being a member of the European Union and the Council of Europe Poland must also observe the verdicts of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.
Chart 02: Poland’s Court System
As far as the number of court cases is concerned, over the last two decades Poland witnessed dramatic growth of incoming cases (i.e. between 2002 and 2017 the number of civil cases grew by 287%), resulting in heavy caseloads in the lower courts, and delay issues. It must be pointed out, however, that numbers of cases indicated in Chart 03, which reports on new cases in all instances in 2018, include also minute legal issues that are secondary to the main case, so the effective number of actual new cases may be lower.
Chart 03: New court cases in all instances in 2018
Not being ethnically diversified Poland does not have any indigenous justice structures. No such structures have also emerged from other sources. Some increased interest in international arbitration in recent years can be observed.
The legal profession in Poland is composed of professional justices (9872), prosecutors (5805) employed by the Prokuratora to prosecute criminal acts in the name of the State, notaries public (3593 active) who are licensed professionals tasked with preparing certified legal documents (i.e. contracts transferring the ownership of real estate), and members of two bar associations: advocates (19347 active) and legal advisers (36492 active). Historically, whilst advocates could have practised any field of law, including representation before any court, legal advisers were only authorised to do so in business cases. Over time, the professions converged and currently both legal advisers and advocates are entitled to practise any area of law, including criminal law. Minor issues omitted, currently the main difference between both Bars is that whilst legal advisers may be employed as in-house lawyers under a labour law contract, advocates may only practice law independently and in law firms.
Apart from that, the legal profession includes bailiffs, who are licensed professionals collecting debt in the name of the state, tax advisers who are authorised to provide legal service in tax cases and patent attorneys.
As far as non-lawyer management and ownership is concerned, the situation is somewhat unclear. Non-lawyers are technically not barred from owning a law firm, but by virtue of court adjudication the term “law firm” may only be used by firms run by licensed professionals. In practice, major law firms are lawyer-owned and lawyer-managed.
This notwithstanding, non-professional practice of law in out-of-court cases is allowed, but rules of professional conduct and lawyer privileges apply to licensed professionals only. The number of unlicensed practitioners is unknown. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in some fields (i.e. insurance cases) they are fairly active.
Fees charged for legal advice and other out-of-court services range from several dozen to several thousand zloty per hour (approx. 10 EUR to 1000 EUR) depending on the complexity of the case, reputation of the law firm and lawyer, and the region. Legal advice provided for fees at the lower end of this spectrum is generally affordable for the general public.
Minimal fees for representation are regulated in the official tariff. In pecuniary civil cases fees are fixed and range from up to 60% of the claim value for small claims and decrease progressively with claim value down to 0.3% for claims of 5 million PLN (approx. 1,16 million EUR). Fees for claims exceeding this amount are fixed at 25000 PLN (approx. 5800 EUR). In non-pecuniary cases fees depend on the type of case.
Since the tariff only determines the minimal fees, parties and lawyers are free to enter agreements determining higher fees, which is common practice. As a result, bearing the costs of a court trial may be difficult for the less affluent persons. In small claims attorney costs are prohibitive, and together with court fees may exceed the claim value.
It is also common practice for courts to order the repaying of the winning party’s attorney costs by the losing party only up to the minimum amount stipulated in the tariff. Only in a small fraction of the most complicated cases a “complexity ratio” is applied, multiplying the amounts awarded to the winning party’s attorney. As a result, if the winning party hires a lawyer for a fee higher than established in the tariff, it usually must cover the balance themselves and the excess cannot be recovered from the losing party. This strongly discourages litigation.
Another outcome of the attorney fees recovery system is that it negatively affects the situation of legal aid lawyers. Their fees are regulated by a special tariff at a level approx. 30% lower than the regular fee. As a result, an ex-officio lawyer is paid much lower remuneration than a typical commercial lawyer in the same case.
Representation is not mandatory except for enumerated situations. All cassation appeals to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court must be filed by an attorney who must also represent the party at the hearing. Similar restrictions apply to the complaints filed by individuals to the Constitutional Tribunal. Apart from that, in criminal proceedings representation is mandatory for persons who were charged with a felony and whose cases are tried in the first instance before the district court, and who are detained in jail or prison. The court is also obliged to designate a legal aid attorney for juveniles, deaf, blind and mute persons, those whose sanity may be questioned, as well as in all other situations where lack of representation may disrupt defence. Finally, representation must also take place in cases pertaining to authorization of forced treatment (typically, psychiatric).
As a rule, representation before a court may be provided by advocates and legal advisers only. In some types of cases some other legal professionals may also represent the party, including tax advisers and patent attorneys. Representation by paralegals is not permitted except for enumerated types of civil law cases. In some family law cases the role may be played by a representative of a local social work entity or an NGO, in consumer cases – by a representative of an organization dealing with consumer issues, in cases related to agricultural production – by a representative of an agricultural organization.
In the proceedings before public administration entities representation may be provided by anyone, including persons not having legal education and not licensed.
Due to the technique of regulation, the notion “paralegal” is not defined under Polish law.
As far as evaluation of judicial independence is concerned, following the recent “rule of law crisis” the position of the judiciary in Poland vis-a-vis other branches of the government is becoming increasingly complex. Doubts are raised whether the judiciary may still be considered independent, but the issue is still subject to a struggle between judges willing to remain independent and the increasingly oppressive ruling coalition.
By wording of the Constitution of 1997, “The system of government of the Republic of Poland shall be based on the separation of and balance between the legislative, executive and judicial powers.” (Article 10). Until recently, the law provided numerous checks and balances safeguarding judicial independence, including appointment mechanism by an independent Council of the Judiciary and only limited influence of the executive branch on court management.
However, since 2015 it has been the policy of the currently ruling coalition to impose limitations on judicial independence. This includes amending the hitherto laws, creating new institutions, attempting to introduce new interpretations of constitutional clauses, using political influence and attempting to use the media to intimidate some justices. Some of these attempts are clearly illegal, some are likely to be constitutional delicts, some are on the verge of legality. These activities have sparked multiple legal and political reactions as well as popular protests and are having an increasing impact on access to justice.
Professional judges are appointed state officials. In order to become a judge, a law graduate must complete professional training, pass the final exam at the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution, and meet a number of other conditions (minimum age of 29, proper health etc.). As an alternative track of career, also persons who have served as members of other legal professions for a sufficient amount of time as well as academics in the field of law may become judges.
Formally, a judge is appointed by the President of the Republic of Poland at the request of the National Council of the Judiciary (Article 179 of the Constitution). Recruitment of a person meeting these conditions to an open position of a judge is a multi-stage process. First a vacancy notice is published in the official journal. Any person who meets the conditions for becoming a judge may submit their candidacy, using an online recruitment system maintained by the Minister of Justice. The candidacy is then subject to evaluation by the president of the court to which the candidate applies as well as the National Council of the Judiciary, who hosts hearing sessions with candidates. The candidacy is then subject to voting by the members of the National Council. In case of a successful voting, the request is forwarded to the President of the Republic of Poland who shall then appoint the judge without questioning the NCJ’s recommendation.
An institutional guarantee of independence of the judiciary in this process shall be the National Council of the Judiciary. It is a constitutional body, originally composed of political nominees and representatives of the judiciary. However, following the reform of 2017, the majority of vote in the NCJ belongs to the political nominees. As a result of a dispute concerning the admissibility of this design, on 5 December 2019 the Supreme Court found that the NCJ may not appoint justices because its composition does not provide warranties of judicial independence.
This fuels doubt over the legal situation of justices who were appointed by the NCJ under the new law, because the process had been faulty. Specifically, considerable uncertainty exists regarding the possibility of overturning the verdicts passed by such persons. Furthermore, in a number of cases criminal courts elsewhere in the EU refused to extradite suspects in the European arrest warrant procedure started by Polish courts, as Polish courts could not be deemed independent.
In principle judges are appointed for an indefinite period, until they reach the retirement age of 65 (67 in the case of judges of the Supreme Court). However, in 2017 an unsuccessful attempt was made to remove from the Supreme Court a number of the most senior judges by imposing a new, lowered retirement age (65 years for male judges, 60 years for female judges). Following the verdict of the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2018, the reform was reversed.
In principle judges cannot be recalled from their offices unless a disciplinary proceeding ends with such a verdict issued by a court. Also, they may not be transferred without their consent, unless for disciplinary or organizational reasons, such as liquidation of the court or an individual position within it, and a conflict of interest of personal nature. However, since 2017 a new system of disciplinary proceedings has been in operation. It features disciplinary rapporteurs subordinate to the Minister of Justice, and the newly-established, politically appointed Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court as the court of final instance. While rapporteurs have been very active in instigating disciplinary proceedings, including ones for issuance of verdicts they perceived as inadequate, no judge has been removed from the office on such grounds yet.
The future of this system is subject to a dispute, involving international bodies. On 5 December 2019 the Supreme Court found that the Disciplinary Chamber must not be considered a court because its members are appointed in a political process breaching the independence of the judiciary. Yet, further issues of judicial independence are created by a law of January 2020, which introduces new, vaguely defined disciplinary offences sanctioned with severe punishments, including removal from office. In the popular reception the point of this legislation is to provide opportunity to silence and discipline justices opposing the reform of the judiciary.
Independence of the judiciary is compromised also by the fact that following the reform of 2017 presidents and vice-presidents of the courts are appointed at will by the Minister of Justice. This competence has been used extensively to replace the hitherto presidents and vice-presidents by persons whom the Minister of Justice has found appropriate. In a number of publicized cases the newly appointed presidents have attempted to interfere with jurisprudence of justices whom they found as opponents of the reform of the judiciary.
The judicial profession in Poland is feminized. According to the 2020 data, 62% of judges are women. In contrast to this, research has found a significant “glass ceiling” in the career opportunities for women judges, because feminization diminishes with seniority.
Issues of independence and political influence are even more pronounced in the public prosecutor office. Following the reform of 2016, which reversed the reform of 2009, public prosecution service is no more independent politically. Prosecutors are ultimately subordinate to the Minister of Justice who also fulfils the function of the Prosecutor General.
Prosecutors (as of 2018, 5805 persons, of which 52% are women) are public officials. In order to become a prosecutor, a lawyer needs to complete professional training and pass the exam with the National School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution, as well as meet a number of other conditions (i.e., be at least of the age of 27). As an alternative track of career, also persons who have served as members of other legal professions for a sufficient amount of time as well as academics in the field of law may become prosecutors.
Prosecutors are appointed for life by the Prosecutor General on request of the State Prosecutor. They may not be removed from office unless for repeated disciplinary offences. They may however be transferred to other entities within the Prosecutor’s Office by Prosecutor General’s decision, including promotion to senior positions and degradation to junior positions. According to unsystematic evidence, in the last few years, this possibility has been widely used by the current Minister of Justice, affecting more than 100 prosecutors. Furthermore, similarly to the situation in the judiciary, arbitrary disciplinary proceedings are instigated against prosecutors who are perceived by the Minister of Justice as opponents of the reforms in the prosecution service and those who have acted against his will.
The possibility of arbitrarily persecuting individual prosecutors translates into the opportunities of micro-managing criminal proceedings, which are now routinely used. As a result of the 2016 reform, considerable control over criminal proceedings is thus vested in the hands of the Prosecutor General. In this aspect the current system closely resembles the one that existed prior to the year 1989.
As far as availability of legal services are concerned, generally there are no signs of shortage. In metropolitan and academic centres legal advice, including free legal advice, is easily available. Representation also is available, reservations regarding costs notwithstanding. In small towns, some issues may arise due to the limited number of law firms and possible conflicts of interest. In the last ten years or so, the accessibility of legal services has improved due to deregulation of the legal services market, which allowed significant numbers of new lawyers to join bar associations. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of practising advocates increased by 140%.
3. PROCESS AND PROCEEDINGS: OVERVIEW
3.1. Criminal Procedure
Preparatory proceedings can be conducted in two forms: an investigation or an inquiry. Investigation is carried out in all cases of indictable offences, i.e. prohibited acts punishable by imprisonment for at least three years or more. Also some summary offences (prohibited acts punishable by a fine higher than 30 times the daily rate, the restriction of liberty or imprisonment exceeding one month) are to be examined in the investigation. Remaining offences are examined in an inquiry, but a public prosecutor may decide that a particular case must take the form of the investigation instead of the inquiry due to the particular importance or complexity of the case.
The investigation is conducted by a public prosecutor. S/he may yet entrust to the police or other similar agency authorized by law (Border Guard, Internal Security Agency, National Tax administration, Central Anti-Corruption Bureau or Military Gendarmerie) the entire investigation or its parts. Even if the proceedings are designated to the police, they are not allowed to carry out activities related to the presentation of charges, modification and supplementation of the decision on the presentation of charges and closing of the investigation.
In principle, the investigation should be closed within three months, and the inquiry – within two months. The investigation may be prolonged “in justified cases” by the public prosecutor supervising the investigation or his/her direct superior, for no longer than a year. In “particularly justified cases”, a public prosecutor superior to the public prosecutor supervising or conducting the investigation may extend the investigation for a further definite term. The inquiry may be extended for up to three months by the public prosecutor, and “in particularly justified cases” for further specified term. Despite the wording, in practice such prolongation is granted in most cases.
A suspected person may be arrested within preparatory proceedings – or even before their initiation – in principle by the police. This competence should only be used if there are justified grounds to suspect that a given person committed an offence and it is feared that s/he might escape, go into hiding, conceal traces, if his/her identity cannot be established and if the conditions are fulfilled to order accelerated procedure. In 2010 an additional ground was added, enabling the police to arrest a person suspected of using violence against a household member, when it is feared that such an offence may be repeated. In such cases it is obligatory for the police to arrest a suspected person when a dangerous item, such as a gun or a knife, has been used.
The arrest may be questioned by an interlocutory appeal. The arrestee may demand that the grounds, legality and propriety of the arrest be examined.
The Code of Criminal Procedure determines that the arrestee has to be surrendered to the jurisdiction of the court with a motion to order detention on remand within 48 hours or be released. Then, the court has 24 hours to deliver to the arrestee a decision upon a detention on remand. A person must not be arrested for a second time after his or her release on the basis of the same facts and evidence.
For the detention on remand to be ordered, the so called general and special conditions must be met. General grounds concern the probability that a particular person has committed an offence – the detention on remand may only be ordered if, according to the evidence already collected, it is highly probable that that the suspect committed an offence. Moreover, such a decision has to be substantiated by the necessity to ensure the correct course of proceedings and, exceptionally, to prevent the accused from committing a new serious offence.
Specific conditions require that there is a justified concern that the accused might escape or go into hiding, might try to unlawfully obstruct the proceedings, might commit an offence against life, health or public security. A suspicion of the possibility to obstruct the correct course of proceedings may be substantiated by the severity of the punishment provided for a given offence, i.e. minimum eight years of the imprisonment. As too automatic a tool, the latter has been contested by entities established for protection of human rights, such as the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.
Even if these conditions are met, in principle detention on remand may not be ordered if it would entail a serious danger to the life or health of the suspect or exceptional hardship for the accused or his closest family.
The detention on remand in preparatory proceedings may be decided only by the court, for the maximum of three months. It may be prolonged for a period not exceeding twelve months by a court of first instance. Appellate court may extend the detention if it finds that such a need arises in connection with the suspension of criminal proceedings, actions aimed at establishing or confirming the identity of the accused, the performance of evidentiary procedures in a particularly complicated case or abroad, or if the accused intentionally protracts the proceedings.
According to the statistical data published by the Prison Guard, from 2009 till 2015 the number of detained persons was falling. Since 2015, however, this trend has been reversed and the number of detainees is gradually increasing beyond the increases in the number of new criminal cases. As of 2019, 8356 persons were in detention (on the average). In 2018, the prosecutor requested detention in 19655 cases, and 90,46% of requests were granted. In 12189 cases (94,9% of requests) the detention was extended over statutory limits. 3,73% of decisions were successfully impaired in interlocutory proceedings before regional courts.
As a rule, an indictment is submitted to the court by the public prosecutor. S/he either prepares it on his/her own in the investigation, or approves the one drawn up by the Police. The public prosecutor may allow that particular entities, enlisted in an act of the Minister of Justice, to submit an indictment on their own, without public prosecutor’s interference.
An aggrieved party may initiate judicial proceedings only if certain conditions are met. It is possible when the public prosecutor refuses to instigate preparatory proceedings or discontinues the proceedings, the victim’s appeal to that decision is approved by the court – and then the public prosecutor again refuses to instigate preparatory proceedings or discontinues the proceedings. From 2019, an aggrieved party is then obliged to appeal to the superior public prosecutor. If his/her decision is to the negative, an aggrieved party may submit his/her own indictment to the court.
In some criminal offences, like slander or insult, judicial proceedings are in principle initiated only by a victim. Still the public prosecutor may submit an indictment when s/he finds that it is necessary due to a public interest.
Chart 04. Preparatory proceedings
In judicial proceedings, an accused may continue to be detained on remand, the grounds for which remain the same as in the preparatory proceedings. When the time limits are considered, the total period of detention on remand until the first judgment is issued by the court of first instance may not exceed two years. It may, nevertheless, be extended by the appellate court.
A special judicial procedure concerns situations in which a penal order may be issued in a hearing without the participation of the parties. When a case was conducted in the form of the inquiry, the court may decide that the trial is unnecessary if in view of gathered evidence, circumstances of the criminal act and the guilt of the accused do not justify doubt. The court may then sentence the accused only to a penalty of restriction of liberty or to a fine. Both the accused and the public prosecutor may file an objection. In the consequence of which the penal order becomes invalid and the case is examined on general principles.
De iure, several principles are established which ought to guarantee the fair trial and equality of arms. However, the later amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure strengthen the position of the public prosecutor, not only in relation to the suspect or the accused, but also to the court. As a result, in particular cases a possibility arises that the rights of the suspect or the accused may not be duly respected.
No time limits for the judicial proceedings have been established. The ECHR has found the prolongation of the criminal proceedings a systematic problem of the Polish justice system. The broad scope of utilisation of detention on remand has also been criticized. In some publicized cases the delays in criminal proceedings have been used as a part of the prosecutor’s office tactic to obtain evidence from the detainee in exchange for release before trial.
Chart 05. Judicial proceedings
3.2. Civil Procedure
Basic civil procedure of first instance is common for civil, business, labour and family cases. It consists of filing the statement of claims with the court, presenting evidence, conducting hearings and passing the verdict. Theoretically, it is possible that the verdict is passed at first hearing. Once the verdict is passed, the plaintiff must obtain an enforcement clause from the court to be able to refer the case to a bailiff. Additional elements in the procedure may include preparatory meetings, settlement attempts, opt-in mediation and court-ordered mediation.
In October 2019 preparatory meetings became semi-obligatory. In their course a plan of proceedings should be drafted and the main hearing may be avoided if parties decide to settle. Unsystematic evidence indicates however, that courts prefer to avoid preparatory meetings in an attempt to save time based on their typically negative evaluation of settlement chances and other potential advantages of a preparatory meeting.
In urgent matters an injunction is possible at any stage of proceedings, including before the first hearing and after the verdict is passed. In order to obtain an injunction order, the party must substantiate its claims and demonstrate a legal interest that needs to be defended.
Two types of simplified writ of payment procedures may be used for non-contested pecuniary obligations. In such cases the court may pass a payment order without a public hearing which allows the creditor to quickly collect the amounts due (with the use of a bailiff). The option is widely used in business-to-business disputes and those involving mass service providers and consumers.
To increase efficiency of the simplified procedure an online court has been created, which accepts statements of claims in the electronic mode only and may issue the payment order bypassing the evidence collection phase. In case of an objection from the defendant, the case is forwarded to a regular court (objections are exempt from court fees). Whilst the number of cases resolved in the electronic mode well exceeds 2 million per year, some objections are raised about the ability of pro se defendants to effectively submit objections, particularly given short time limits. Anecdotal evidence exists of cases where the procedure has been abused to obtain orders of payments for non-existent obligations.
Chart 06. Basic civil procedure of first instance
The position of a judge in the civil procedure in Poland has traditionally been strong. Not only does s/he organize the proceedings and preside during hearings, but also proactively gathers evidence, disciplines attorneys and provides some guidance to pro se litigants. Except for the latter role, judges in Poland typically act in a fairly authoritative fashion, sanctioning excessive and untimely motions of the parties and limiting oral argument in an attempt to be as time-effective as possible. As a result, important communication during trial occurs mostly in writing.
As far as guiding pro se litigants is concerned, the scope of judges’ duties is explicitly stipulated in the code of civil procedure, indicating the situations when the party should be instructed. Judges rarely go beyond such obligations due to the fears that so doing might be seen as not impartial. Empirical evidence suggests that even when attempts of making the procedure more adversarial are undertaken, imposing more information duties on judges and prohibiting them taking a proactive role in other aspects of the hearings, the courts continue to maintain the strong position. This is mostly due to conservative expectations of the participants and because of pressing time constraints.
Two mechanisms of encouraging settlement in civil procedure exist: court-ordered mediation and settlement attempts. The former is discussed in the next section. The latter may be undertaken privately by the parties or take the form of a settlement conference. Private settlement attempts may take place before the statement of claims is filed, but a settlement agreement may be considered inadmissible by a court if it contravenes or circumvents the law or the principles of social conduct. Court settlements may be reached at any time of proceedings.
Settlement conferences are semi-compulsory. They are organized on demand of a party before the first hearing. Failure to participate in a conference has no impact on the final verdict. However, the party who fails to participate may be obliged by the court to pay the costs incurred. Moreover, in some cases of plaintiff’s failure to participate, statute of limitations may still apply to his/her claim even if normally the settlement conference suspends it.
Settlements are fairly uncommon. In the years 2016-2017, approximately 75000 settlements in civil, family, labour and business cases were reached in the courts of first instance per year. In 2018, the number dropped to 67475 (1,4% of all new cases). Some critical positions on the rationality and the use of this institution may yet be observed in the legal discourse. It is observed that settlement conferences have been used as a method of protracting the case by some parties. On these grounds, following the amendment of the code of civil procedure in 2019, the hitherto small fees for settlement attempt have been significantly increased. Currently, the party willing to settle must pay up to 20% of the court fee, which in turn is calculated based on the case value.
Technically and formally, Polish civil legal system adheres to rule of law standards and respects due process. Most due process guarantees are implemented in the civil procedure, such as the mechanisms of disqualification of judges and expert witnesses, party’s rights to be heard, requirements of judges’ impartiality (with the reservations concerning the method of appointing judges that have emerged in recent years) etc. Practical outcomes of the system’s operation yet justify raising some objections as to observance of due process standards, because systematic, even if isolated, issues persist related to the possibility of effectively making some cases before a court.
In the last years, the most serious systematic violations of due process in civil procedure were related to the situation of persons with disabilities. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, procedural accommodations (such as the use of sign language and interpreters), access to buildings, and legal assistance need to be improved in Poland in the civil law context. Also the use of the incapacitation mechanism which prevents some persons with disabilities from accessing the justice system is heavily criticized by human rights activists and the CRPD. Anecdotal evidence indicates that procedural issues of insufficient representation and overly mechanistic application of law emerge also in cases pertaining to forced treatment, including forced psychiatric treatment and forced placement in care institutions, and this despite the reform introducing mandatory representation in 2018.
Another important example of due process issues relate to the fraudulent exploitation of a number of civil law institutions in reprivatization cases relating to property nationalized in 1940s and 1950s. For example, in a number of publicized cases the possibility of appointing guardians for the missing owners of pre-World War II real property was used to obtain control over that property despite no actual grounds to do so existed. In some cases courts accepted the motions to appoint guardians for persons who, if alive, must have been well over 100 years old when the decision was passed.
Vocal activism in the field of family law may also be observed concerning distribution of parenting rights between men and women in the case of divorce and post-divorce, with alleged discrimination of men. Little systematic evidence in the last years supports such claims, even if some evidence has been presented in the past.
Multiple reservations related to due process in civil procedure stem from the unsatisfactory course of proceedings due to practical issues and resource restraints, including delays, ineffective collection of debt (i.e. very ineffective alimony collection system) and high costs, preventing minor cases from making it to the court.
3.3. Alternative Dispute Resolution
In no type of court procedures is any form of ADR compulsory before the case is heard. A possibility of opt-in mediation prior to the first court hearing exists in criminal, civil, labour, business, administrative, family and juvenile cases. In civil, labour and business cases the plaintiff is obliged to include in his/her summons the information on his/her prior attempts to mediate or to state the reasons for which s/he has not done so. The court is then obliged to inform the parties of the possibility to mediate and may oblige them to take part in a preliminary mediation meeting, designed to provide information on the aims and course of mediation. Depending on results of this, and based on the court’s own evaluation of the chances of mediation’s success, the court may also oblige the parties to take part in an actual mediation attempt, but the parties may opt-out once it begins.
The parties are encouraged to mediate by considerable discounts in court fees – 100% if the mediation succeeds before the court’s first hearing and 75% if it succeeds after the first court hearing takes place. Mediators’ fees are covered by parties, but are regulated by law at a low level. Persons of limited means may be exempted from paying them.
A party may also be obliged by the court to repay the costs incurred by his/her “obviously unwarranted” refusal to take part in mediation. Another incentive to undertaking mediation is the fact that the statute of limitations does not apply while cases are being mediated, and that even if mediation itself is interrupted by the other party.
Despite these incentives, and despite growths in mediation that have occurred in the last years, the scope of mediation compared to the number of cases heard is still very limited. Chart 07 indicates the scope of such diversions in all types of procedures where they are possible by year and case type.
Chart 07. Mediation in Poland, 2013-2019
|2013||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018||1st half 2019|
|Number of cases where mediation was ordered by court||13370||13239||17811||24105||27493||26810||14933|
|As percent of all cases where mediation may be ordered||0,50%||0,50%||0,70%||0,90%||1,09%||1,07%||1,18%|
|Number of actual mediations||3836||3798||4328||5246||8897||7090||4006|
|As percent of all mediation cases||28,69%||28,69%||24,30%||21,76%||32,36%||26,45%||26,83%|
|Number of cases settled as a result of mediation||663||922||1155||1649||2269||2476||1535|
|As percent of actual mediation||26,80%||32,88%||33,39%||32,47%||34,21%||32,25%||36,70%|
|Number cases with of information meetings||n/a||1399||2308||1503|
It appears that the most significant policy driver behind development of mediation has been the need to improve the pace of court proceedings. It was hoped that introduction of mediation would relieve the courts from the necessity of hearing certain types of cases thus reducing delays and caseloads. Given the limited effect the reform has brought, these hopes appear so far to have been ill-founded.
Anecdotal evidence and limited official data support the perception that voluntary or consensual diversion of disputes to non-judicial forums is marginal in Poland.
Both types of dispute resolution are yet formally possible. The parties may mediate any civil case at will, and then the mediation settlement is subject to court approval in a non-disputed procedure. Once approved, the settlement cannot be challenged. A dispute may also be resolved by means of arbitration if a contractual clause provides for this possibility or if parties so agree once the dispute emerges. In such a case arbitration becomes the standard route of dispute resolution for the parties unless they both opt-out. The decision of an arbitration tribunal may be challenged before a common court only if it contravenes a substantive law.
Some out-of-court opt-in ADR mechanisms have been established as a result of implementation of the EU’s ADR Directive. Under this scheme, the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection maintains a register of public and private institutions authorized to amicably resolve disputes between consumers and businesses. Currently, 11 such institutions are listed, providing free (in some cases at minimal cost) resolution of consumer disputes, both general and emerging in specific sectors (telecommunication, finance, transportation etc). The procedure may be mandatory for businesses in some sectors if the consumer opts in. The resolution may be binding if the parties opted in before initiating the procedure. One example of a publicly available arbitration institution which predates implementation of the directive are Consumer Courts established by Trade Inspection – a public organization tasked with “horizontally” resolving general consumer disputes. In 2018, 18.5 thousand cases were brought before authorized institutions, including 9 thousand resolved by Consumer Courts.
A peculiar institution of Polish labour law dispute resolution system are conciliatory committees which may be established under the Labour Code by employers to amicably resolve disputes emerging in the workplace. In practice such committees are extremely rare despite the long existence of legal provisions enabling them.
Some promising forms of amicable dispute resolution that existed in the past are not existent any more.
3.4. Simplification of law and by-passing legal processes
Simplified procedures and bypasses are uncommon in Polish law. As it were, in civil law, the simplified procedure is used to obtain orders of payments, but this mostly serves the needs of the multiple player plaintiffs, such as e.g. telecom corporations.
Apart from that, a simplified procedure is default in cases where case value does not exceed 20000 PLN as well as those relating to warranties, guarantees and rents. The simplification comprises a number of procedural changes compared to the standard procedure, aiming at making evidence gathering shorter and eliminating some procedural avenues. Until late 2019, statements of complaints and other motions had to be filed using standardized forms. This obligation was criticized as cumbersome and overly formalistic, and was eventually abolished. No systematic empirical data exists that would indicate if this had any impact on the outcomes of court proceedings.
In contrast, in criminal law plea bargaining procedures, no contest pleas and summary procedures are widely used. In 2019 they constituted, respectively, 5%, 23% and 23% of all convictions before Polish courts. The ease and scope of obtaining verdicts in these procedures may substantiate objections as to the unfavourable position of the suspects.
Consistently with the reluctance towards establishing simplified legal processes, no equitable resolutions are permitted in Poland. Courts are obliged to strictly abide by and apply the law.
No fault compensation is possible in medical negligence cases. An optional procedure exists where claims are heard by out-of-court medical negligence commissions. They work in an administrative and semi-mediatory mode, awarding compensation for harms caused by medical errors. Amounts that can be obtained are capped by statutory regulation at a fairly low level.
Effectiveness of medical negligence commissions is disputed. Unsystematic evidence and an evaluation executed by the Supreme Audit Office in 2018 suggest that only a small fraction of all cases of harms caused by medical negligence is heard before them, compensations awarded are small and procedures are slow and cumbersome. In the years 2012-2017, 2203 cases were initiated and 1456 resolved.
4. ACCESS TO JUSTICE, EQUAL ACCESS TO COURT AND FAIR TRIAL
The Constitution of the Republic of Poland includes several provisions which are meant to guarantee access to justice, equal access to court and fair trial. According to Article 45(1) of the Constitution, everyone shall have the right to a fair and public hearing of his case, without undue delay, before a competent, impartial and independent court. Moreover, the equality before the law is established in Article 32(1) of the Constitution. This applies i.e. to the regulations regarding access to court.
The aforementioned rights may be constrained, but only in accordance with the prerequisites indicated in Article 31(3) of the Constitution. Any limitation upon the exercise of constitutional freedoms and rights may be imposed only by statute, and only when necessary in a democratic state for the protection of its security or public order, or to protect the natural environment, health or public morals, or the freedoms and rights of other persons. Such limitations shall not violate the essence of freedoms and rights.
When international law is taken into consideration, the Republic of Poland is the signatory of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Therefore, Article 6 of this Convention, regulating the right to a fair trial is binding for Poland. The possible restrictions of this right can only be imposed based on a proportionality test formulated by the European Court of Human Rights.
As a member state of the European Union, Poland is also obliged to act in accordance with Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The applicability of a Charter is nevertheless limited to the situations of violation of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Union law.
The ordinary legislation, mostly the codes of procedures, include specific regulations regarding the provisions constituting the right to a fair trial.
As it were, the current Polish Government has been introducing several reforms which have been substantiated by the need to facilitate access to justice. The law on the Ordinary Courts Organization, the law on the Supreme Court and the law on the Constitutional Tribunal have been amended.
The assessment of international bodies such as the Venice Commission, OSCE or the European Commission indicate, nevertheless, that the changes are rather of political character and have been intended to confine the independence of courts and impartiality of judges.
The Ministry of Justice is responsible for access to justice policy. The most recent official document indicating specific policy goals in the field of access to justice is “the strategy of modernization of the justice area in the years 2014-2020”. It was published in 2013 and never abolished nor amended by the current government despite undertaking sweeping reforms. It specifies general objectives and quantitative measures to be achieved in the justice sector, yet it remains unclear by what specific means should access to justice be expanded.
Over the last years the actual policy being implemented has also been rather unstable due to multiple changes in codes of civil and penal procedures and the changing political agendas of subsequent governments. Clearly, the common policy has been to increase the number of practising lawyers, establish the out-of-court legal advice system and promote mediation. The most effective changes have occurred in the field of deregulation of the legal professions, with substantial growth of the number of practising lawyers in the last decade.
It has to be noted that the term “access to justice” is not used in the Polish public debate. This is partially due to the fact that directly translated to Polish, the notion gives the impression of certain clumsiness, yet admittedly no alternative umbrella term exists to encompass all phenomena discussed in the access to justice debate. As a result, specific issues relevant for access to justice are debated in isolation. Noteworthy episodes of public debate on the topic in recent years include the issue of out-of-court legal aid, the deregulation of legal professions, and some issues related to class actions against banks. More technical matters, such as procedural changes, usually go unnoticed for the general public and remain reserved to a specialized discussion.
As far as access to justice in particular ethnic or migrant groups is concerned, there are no legal regulations that would confine their formal rights. Also the practice of the functioning of courts, as well as the jurisprudence of the ECHR or the ECJ do not indicate that a complex negative attitude within the Polish judiciary towards certain groups exist. The obstacles in the access to justice are rather of cross-sectional nature and stem from inadequacies or general legal regulations.
This said, important deficits in access to justice can be observed as far as persons seeking asylum and economic migrants are concerned. Unsystematic evidence exists indicating that asylum cases are opaque to petitioners themselves and the external public. A number of publicized cases of expulsion of individuals on unclear grounds took place in the last few years.
5. LEGAL AID SYSTEM
5.1. History of legal aid
The right of legal aid in Poland goes back as far as 1016 when it was allegedly proclaimed by the first king of the country, Bolesław Chrobry. More systematic evidence of the right dates to 1362, when the Statute of Casimir the Great was bestowed in Wiślica, explicitly mentioning the right to free assistance at court. Actual availability of legal aid in the late medieval and early modern times is yet dubious. From the late XVIII century until 1918 Poland was partitioned between Austria, Russia and Prussia, with procedural laws and legal counsel guarantees being determined in the invaders’ legal systems.
After independence was regained, establishing a legal aid system wasn’t a priority and was limited to establishing a basic system of “poor privilege” in both criminal and civil proceedings. This system continued largely unchanged under the communist rule. In its post-Stalinist phase it focused on institutional mechanisms of social welfare rather than due process, promotion of human rights and empowerment of citizens. Some institutions, like the National Labour Inspectorate and the Prosecutor’s Office combined authoritative control of legality with provision of legal assistance. This dual approach was consistent with largely inquisitorial nature of court proceedings.
Some fundamental institutions of access to justice – such as the Ombudsman established in 1987 – have emerged in the late years of the communist regime. In the transition period of the 1990s little attention was yet paid to the development of a coherent public-funded legal aid system, particularly concerning out-of-court legal advice. The poor privilege system persisted without much change since the early 1930s and was only supplemented by a growing number of narrowly-tailored and incoherent public out-of-court advice institutions. These mostly evolved naturally out of the communist era control-and-assistance approach.
Since the Constitution of 1997 was enacted, the right to legal aid could be derived from its several provisions (see Section 5.2) but is not directly proclaimed. In the late 1990s and the 2000s, the justice gap was being partially remedied by the dispersed and uncoordinated grassroot initiatives undertaken by an amalgam of NGOs (funded mainly from public resources), public social services agencies, academic institutions, and bar associations.
The EU accession in 2004 contributed to recognition of international standards and catalysed implementation of legislation concerning some forms of legal aid – e.g. the Council Directive 2002/8/EC of 27 January 2003 to improve access to justice in cross-border cases.
Despite these developments, it was only in 2016, more than 25 years after the political transition had started and 12 years after the EU accession, that legislation establishing a public out-of-court advice system was implemented. In 2018 the system was reformed, with new, remarkably loosened eligibility criteria and a more holistic approach supplementing traditional legal service.
Secondary legal aid continues to be regulated in a traditional way, with an uncoordinated judicare system rooted in the 1930s regulation. Codes of procedures applicable to court proceedings lay down some forms of legal aid, most notably the right to public legal representation and exemption from court costs. The form and scope of secondary legal aid remains restricted.
The out-of-court legal aid system introduced in 2015 underwent said reform already in 2018 because it turned out to be largely inefficient. Apart from that, the introduction of the system pushed the issue of legal aid to the political agenda. Providing further social groups with access to legal aid could have been seen by political decision makers as an opportunity to mobilize support.
Secondary legal aid has not undergone systematic reforms in recent years. An attempt to reform legal aid in criminal cases was undertaken in 2013 so that an attorney is provided to all suspects and accused in criminal proceedings. Whilst the amendment technically entered into force, it didn’t last long enough to actually produce any effect. Soon after the currently ruling coalition came into power in 2015, the amendment was overturned. The reasons for this may be related to the coalition’s political agenda having clear penal-populist elements. It should also not escape notice that the regulation was unlikely to increase the revenue stream for attorneys, because it relied on the hitherto system of attorney costs in ex officio cases (discussed in Section 2). Only in 2015, shortly before the new government took over the power, were minimal attorney fees significantly increased. Interestingly, whilst the new government reversed also the reform of attorney fees, minimal fees in criminal matters remained higher, as if in an attempt to increase price levels.
In 2018 mandatory representation in forced psychiatric treatment was introduced (free for persons not having an attorney). Already this limited reform led to a marked increase in the number of ex-officio cases in family courts.
Given the ebb and flow of these developments, one would be in error to consider the recent governmental moves regarding the strengthening of the legal aid system a sign of the development of democratic mechanisms in Poland. To the contrary, the current coalition has been known for undermining democratic institutions, weakening the separation of powers and undertaking anti-constitutional measures. This is best demonstrated by the reforms of the judiciary or a conflict around the Constitutional Tribunal – actions widely criticized by the vast majority of lawyers in Poland as well as on the European and international levels. The last few years of legal aid reform may be an indication of an instrumental use of legal aid institutions. One may thus take Poland as an example of correlation between democratization processes and institutionalization of legal aid only if one also recognizes the bumps and bruises on the way.
The current role of legal aid as a mechanism to promote access to justice is difficult to evaluate given the issues related to its institutionalization. On the other hand, the scale and success of grassroots initiatives and clear deficits in access to justice make it apparent that omissions in providing legal aid do lead to unfavourable consequences.
5.2. Legislative framework for legal aid
Despite being very verbal about human rights, the Constitution of the Republic of Poland does not directly constitute the right to legal aid. Its following articles may yet be highlighted as the normative context of such a right:
Art. 2: “The Republic of Poland shall be a democratic state ruled by law and implementing the principles of social justice.”
Art. 42(2): “Anyone against whom criminal proceedings have been brought shall have the right to defence at all stages of such proceedings. He may, in particular, choose counsel or avail himself – in accordance with principles specified by statute – of counsel appointed by the court.”
Art. 45(1): “Everyone shall have the right to a fair and public hearing of his case, without undue delay, before a competent, impartial and independent court.”
Art. 67(1): “A citizen shall have the right to social security whenever incapacitated for work by reason of sickness or invalidism as well as having attained retirement age. The scope and forms of social security shall be specified by statute”
Art. 67(2): “A citizen who is involuntarily without work and has no other means of support, shall have the right to social security, the scope of which shall be specified by statute”.
There also isn’t an all-encompassing regulation of legal aid, generally regulating the field. Instead, the right to obtain legal aid stems from a number of dispersed context-specific statutory provisions. The Act of 5 August 2015 on Free Legal Assistance, Free Civic Guidance and Legal Education with subsequent amendments introduces the nationwide system of state-funded out-of-court legal advice. Article 46(1) of the Act of 12 March 2004 on Social Assistance provides the right to special counselling for persons in difficult life conditions: “Specialist counselling, in particular legal, psychological and family counselling, is provided to persons and families who have difficulties or display the need to support them in solving their life problems, regardless of their income” and specifies in para 2 that “Legal advice is provided by providing information on applicable provisions in the field of family and guardianship law, social security law, and protection of the rights of tenants”.
Multiple provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Law on Proceedings before Administrative Courts, and the Act of 28 July 2005 on Court Costs in Civil Cases regulate secondary legal aid.
On top of that, art. 10 of the Act of 13 April 2007 on the National Labour Inspectorate stipulates that NLI shall provide advice and information in the field of labour law to workers and employers. Similarly, art. 42(1) of the Act of 16 February 2007 on Competition and Consumer Protection, provides that the tasks of consumer ombudsmen include free-of-charge consumer advice and legal information in matters relating to the protection of consumers’ interests.
5.3. Institutional framework for legal aid
Legal aid is delivered in two separate areas which are not mutually coordinated: primary legal aid, consisting of an out-of-court system established under the Act of 2015 and other providers, and secondary (judicial) legal aid. As for the latter, the right to legal representation is secured by ex-officio defender appointments. The court before which a process is held grants a request. An advocate/legal adviser is chosen from a list prepared by a local Bar association. Since 2020 free opt-in out-of-court mediation is provided within out-of-court legal aid services.
As for the out-of-court system, more than 1500 small offices (“points”) were organized throughout the country (in 2019 – 1529) in which individuals may seek legal assistance and citizens’ advice. The territorial access may be considered good as aid is provided in at least one office in every powiat (second-lowest-level administrative units). Legal aid providers on duty in a specific office may yet not be specialized in a specific field of law, which may limit the access. There is no integration or exchange of information among the points in different powiats. Mediators provide their service with NGOs based on competitive tenders.
Some primary legal aid is also delivered by public institutions in specific fields of law, such as consumer protection and labour and social security cases. Furthermore, with the official public system absent until 2015, numerous grassroots initiatives have emerged over time and continue to offer their services. They include such entities as NGOs, bar associations which come up with pro bono schemes, or academic law clinics. These initiatives remain uncoordinated with the out-of-court system.
The out-of-court legal aid system introduced by the Act of 2015 remains under general supervision of the Ministry of Justice. However, the direct organization of the system is mostly vested with local self-government units, specifically powiats, which to this end receive a governmental subsidy. Some competences, mainly supervisory with regard to the powiats’ activity, are assigned to wojewodas (representatives of the government on the voivodeship (regional) level).
The Ministry of Justice conducts yearly evaluations of tasks within the scope of the Act of 2015. In this, the Minister is advised by The Board of Free Legal Assistance, Free Civic Guidance and Legal Education. Its members are appointed by the Minister of Justice and include representatives of bar associations, NGOs involved in legal aid delivery, lower level local-self government (powiats), as well as representatives of the President of Poland, Ministry of Justice and a number of other ministries. System users are not represented, and the majority in the Board belongs to civil servants working for the central government.
As a result of this design, administrative staff in the primary legal aid system does not enjoy any autonomy but is directly subordinate to political and administrative superiors both at the local (powiats) and central level. It is different with first line workers in the out-of-court system under Act of 2015. They are not employed by the system on labour contracts, but hired on the basis of competitive tenders (NGOs) and random assignment among lawyers who opt-in (bar associations). Their level of autonomy is therefore relatively high.
As far as secondary legal aid is concerned, the Ministry of Justice holds some competences with regard to oversight and budgeting. Nonetheless the system is decentralized as aid in particular proceedings is granted by courts according to the criteria laid down in applicable legislation. Consequently, there isn’t a single body to manage and evaluate functioning of the system.
Clearly, the organizational design of legal aid in Poland is complex. Not only is there little coordination between the out-of-court system and secondary legal aid, but also no central institution is able to coordinate the scores of front line workers and organizations involved with the system. For this reason, the hopes placed in the new out-of-court legal aid system by grassroots activists that more coordination and stable financing channels are introduced, turned out to be hollow.
This is because the design process of the new law was faulty and failed to appreciate the complexity of the issue. Apart from insufficient attention to organizational matters, the eligibility criteria were not adjusted to the demand, which turned out to be much smaller than expected. Due to the fact that providers are paid for availability, the initial design resulted in approximately 75% of money spent going to waste.
For this reason already in 2019 a thorough amendment was introduced. Whilst it increased the aid availability, it left unchanged the essential organizational design of the system. In face of the chaotic nature of hitherto provision, this puts a question mark over decision makers’ actual intentions. Needless to say, in 2015, the system was introduced shortly before the parliamentary elections, as if in a bid to reinvigorate the weakening support for the then-ruling competition. Similarly, in 2018 the presidential initiative to amend the 2015 Act was pompously hailed as “the help to the ordinary men for the taking”. The early outcomes of the reform are partially positive, but still the supply of aid by far exceeds demand, with approx. 15% growth in system utilization in the first half of 2019 only (see data in Section 5.8 below).
In the case of judicial legal aid, there has not been much development in the legal representation and exemption from judicial costs areas. The criminal procedure amendment of 2013 prescribed a significant modification in this regard. However, soon after the current ruling coalition came into power in 2015, the amendment was overturned. The period of its functioning was too short in order to correctly evaluate its actual effects.
Evaluation research in the legal aid system which inquired into users’ experiences has been conducted to very limited extent. An independent study conducted by INPRIS – an independent legal think tank – in 2018 found that the existence of an office of the out-of-court legal aid system in the proximity of their place of residence was known to a small percentage of the population (27% of nationwide survey compared to 53% who knew about a commercial practitioner in the area).
Evaluations of the process of obtaining legal aid provided by beneficiaries in the self-reporting mode upon receiving legal aid are in principle very positive in every aspect studied. However, the methodology of this evaluation is rather crude and may be questioned, because the evaluation questionnaire is distributed among beneficiaries during the meeting with aid provider, which may produce some bias.
5.4. Legal aid budget
The system introduced in the Act of 2015 is funded from the State budget in the form of subsidies allocated to every powiat. Maximum total amount of these subsidies is provided in the law along with the formula to calculate the amount awarded to every powiat each year, based on its population. The limits have been established for a ten-years period (2016-2025). For 2020, it is 103 352 971 PLN (approx 24,4 million USD), with increases each year up to 116 024 519 PLN (approx. 27,4 million USD) in 2025. Once a year the Ministry of Justice, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance, issues a regulation establishing a base sum upon which the total amount of subsidies is to be calculated.
The actual spendings on the out-of-court legal aid system are close to the maximum limit due to the fact that providers are remunerated for availability, not actual service. For instance, in 2016 99% of the funds allocated in the budget were spent, even though the demand for service was at about 25% of capacity. Due to this, and because of scarcity of data collected by the Ministry about the out-of-court system it is impossible to specify the amounts spent on specific types of service and fields of law.
Due to the specificity of the financing method and relatively short time passed since its introduction, the legal aid system has not gone through funding cuts. Yet, it should not escape notice that the 2018 amendment increasing availability of aid was introduced without any increase in the budget.
Other services available (such as advice delivered by Labour Inspectorate and Consumers’ Ombudsmen, see Section 5.11 below) are financed from these institutions’ budgets and the total amount spent is not known. In 2014, it was estimated based on an econometric analysis, that no less than 500 million PLN is likely to be spent on such services.
The secondary legal aid system is incorporated into the judiciary budget which is managed at the individual courts’ level. This obfuscates the spending mechanisms and according to official information from the Ministry of Justice, it makes it impossible to determine the exact amounts spent. Total amount allocated to the courts to finance the task “Activity for facilitating access to justice system” in 2019 comes to 227 million PLN, however this sum is also supposed to cover expert witnesses’ and interpreters’ remuneration and other similar costs. This category is also highly variable year to year. Data delivered by the Ministry of Justice to CEPEJ is more accurate, but is likely to be a result of some more extensive estimation based on unknown methodology.
Rough approximation of amounts spent in both systems is presented in the Chart 08 below.
Chart 08. Estimates of spending on legal aid in Poland, 2014-2019
|Year||CEPEJ Data –
|State budget – activity based budgeting||Statute on Legal Aid – allocated spending on primary legal aid system|
|Total budget allocated to
legal aid and system organization
|Cost of secondary legal aid in criminal and civil matters as percentage of expense on civic and criminal procedures|
|1000s EUR||EUR per capita||1000s PLN||1000s EUR||EUR per capita||Percent||1000s PLN||1000s EUR||EUR per capita|
The fact that the same budget category is supposed to cover both legal aid and other expenses incurred by the courts may incentivize the courts to take budgetary considerations into account when deciding about granting the ex-officio counsel. It should also not escape notice that the amounts spent on out-of-court legal aid is roughly similar to the amount spent on secondary legal aid. Given the proportions between secondary and primary legal aid spending in developed systems, where secondary aid is much more resource-consuming, this is highly unusual.
In 2019, the entire budget of courts (including salaries and social insurance payments) came to 8,05 billion PLN (1,87 billion EUR).
Even with scarcity of data, a clear peculiarity of the Polish system is the imbalance between budgets of the out-of court system and the system of court advice. It may be observed that elsewhere representation and other services delivered in the course of court trials are on the whole by far more expensive than advice delivered in the out of court system. In Poland, distribution of public funding is currently skewed towards the out-of court system. While state budget expense towards costs of representation is presumably still higher, the proportion is unusual.
This is due to the fact that eligibility criteria in both parts of the system are not coordinated, and severely restricted in the representation segment. As a result, persons who are perfectly eligible to obtain out-of-court service are unlikely to also benefit from free advice and representation in court. The root cause of this is the lack of reform of the free representation system so that it matches the now-extended out-of-court service.
5.5. Legal aid providers
Two types of aid providers are active in the out-of-court system. Under the Act of 2015, half of legal aid offices shall be handled by advocates and legal advisers and half by NGOs specializing in legal advice and citizens advice. Within the NGOs’ limit, aid may be provided by advocates and legal advisers, as well as tax advisers, mediators, lawyers who are not members of the bar associations and specialists in citizens’ advice. Lawyers not associated with bar associations, are required to have at least 3 years of professional legal experience. In the case of advice not being provided by a licensed lawyer, a/the client is required to sign a declaration confirming that s/he is aware that a legal aid provider is not an advocate, legal adviser or tax adviser.
In reality, in 2018, 47% of aid offices were handled by NGOs because of insufficient interest in running them. In 2019, 51% offices were run by NGOs because apart from free legal aid also citizens advice was provided for the first time.
As a result of this design, front line legal aid providers are not in-house staff of a state legal aid institution, but independent professionals and employees or contractors of NGOs. Recruitment of staff is solely vested with external bodies – bar associations and NGOs and its method is not determined by law.
Advocates and legal advisers obtain one-year contracts with powiats. In order to do so, each year a powiat signs an agreement with a local bar association that serves as a basis for determination of a number of attorneys designated to offer legal aid in the powiat as well as remuneration provisions. Bar associations are free to use any method of selection of their members from those who have volunteered to work in the system. In practice, random assignment is often used. Once the agreement is signed the attorney signs a contract directly with a powiat.
NGOs willing to deliver legal aid must participate in tenders organized yearly by each powiat. Only NGOs included in a list of authorized NGOs, administered by a regional wojewoda may participate. A number of criteria must be fulfilled to be listed, including 2 years of experience in the legal aid-related area as well as having signed a contract with an advocate, legal adviser, tax adviser, mediator, or a lawyer not associated with a bar. NGOs which succeed in the tender sign contracts with powiats, specifying the scope and conditions of services.
There is no nationwide data concerning the level interest among lawyers to become legal aid providers within the public system. However, unofficial information from bar associations and anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of candidates exceeds available positions, particularly in smaller towns.
Uneven interest in participation in the system may be due to discrepancy of salaries between lawyers in big cities, especially in Warsaw, and in the provinces. Whilst approx. 60 PLN per hour is not tempting for lawyers in Warsaw, elsewhere it may still be a good offer even for experienced lawyers. To provide an example, the number of advocates and legal advisers interested in becoming a legal aid provider in Jarosław (a town of less than 40,000 inhabitants) has been regularly bigger than the number of available positions. On the other hand, in more remote offices there may be some problems with a supply of legal professionals, in particular trained mediators.
In the out-of-court system, lawyers are paid a fixed fee for availability during office hours (by default 20 hours a week which may be prolonged without additional pay). The sum on the basis of which salaries of legal aid providers are calculated is currently set at 5500 PLN monthly per office. This translates into hourly remuneration of approximately 60 PLN.
Second line legal aid is provided by active advocates or legal advisers, and in the case of administrative proceedings, also tax advisers and patent attorneys. Attorneys are selected by bar associations on the request from a court. Clients may request that a particular lawyer is tasked with representation and that the hitherto ex-officio attorney is changed. Requests of this type are reviewed by the bar association which is not obliged to accept them.
Lawyers are paid a fixed fee that varies on the type of case. The fees are established by the Regulation of the Ministry of Justice of 22 October 2015 on attorney fees and the Regulation of the Ministry of Justice of 3 October 2016 on the costs incurred by the Treasury for unpaid legal assistance provided by an ex officio lawyer. The fees for ex-officio lawyers are regulated at a level approximately 30% lower than the minimum fee for regular attorneys. The remuneration is provided by the State. Also second line legal aid remuneration may be attractive in small-market areas but is insufficient in competitive markets of big cities.
Thus far we have not noted publicly resonating cases of restraints of independence and autonomy of legal aid providers. Neither in the out-of-court system nor in the secondary legal aid providers enjoy special prerogatives or privileges – their status is the same as the market lawyers’.
5.6. Quality assurance
Quality assurance in both primary and secondary legal aid is mostly formal and utilizes internal quality control mechanisms in bar associations and NGOs providing out-of-court service. This includes proactive mechanisms, like requirements for professional training and continued education, as well as reactive ones in the form of disciplinary procedures in negligence cases. Quality control in the form of external evaluation and peer review is used only to a minimum extent.
To become an advocate or a legal adviser in Poland, a law graduate must undergo 3-year-long bar training and pass the Bar exam. Under some circumstances however, bar trainees can also provide legal aid – on prior authorization of their patron advocates or legal advisers. These requirements are presented as a sufficient guarantee that quality advice and representation is provided. The client-attorney privilege is cited as the obstacle for subjecting aid providers to peer review or external evaluation.
As far as NGOs are concerned, two formal quality control mechanisms stand out. First, in order to participate in tenders, NGO must sign contracts with legally trained professionals, i.e. advocates, legal advisers, tax advisers, mediators, or lawyers not associated with a bar having min. 3 years of professional legal experience. In the case of citizens advice, only persons who have undergone specialized training offered by licensed organizations may provide advice. Second, NGOs are required to have at least 2 years of experience in carrying out legal information and legal advice assignments. Lists of NGOs that may apply for being a legal aid provider are administered and regularly updated by wojewoda governors.
Neither in NGOs nor in bar associations legal aid providers are legally required to take part in continuing education merely on the grounds of providing legal aid. In the case of advocates, legal advisers, and tax advisers it might be explained by the fact that they are already obliged to take part in forms of continuing education in their respective professional associations. Such training usually does not address challenges related to free legal aid.
NGOs may provide additional training to its workers if the management so decides. No additional public funding is offered to this end. Citizen advice providers are required to undergo a 70-hour-long introductory training and subsequently a no less than 8-hour-long training every following year. Costs of training is to be borne by trainees or their employers.
No institution exists to control actual quality of advice. Neither Ministry of Justice nor the Board of Free Legal Assistance, Free Civic Guidance and Legal Education have the powers and organizational resources to do so.
Partial quality monitoring is achieved by using a two-stage system of reporting. Every three months a starosta (district governor) of a powiat is obliged to prepare a report on the fulfilment of tasks stemming from the Act of 2015. The Ministry of Justice compiles a report based on aggregated data coming from all the powiats until July of the following calendar year. Since the 2018 amendment “advice cards” (case folders) contain a field for clients to fill in their opinions. A starosta governor is responsible for their analysis – nonetheless the Act does not empower a starosta governor to take specified measures related to this competence.
A starosta governor is also responsible for controlling an NGO that provides legal aid services in the area of a relevant powiat. The control is performed according to the Act of 24 April 2003 on Public Benefit Activities and Volunteering. In addition, a wojewoda governor has competence to review selected advice files. Negative evaluation may lead to termination of cooperation with a given legal aid provider.
Both in the out-of-court system and in the secondary aid in cases of insufficient quality of advice and representation clients may demand compensation as in any other tort case. On top of that, they may demand that disciplinary proceedings be instigated against their attorney. Lawyers must be insured against the consequences of professional errors. Of course, issues of proof and evidence may be high barriers to obtaining compensation.
5.7. Criminal legal aid
5.7.1. Scope of criminal legal aid
Hypothetically, the right to be appointed an ex officio defence counsel exists at all stages of the criminal procedure including the criminal investigation phase. In this regard Poland is obliged to harmonize its legislation with Directive 2016/1919 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on legal aid for suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings and for requested persons in European arrest warrant proceedings as well as with the Directive 2013/48/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in European arrest warrant proceedings, and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and with consular authorities while deprived of liberty.
However, despite the deadline for national transposition of the former passed on 25 May 2019, appropriate actions have not been taken. In theory, the failure to act by the Polish authorities results in the Directive having direct effect in the territory of Poland. In practice, law enforcement authorities do not observe the European legislation as they are organisationally and procedurally unprepared to follow its provisions.
As a result, under Polish law persons who have not been accused of committing a crime (i.e. are only suspects) are not entitled to an/the ex officio defence counsel. This pertains also to persons who have been detained as suspects.
Legal aid is available for defendants during trial. There is also a possibility of appointment of the ex-officio defence counsel for the purpose of accomplishing an individual, determined legal action. The right to be appointed an ex officio defence counsel includes the appellate stage. Furthermore, the right to legal aid is guaranteed during the criminal enforcement phase. Eligibility criteria are analogous to the ones applicable in the investigation and court phases.
Also victims may demand legal aid both in the criminal investigation and the trial phase. Eligibility criteria concern mainly financial circumstances and are analogous to the ones applicable to the accused.
Awarding legal aid is also possible for witnesses, but such an option is used very rarely. Two criteria must be met: Firstly, the witness can use the professional help if protection of her/his interest in the proceedings so requires. Secondly, financial requirements must be met of analogous scope to the conditions for appointment of a public defence counsel.
5.7.2. Eligibility criteria for criminal legal aid
In the out-of-court legal aid system the general rules (see Section 5.8.2) apply to all types of cases, including criminal cases.
To be appointed an ex officio defence counsel an accused person not having an attorney must file a request to the court, proving that s/he is unable to bear the costs of defence without it affecting his/her ability to support oneself and his/her family. It follows that the request must be filed, and documents prepared, without assistance of an attorney but an out-of-court advisor may be used for this purpose. Persons having an attorney may not be granted an ex officio counsel, but the basis for the refusal to appoint an ex-officio defence counsel cannot be the fact that the applicant used free legal assistance or citizens‘ advice.
Under some circumstances appointing ex officio defence is mandatory. This applies when a person is juvenile, deaf, mute, or blind; if there is a justified doubt whether their ability to recognize the meaning of a given act or direct their behaviour was excluded or significantly limited when committing the act; if there is a justified doubt whether their mental health allows for their participation in proceedings or for running a defence in an independent and reasonable manner; and in proceedings before a regional court if they are accused of a felony. Additionally, the accused must have a defence counsel also when the court deems that necessary because of other circumstances impeding the defence.
Except for mandatory defence, the suspect eligible to be appointed an ex officio defence counsel may opt not to file a petition and thus run a pro se defence.
Advice provided by ex-officio defence counsel is free, without any contributions from the beneficiary. In principle there are no repayment mechanisms. However in a rare case when a legal aid beneficiary improves her/his financial status between the appointment of an ex officio counsel and the end of the proceedings, s/he is obliged to repay the Treasury for the received legal aid at the end of the criminal process.
5.7.3. Process for obtaining criminal legal aid
According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, prior to the first questioning a suspect shall be advised of the right to receive assistance from a defence counsel, including the right to apply for a public defence counsel if s/he is accused. If the presence of a defence counsel is mandatory, the public prosecutor files a petition to appoint an ex officio defence counsel for the accused.
The Directive (EU) 2016/1919 imposes the duty to decide on the suspect’s demand for legal aid before the first interrogation. Therefore, the criminal proceedings ought to halt at least until the decision is made and, if applicable, until a legal aid provider arrives. As already mentioned, the duties having its source in the Directive are not observed in the practice of law in Poland. Also, prior to charges being presented to the suspect, absence of an attorney, even if s/he is appointed, does not withhold the interrogations.
The president or a clerk of the court competent to examine the case is responsible for appointing an ex officio defence counsel for the accused. In deciding if an ex officio counsel should be awarded, the court enjoys wide discretion, because no detailed guidelines exist as to what economic situation may prevent a person from hiring a counsel.
If the accused does not have a defence counsel of choice and is entitled to be appointed one ex-officio, s/he must file a petition to the court. The order on granting or refusing the appointment of an ex-officio counsel is then issued by the president of the court, the president of a division, the president of the adjudicative panel, a duly authorised judge, or a court clerk. A petition for appointing an ex officio defence counsel shall be examined “without delay”.
If presence of a defence counsel is mandatory, the case is already at the court proceedings stage, and the accused does not have a defence counsel of her/his choice, the court or a court clerk undertakes the action to appoint a defence counsel ex officio.
The order of the president of the court refusing to appoint a defence counsel may be contested before the court competent for hearing the case, and the decision of the court refusing to appoint a defence counsel – before another equivalent panel of that court. Further appeal is not possible.
An ex officio defence counsel is appointed from among persons listed as defence counsels. The lists are compiled by local bar associations. Advocates and legal advisers may declare whether they want to serve as an ex officio defence counsels or not. However, if the number of volunteers in a given district is insufficient, the list may be extended to incorporate the remaining advocates and legal advisers.
Regulation on Procedure of Guaranteeing the Help of an Ex-officio Defence Counsel provides that the petitioner can indicate her/his preference regarding an ex officio defender while filing the petition to be appointed an ex officio defence counsel. However, the court is not bound by this request.
The role of the out-of-court legal aid system in criminal cases is mostly secondary. In the first half of 2019, criminal matters were subject to advice in 7,32% of cases. In principle there are no restraints concerning a choice of provider. Most importantly, seekers are not bound by geographical limitations – they can look for legal advice in any location. In practice, this freedom is curbed by a requirement to schedule an appointment in advance. Information about legal aid providers is public, therefore a client can seek advice from a provider of her/his choice, although cannot have a guarantee to obtain a meeting with the selected provider as there are several points of legal aid in the area of powiat and only one phone number with the help of which all the appointments are scheduled.
Only minimal statistics of cases where legal aid is granted in criminal cases is available. In 2018, 47939 requests for appointing free representation were filed, but no data exists as to the number of cases where representation actually was granted. Chart 09 summarizes the data for the last 10 years. The diminishing numbers of applications reflects diminishing crime rate and number of criminal court proceedings.
Chart 09. Requests to obtain ex-officio representation in criminal cases, 2009-2018
5.8. Civil legal aid
5.8.1. Scope of civil legal aid
In the area of out-of-court legal aid the principal legislation is the Act of 2015. A number of provisions guaranteeing access to various forms of primary legal aid exists in other acts. The Act of 16 February 2007 on Competition and Consumer Protection and the Act of 13 April 2007 on National Labour Inspectorate have the most significant impact on everyday practice. Other available options are discussed in Section 5.11 below. In litigation, the principal legislation are relevant codes of procedures (regulating both civil and administrative courts proceedings).
Out-of-court legal aid encompasses information on legal status, rights and duties of natural persons, including regarding ongoing court and administrative proceedings. Legal aid providers also suggest solutions adapted to particular legal situations and prepare drafts of legal documents and opinions, except for pleadings pertinent to ongoing proceedings. As far as such proceedings are concerned, they may only draft petitions regarding exemption from court costs or appointment of an attorney. They are not allowed to take actions on behalf of the beneficiary.
Chart 10 provides information on types of service provided in the out-of-court system in the first half of 2019.
Chart 10. Legal aid in out-of-court system by type, 1st half 2019
|Type of service delivered|
|Legal information||Legal advice||Legal drafting||Petition for exemption from court fees or granting ex-officio attorney||Citizens advice||Mediation attempt|
|Number of aid episodes||189320||127995||27684||6783||23246||341|
|As % of all aid episodes||82%||55%||12%||2,9%||10%||0,1%|
Since 2020 every office of the legal aid system operating on the basis of the Act of 2015 offers out-of-court mediation. Also other out-of-court public ADR institutions exist, such as the Banking Ombudsman, the Insurance Ombudsman, the Court of Arbitration by the Office of Electronic Communication, the Ombudsman by the Energy Regulatory Office and a network of consumer arbitration courts run by the Trade Inspection.
All types of civil and administrative cases are eligible in the out-of-court system. The only exceptions are matters related to economic activity (but advice on commencing it is allowed) and cases in which judicial proceedings have already begun. Mediation must not be provided if a court or another public authority has already issued an order to assign a case to a mediation procedure as well in cases where violence between parties could have occurred.
In practice, most cases relate to marital affairs, consumer protection, disputes arising from an employment relationship, succession, or contracts of lease and loan. This composition is generally stable over the years. Chart 11 informs about general composition of advice by field of law in the first half of 2019.
Chart 11. Legal advice in the out-of-court system by field of law, 1st half of 2019.
|Civil||Family||Labour||Social insurance||Administrative||Tax||Criminal||Business start up||Other|
As far as primary aid provision outside of the scope of Act of 2015 is concerned, multiple channels of delivery exist, discussed in Section 5.11 below. The most developed field is consumer protection. 370 municipal and district consumer ombudsmen provide free consumer advice, mediation and legal assistance in court proceedings. The consumer ombudsman may also bring an action on consumers’ behalf and, with their consent, join lawsuits in cases concerning protection of consumer interests. Similarly, the National Labour Inspectorate, whose network covers the entire country, may lodge complaints and, following the concerned person’s consent, participate in legal proceedings for the establishment of an employment relationship before labour courts.
As it were, the Polish system provides for legal representation before any court or tribunal. It may be granted in all cases and at all stages of the procedure (including appeal and proceedings before high courts). Strict eligibility criteria limit access to representation in comparison to out-of-court legal aid. A merits test is also conducted.
As regards the administrative courts, the right to legal aid encompasses the right to be appointed an advocate, legal adviser, tax adviser, or patent attorney. The appointment of a public defence counsel may be coupled with an exemption from judicial costs. Each form of assistance may also be provided separately.
Information on case characteristics in secondary legal aid is not available due to the decentralized nature of this part of the aid system.
5.8.2. Eligibility criteria for civil legal aid
As regards the out-of-court legal aid, since 2019 there exists only one eligibility criterion to meet: “not being able to bear costs of paid legal aid” (Art. 4.1 of the Act of 2015). An applicant is not obliged in any way to lend credence to this fact – a written declaration is sufficient. As a result, no one is formally excluded from seeking out public legal aid and no merits tests are conducted.
The Act of 2015 does not exclude foreigners from applying for public legal aid. Immigrants and asylum seekers are yet more likely to utilize mechanisms dedicated to their specific needs. The Act of 13 June 2003 on granting protection to foreigners in the territory of the Republic of Poland entitles a foreigner towards whom a decision depriving her/him of refugee status or subsidiary protection was issued to free legal information and assistance. The Office for Foreigners is a public institution responsible for providing help in migration issues. A number of NGOs are active in this particular area, which may be an indication that the official system in this field is dysfunctional.
As regards legal aid in the courts, a person who is exempted by the court from court costs in part or in the whole may additionally request to be appointed an ex-officio defence counsel. If a natural person is not exempted by the court from court costs, s/he may request to be appointed an attorney if s/he states that s/he is unable to bear such costs without detriment to her/his or her/his family’s necessary subsistence or that bearing the costs would put her/him at such risk. Similar provision applies to legal persons and organisational units. They must demonstrate that they do not have sufficient means to bear the costs of defence counsel’s fee. To eliminate emergent bad practice, the code specifically indicates that the grounds for rejecting the motion cannot reside in the petitioner having benefited from legal aid received on the basis of the Act of 2015.
The motion shall be granted if the court considers the participation of an advocate or legal adviser necessary (merits test). Even if the economic vulnerability criteria are met, the appointment of an ex officio defence counsel is under no circumstances certain as the court may consider this unnecessary. The presence of a legal professional is deemed needed if the party is incapable of taking procedural actions unaided or if the state of facts or normative background of the case is complicated.
There are no fixed financial caps as regards estimation of economic vulnerability. The court is obliged to appraise the economic situation of the demander based on information included in the statement containing details of her/his family status, assets (e.g. concerning real estate or securities) income and livelihood. The statement’s binding template is fixed by the Ministry of Justice. The reasons for not being able to bear judicial costs ought to have an “objective character”. Still, courts enjoy wide discretion in evaluating the matter.
As regards the administrative court proceedings, eligibility criteria and procedure are similar to those in civil cases. A natural person can obtain legal aid upon proving that s/he cannot bear either any costs of proceedings or full costs of proceedings without detriment to her/his or her/his family’s necessary subsistence. A legal person can obtain legal aid provided if it demonstrates that it cannot bear either any costs of proceedings or full costs of proceedings (the scope of legal aid varies in these two respective cases).
As in the case of criminal proceedings, the recipient does not have to contribute towards the cost of legal aid services. Furthermore, no repayment mechanisms of any sort exist in relation to the legal aid recipient. Public defence counsels may only recover the amount due to them in fees and expenses from the costs awarded to the defended party from the adverse party. The unpaid amounts are covered by the state budget, but according to the tariff the amounts are regulated at a level approx. 30% lower than the regular minimum.
A special procedure applies to EU citizens and third-country nationals residing lawfully in a Member State, except Denmark. They have the right to legal aid in civil and commercial matters thanks to the transposition of the Council Directive 2002/8/EC of 27 January 2003 to improve access to justice in cross-border disputes by establishing minimum common rules relating to legal aid for such disputes. Granting of legal aid is dependent on evaluation of economic situation of the petitioner and it encompasses pre-litigation advice with a view to reaching a settlement prior to bringing legal proceedings as well as legal assistance and representation in court, and exemption from, or assistance with, the cost of proceedings of the recipient of legal aid. The scope of secondary aid provided to EU citizens is thus wider than what Polish citizens are eligible to.
5.8.3. Process for obtaining civil legal aid
As regards the out-of-court legal aid under Act of 2015, a client has to make an appointment by calling the phone number provided by a legal aid office of his/her choice. Chart 12 indicates the number of persons served since the system was initiated.
Chart 12. Number of beneficiaries in the out-of-court system, 2016-2019
|2016||2017||2018||2019 (1st half)|
As it could be seen, despite aid availability being greatly increased in 2019, the total number of recipients in 2019 is unlikely to significantly exceed the number of beneficiaries in 2018.
As regards the civil court proceedings, a party shall submit a petition to be appointed an attorney together with a petition to be exempted from court costs or separately. The petition must be delivered in writing or verbally for the record in the court where the case is to be tried or is already pending. A natural person who does not have a place of residence at the location of the court concerned may submit a petition to be appointed an attorney to a district court of his/her residence, whereupon that latter court shall immediately forward such a petition to the court concerned.
The petitioner shall also file a statement containing the details of his/her family status, property, income and sources of support. Such a statement must be made on a specific form. If a petition to be appointed an attorney is filed together with a petition to be exempted from court costs, a natural person shall submit one statement only.
As for the administrative court proceedings, a party can file a petition before or pending the proceedings. The application should contain a statement on property and income, and if the application is submitted by a natural person, also accurate data on family status and a statement of the party about not working or not remaining in another legal relationship with an advocate, legal adviser, tax adviser or patent attorney. The petition should be made by filling in a specific form, which differs from the one in criminal procedure.
Unless assistance is obtained in the out-of-court legal aid office, the petitioner must manage petition procedures on his/her own.
As far as decisions on granting aid are concerned, in the out-of-court legal aid system technically the decision is made by the aid provider. Yet, since 2019 the access is effectively open to anyone the term “granting legal aid” does not adequately describe the process, which is largely automatic. Thus far, we have yet to hear cases of applicants rejected due to being able to bear legal market costs of legal advice despite the declaration to the contrary.
As regards the civil court proceedings, the court where the case is to be tried or is already pending is responsible for the appointment of an ex-officio defence counsel. This decision may also be issued by a court clerk. In addition, there exists a special regulation when a petition to be appointed an attorney is filed for the first time in cassation proceedings or proceedings related to an appeal to declare a final ruling unlawful – in this case the court for examination refers it to the court of first instance, unless it deems the petition to be duly substantiated.
As regards the administrative court proceedings, decisions to appoint or refuse to appoint a public defence counsel are issued by default by a court clerk and in some circumstances by the judge-rapporteur.
Theoretical denials in the out-of-court system could be disputed before an administrative court in a general procedure.
As regards the right to legal representation in civil court proceedings, the decision to refuse to appoint or to dismiss an attorney is subject to a complaint lodged to the court of first instance sitting in a different formation. In addition, where a petition to be appointed an attorney is dismissed, the party shall not be entitled to repeat its request to be appointed an attorney on the basis of the same circumstances as claimed in the dismissed petition. A contrario, a new petition is possible provided that it is made on different grounds.
As regards the right to legal representation in administrative court proceedings, the party may file a grievance against the refusal of granting legal aid. A new petition is possible.
As far as choosing the provider is concerned, the out-of-court legal aid system theoretically offers much more possibility to the beneficiary. Aid seekers are bound neither by geographical limitations – they can look for legal advice in any location they may be – nor by type of provider – they may freely choose between attorneys, NGOs providing legal aid, and the ones offering citizens advice. In practice, this freedom is curbed by a requirement to schedule an appointment in advance. Information about legal aid providers is public, therefore a client can look for legal advice from a provider of her/his choice, although cannot have a guarantee to obtain a meeting with the selected provider as there are several offices of legal aid in the area of powiat. Scheduling of appointments is typically on the phone operated by the powiat, so the appointment procedure effectively serves as an unofficial triage mechanism.
As regards legal representation before the civil court, the court requests a competent regional Bar association which is required to promptly – but in no event later than within two weeks – appoint an ex officio defence counsel. A petitioner may suggest a specific advocate or legal adviser, but even though the Bar associations need to consult said advocate or legal adviser about the possibility to be designated, they are under no obligation to appoint that person.
As regards the administrative court legal representation, the procedure is similar, although in this case tax advisers and patent attorneys may be legal aid providers. Therefore, the court’s request may be forwarded to the National Chamber of Tax Advisers or the National Chamber of Patent Attorneys as well.
In the civil court proceedings pending proceedings are not automatically suspended due to a request to grant free representation, unless the petition to appoint an attorney for a plaintiff was filed in the summons or before bringing the action. However, the court may postpone hearing a case until a final resolution concerning said petition is reached. Consequently it withholds setting a date for a trial or cancels or postpones an already scheduled trial.
In the administrative court proceedings the court is required to forthwith consider the petition to appoint an attorney. Delay could cause inability of the party to take an active part in the proceedings which in turn could lead to the declaration of nullity of legal proceedings.
Chart 13 presents the number of applications granted in the last seven years.
Chart 13. Number of petitions granted for ex-officio representation by case type, 2012-2019
|Labour and social insurance||1547||2510||2448||nd|
|Administrative, first instance courts||4165||6678||7098||4172||3544||3632||1780||1610|
The growth in the number of family cases in 2018 is related to non-litigious proceedings pertaining to authorization of forced psychiatric treatment. Since 1st January 2018, representation is mandatory for persons whose cases are being decided in courts, so free representation is awarded ex-officio. Until 2018, the court could award an attorney if it found that necessary. As the number of cases with free legal aid awards more than doubled, this change makes the scale of need for representation in civil cases in Poland very apparent.
5.9. Holistic legal services
Only limited holistic services are available in the out-of-court segment of the free legal advice system. Since 2019, citizens’ legal advice has been offered in the out-of-court system, including the assistance to navigate in the administrative system also in not strictly legal issues, like social benefits.
Other linkages between legal services and non-lawyer professionals are limited to the referrals to other public services from the legal aid system, including family, psychological and violence counselling, victim support, substance abuse treatment, crisis intervention, the homelessness crisis support, public employment services etc. It is mandatory for legal personnel to offer guidance on locally available service in cases where they find such service indispensable to resolve the case. Scope of utilization of such referral service against the scale of need yet remains unknown.
It must yet be indicated that in the case of other types of primary legal aid (see Section 5.11 below), it is legal aid that is an element of holistic service. This is the case of family and social work counselling, as well as victims’ support. In these types of service, legal aid is provided in-house.
5.10. Legal aid before regional human rights mechanisms
Poland is a member state of the Council of Europe. The European Court of Human Rights, established in 1959, fulfils the judicial role within this regional system of human rights protection. Its task is to supervise the enforcement of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
According to the statistics published by the European Court of Human Rights, in 2019 there were 1834 applications allocated against Poland. For comparison, the highest number of applications was lodged in 2010 – 5768. A downwards trend in complaints against Poland to the Court has been observed for several years.
The number of new complaints from Poland compared to the number of inhabitants in 2019 is below the European average. The indicator of the number of complaints in relation to the population fell to 0.48, with the European average of 0.53. The general number of pending cases from Poland constitutes 2,1 % of all cases pending before the Court.
Poland does not have a national system of providing legal aid for applicants. The decisions upon legal aid are made by the Court on the basis of Rules of Court of 1 January 2020. The President of the Chamber may grant free legal aid to the applicant in connection with the presentation of the case, either at the request of an applicant or ex officio. Legal aid may be granted when it is necessary for the proper conduct of the case before the Chamber and when an applicant has insufficient means to meet all or part of the costs entailed.
The legal aid may nevertheless be granted only from the moment when observations in writing on the admissibility of that application are received from the respondent Contracting Party, or when the time limit for their submission has expired. It means that in this procedure no legal aid can be received by a party in order to prepare and lodge an application itself. Arguably, such aid could be obtained from the Polish out-of-court system, but no such cases are known.
Other than that, free legal advice needed in the process of preparation of an application can only be obtained on the basis of a pro bono representation of a legal professional. Several NGOs, in particular the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, provide legal assistance in the preparation of applications in selected cases.
5.11. Alternative sources of legal assistance
Numerous alternative providers of legal assistance are active in Poland, particularly in the out-of-court sector. These include university law clinics, NGOs specializing in generalist advice and provision of holistic service for underprivileged and minority groups. Pro bono initiatives are animated by both bar associations. Assistance offered by commercial entities, such as insurance claims firms, has grown in popularity over the last decades. This activity is yet subject to some controversies regarding supposedly excessive fees and insufficient quality.
Also financial market tools, such as the legal expenses insurance, are limited. Conditional fee arrangements are somewhat popular, but services for individuals are subject to partial tarification anyway, which renders CFA uncompetitive. On top of that, licensed practitioners are barred from offering 100% CFA agreements (which is not the case for non-licensed service, e.g. insurance claim firms). Legal expense insurance is offered in the market, but not popular as a method of resolving legal problems. In 2019, LEI market for individual persons came to 27 million PLN in premiums sold. Exact loss ratio for individual buyers is not known, but merely 6429 claims were settled resulting from 3450 events, indicating that few persons insured against legal expense actually make the claims. Circumstantial evidence suggests that LEI is usually sold along with other types of insurance (including mandatory mortgage insurance) as a result of which its scope and nature may be unclear for buyers.
Other collective mechanisms of financing legal assistance to individuals, such as pre-paid plans, or specialized legal service commissioned by professional associations and trade unions for its members, do not appear to be popular in the market. No data sources are yet known to substantiate this observation. The most visible development in this area in recent years are well publicized cases where successful collective actions of consumer groups against corporations, most characteristically, banks, are undertaken. No systematic data yet exists on the scale of this phenomenon.
Apart from private and non-governmental initiatives, numerous public bodies and agencies offer legal assistance, either as their core service or as an element of other activities. This partially is due to the legacy of the socialist system, where advice in some matters was vested in entities otherwise responsible for authoritatively handling the cases of diffuse rights. This holds for the Labour Inspection, a public agency responsible for oversight over workers’ rights, which provides legal advice to both employers and employees, the public prosecutor office which is tasked in providing some legal assistance to certain types of clients, and the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection which provides out-of-court consumer assistance (including assistance in dispute resolution) directly and through its subsidiaries.
On top of that, since the 1980s, multiple entities have been established to provide legal assistance in the ombudsman mode. These includes The Ombudsman (a constitutional organ of the state, established in 1988), which provides advice, guidance and assistance to the complaining persons and may intervene in some cases, The Children’s Ombudsman (a constitutional organ protecting children’s rights), The Patients’ Ombudsman (a state entity advising on patients rights and intervening when they are infringed) and The Psychiatric Hospital Patients’ Ombudsmen active in psychiatric facilities. At the intermediate level of local self-government a network of 370 Consumer Ombudsmen is established, advising and intervening in consumer disputes. The Financial Ombudsman is a state entity supplying assistance and intervention in disputes between consumers and businesses in the financial sector.
Chart 14 informs about the scale of service provision in alternative providers of legal assistance.
Chart 14. Legal aid outside legal aid system, changes 2014-2017
|Institution||Type of advice||Statistical category||Number of advice instances or applications for advice||Change %|
|State Labour Inspection||Labour law||Number of instances of advice in Labour Inspection’s offices and in the course of on-site inspections||939000||1043400
|Number of instances of advice in Labour Inspection’s offices only||725000||408400||400200||510500||-19,64|
|Organizational units of social aid and integration||Family law, social law||Number of families provided with specialised service (legal aid, psychological aid, family advice)||138823||132097||113596||108557||-18,00|
|Powiat Consumer Ombudsmen||Consumer law (generally)||Number of instances of advice||493639||500978||494878||447482||-5.2|
|Patients’ Rights Ombudsman||Health law||Number of registered motions||65339||71366||68832||61218||-4,87|
|Psychiatric Patients’ Rights’ Ombudsman||Health law in psychiatry||Number of complaints and motions||nd||9492||8212||5257||-29,05|
|Ombudsman||Human rights||New cases accepted||26470||27376||24360||22800||-12,42|
|Children’s Rights Ombudsman||Children’s rights||New cases filed||48818||49674||46213||39182||-13,30|
|University Law Clinics associated with FUPP||General||New cases accepted||11181||10693||8424||6531||-31,63|
|Financial Inspector||Consumer law (financial market)||Number of motions to intervene||n/a||11953||16997||18803||n/a|
|Citizens Advice Bureaux associated with ZBPO||General||Number of instances of advice||38835||36420||24449||19996
|Consumer Federation (a NGO funded by OCPC)||Consumer law (generally)||Number of instances of advice||56645||61262||63515||64772||8,80|
|Consumer infoline (funded by OCPC)||Consumer law (generally)||Number of instances of advice||89712||70330||38450||72021||2,4|
|Consumer e-mail response center (funded by OCPC)||Consumer law (generally)||Number of instances of advice||25565||19200||22245||21050||-3,28|
|Family violence victims’ support centres (funded by National Programme of Victim Support)||Criminal law, social law||Number of persons receiving advice||41500||42987||34778||34648||-17,82|
All in all, Poland distinguishes itself among countries with established legal aid systems by having very diversified provision mechanisms, including parallel public and non-governmental initiatives. This is the outcome of the difficult history of the system, with very limited state provision of out-of-court advice until 2016 and the continuing traditional and limited system of court advice. As a result, multiple grassroots initiatives were undertaken by the representatives of the legal profession, NGOs and civil society activists to fill the gap in public services. Over time, these efforts have led to development of non-governmental infrastructure, yet largely financed from multiple public sources, with considerable volumes of service provided at no cost to beneficiaries, particularly in the out-of-court sector and the citizens’ advice sector.
After the establishment of the public system in 2016, the grassroots initiatives became partially redundant, lost a significant portion of their funding and the volume of provision somewhat diminished. Yet, they did not entirely disappear. Reasons for their persistence include multiple dysfunctionalities on part of the public system, including restricted eligibility in the out-of-court system until 2018, its continued very limited promotion, and far better integration and intake mechanisms in the grassroots initiatives.
An interesting observation which stems from these particularities is that demand for legal services may not be easily transferred to another mode of service delivery if the established service providers are already in place, even if the latter’s competitive situation becomes adverse. Based on the analysis of statistical data already cited, a demand “transfer rate” of 35% may be calculated.
6. COSTS OF RESOLVING DISPUTES WITHIN THE FORMAL JUDICIAL MACHINERY
6.1. Overview of judicial costs for litigants
Pursuant to the Act of 28 July 2005 on Court Costs in Civil Cases, litigants are required to pay a court fee to start a proceeding at a court of general jurisdiction. Letters subject to fees include claims and counterclaims, appeals and grievances, cassation appeals and complaints aimed at declaring a final ruling inconsistent with law, objections against default judgments, objections against orders for payment in enforcement proceedings (except for writ of payment procedure), main and secondary interventions as well as certain types of applications, petitions, and complaints.
Payment of further court costs is also required. They are usually linked with evidentiary procedures, such as remuneration of expert witnesses, translators or interpreters. They may also be incurred due to appointment of guardians for a party in a given case, reimbursement of travel and overnight accommodation costs and lost earnings or incomes of witnesses, costs of taking other evidence, costs of notices, costs of detainment and stays in custody, costs of mediation carried out as a result of court referral, and so forth.
On top of that, during the progress of proceedings there are letters that necessitate additional fees too, such as many grievances, applications to secure evidence, complaints against the actions of an enforcement officer, or issuance fees of files such as certified duplicates, excerpts, or extracts.
The Act of 28 July 2005 on Court Costs in Civil Cases is specifically dedicated to regulate calculation of court taxes or fees in civil cases. Regarding property rights, a fixed fee is charged for a letter, determined according to the value of the subject of the dispute or the value of the subject of the appeal. The fee scale starts at 30 PLN for cases up to 500 PLN and finishes at 1,000 PLN for cases over 15,000 up to 20,000 PLN. In cases where the value of the subject of the dispute or the value of the subject of the appeal exceeds PLN 20,000 fees are calculated as a proportion of claim value and capped. Accordingly, a proportionate fee in the amount of 5% of claim value is charged for a letter, up to no more than 200,000 PLN.
In other cases regulations are quite complicated and vary on a specific matter. For instance, petitions for divorce, separation, and the protection of personality rights are charged with a fixed fee of 600 PLN, while petition fees in cases regarding denial of paternity or maternity, establishing a regime of separation of property, trespass, or the determination of the establishment of a tenancy relationship amount to 200 PLN. Moreover there are separate provisions governing i.a. business court cases, labour law and security cases, as well as non-litigious proceedings, enforcement proceedings, or bankruptcy and restructuring proceedings.
6.2. Exemption from judicial costs
The Polish name for the exemption of judicial costs is zwolnienie od kosztów sądowych. The main provisions concerning civil court proceedings are located in the Title IV of the Act of 28 July 2005 on Court Costs in Civil Cases. As regards administrative court proceedings, the main provisions can be found in the Section V Chapter 3 of the Law on Proceedings before Administrative Courts.
Exemption from judicial costs occurs ex lege or by request of the petitioner. The former occurs based on the special status of a litigant and a particular legal matter being judged. Examples include procedures to determine paternity or maternity and the associated claims, some child support claims, actions of the employee against the employer, protection of mental health.
The ex lege exemption applies to specific entities such as the labour inspector and trade unions in labour law cases, a powiat consumer ombudsman in cases regarding protection of individual interest of consumers or regarding practices restricting competition and practices harmful to collective interest of consumer, and public benefit organisations (except for cases regarding their business activity).
The other type of criteria for exemption from judicial costs is personal economic vulnerability. It occurs when a party demonstrates that s/he is unable to bear such costs without detriment to her/his or her/his family’s necessary subsistence or that bearing the said costs would put her/him at risk of such detriment. The exemption may also be granted to a legal person if it demonstrates it has no means to cover court costs.
If exemption from judicial costs based on economic vulnerability is under consideration, the decision is within competence of the court where the case is to be tried or is already pending. An application for exemption from court costs can be submitted in writing or orally for the record and should be accompanied by a statement (according to a defined format) containing detailed data on the family status, property, income, and sources of support of the person seeking to be exempted from such costs. If the petition is rejected, the appeal procedure is analogous to the one described in Section 5.8.3 above.
A person who has been exempted from judicial costs may only be charged with the court costs if at the end of the judicial process s/he receives financial resources that enable her/him to cover the costs of the procedure.
However, as far as a losing party who used the ox-officio defence is concerned, the general principle applies. The party losing the case is liable to reimburse the other party for any costs necessary to present its case and the litigant who has benefited from some form of legal aid is not excluded from it. The Act of 28 July 2005 on Court Costs in Civil Cases explicitly states that exemption from court costs does not exempt a party from the obligation to reimburse the costs of the court proceedings to the opposite party.
Nonetheless, in particularly justified cases the court may order the unsuccessful party to pay only some costs or decide not to charge the unsuccessful party with any costs at all. As for the relation of exemption of judicial costs to this extraordinary measure, exemption does not translate automatically to being granted a concession from reimbursement. Yet it is perceived that it is one of the main circumstances that the court considers.
All in all, judicial costs in Poland may be discouraging litigation, both in claims of small value and more valuable ones. That is not only because of amounts to be paid, which may come to as much as 200 000 PLN for claims exceeding 4 000 000 PLN, but also due to the necessity of separately paying fees for individual actions. This is a nuisance and makes costs difficult to predict.
6.3. Mechanisms to reduce costs by variations to courts and procedures
There are no specifically designed courts of special jurisdictions where fees would not be collected. Instead, in Polish law there is a tendency to create special procedures within jurisdiction of common courts, which are priced below the standard court fee of 5% of claims value. It needs to be noted, however there are no fees charged in proceedings initiated by citizens before the Constitutional Tribunal.
Several specific types of proceedings are enumerated in the Code of Civil Procedure that strive both to accelerate proceedings and to reduce concomitant expenses. There exists the simplified procedure in which cases are adjudicated if the value of the subject-matter of the dispute does not exceed 20,000 PLN. It also encompasses cases concerning claims arising from a warranty or guarantee – if the value of the subject-matter of the dispute does not exceed that amount. Here, costs are not calculated as a percentage of the claim value, but are established in a tariff, as cited in Section 6.1. Paradoxically, the amounts are not smaller than in regular procedure but may come to 20% of the claim value. Potential cost reduction is a result of a limited number of possible actions rather than lowered fees.
Costs are actually reduced in some socially sensitive matters. This applies e.g. in labour law and social security cases in which a basic fee is collected (as for the former, the employee is excluded from this concession) only for appeals, grievances, cassation appeals, and complaints aimed at finding the final ruling inconsistent with the law. Reduced fees are applicable also in cases regarding environmental protection or in enforcement proceedings.
In addition, there exists an order of payment procedure applicable if the plaintiff seeks financial claims or other fungible items and the facts substantiating the claim being sought are proven by either an official document, a bill accepted by the debtor, or a call for payment and debtor’s written acknowledgement of debt. Here, the fees are reduced to 25% of the regular fee to come to 1.25% of claim value.
In some circumstances the court may oblige the parties to take part in a less costly procedure – mediation attempt, but the parties may opt out after its commencement. Other conciliatory instruments are provided in legislation, such as conciliation commissions resolving disputes arising out of employment relationships. Also numerous arbitration tribunals are usually less costly than court trial and making use of them is encouraged – e.g. in consumer protection cases or supervised by the Financial Ombudsman. Nonetheless, consent of both parties is required therefore they are not compulsory.
7. THE PROTECTION OF DIFFUSE AND COLLECTIVE RIGHTS
A number of procedures for protection of diffuse and collective rights exist under Polish law. Firstly, consumer rights may be protected using the abusive contact terms procedure. It authorizes the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (OCCP) to put contractual terms which abuse consumer rights on a public register, thus forbidding their use in practice and declaring them null and void in all past contracts involving the contrahent that had used it. Such decisions may then be contested before the Competition and Consumer Protection Court (CCPC).
Secondly, class action procedure is available to groups of persons not smaller than 10, who pursue the same claim in civil and consumer law cases. Only enumerated types of cases qualify. The procedure is of the “opt-in” type, meaning that the verdict only applies to persons who have joined the class action, rather than all that are affected by the activity of the defendant.
Thirdly, diffuse rights in the area of environmental law are protected under the Aarhus Convention and local regulation. On these grounds, an “ecological organization” is authorized to join administrative proceedings as a party, file motions and appeals if the proceedings require public participation.
The role of legal aid providers in these procedures is limited. No general provisions exist that would cover all types of legal aid providers, entitling them to play a role in such proceedings. As a rule, aid providers entitled to represent their clients may participate in such procedures just as they may do in all other types of proceedings.
Some exceptions do apply, though. As far as abusive contract terms procedures are concerned, legal aid providers are not formally entitled to initiate OCCP’s activities. However, some of the abusive contract terms procedures instigated by OCCP ex officio may be related to the fact that consumer rights protection is monitored by consumer rights’ ombudsmen and the Financial Ombudsman, who pass the information on possible abusive contractual terms to the OCCP.
Class actions may be instigated by groups of individuals and by powiat consumer rights’ ombudsmen, who then act as representatives (named plaintiff) of the claimants’ group.
Ecological organizations are NGOs defined in the Law on providing information on the environment and its protection, public participation in environmental protection and environmental impact assessments. Under it, an “ecological organization” is one that has been active in the field of environmental protection and has included doing so among its statutory goals for no less than 12 months before joining the proceedings. Even if such entities also happen to be providers of legal aid, the two activities are not formally linked.
In class action, court fees are limited to 2% of the claim’s value, which is a notable reduction compared to the regular 5%. Attorney fees are limited to 20% of the claim’s value.
Areas under discussion have been under extensive reform in the past few years. In 2018, the abuse clause procedure has been reformed in such a way as to provide the OCCP with more competence. As a result, the abusive terms enter on the register by virtue of OCCP’s decision rather than by CCPC’s verdict, and may then be questioned before the CCPC. Whilst appealing to the CCPC suspends the OCCP decision, the entrepreneur questioning the OCCP’s decision must undertake an action to this effect, which may encourage compliance.
In 2017 a reform was introduced amending the law on collective actions. It expanded the scope of availability of group claims procedures beyond consumer cases, torts, and hazardous products. Currently, class actions may be filed in tort cases, cases relating to responsibility for hazardous products, contractual responsibility and unjust enrichment cases, and consumer cases. Some other procedural changes were made to increase the pace of proceedings. As yet, the practical effects of the reform have not been put to scrutiny by official overseers, but anecdotal evidence indicates that it has not caused the increase of class action cases.
The abusive contract terms procedure is fairly widely used, resulting in more than 7700 entries (cases of abusive terms application) on the OCCP’s register based on CCPC’s verdicts. On top of that, 34 decisions of the OCCP have been published in the new procedure.
Class actions are used fairly infrequently. Despite some widely-publicized cases where consumers managed to obtain favourable verdicts against banks and other large corporations, in the years 2010-2018 only 20 to 40 new cases were filed each year. The number of plaintiffs covered remains unknown. As a result of the limited utilization of the class action procedure, little can be said about the difficulties encountered by parties as far as their right to be heard is concerned.
In the administrative procedure the activities of ecological organization and their effects happen to be contested. On the one hand, the burden of proving that organization’s participation is in the public interest rests on the organization itself. This may sometimes be difficult due to the fact that the term “public interest” is not defined for the sake of intervention and sometimes interpreted formalistically by courts. On the other hand, the practice of ecological organizations’ interventions is sometimes evaluated as exaggerated, irregular or fraudulent, particularly as far as investment and infrastructural processes are concerned.
8. PROFESSIONAL LEGAL ETHICS
Legal acts regulating the professions of advocates and legal advisors confer competences on each of those professional self-governments to determine detailed issues related to professional ethics. On that basis, national bars adopt codes of professional ethical conduct which bind their members. Acting contrary to the professional ethics is punishable in a disciplinary procedure. General premises of disciplinary liability are regulated in the Act on Advocates’ Bar Association and in the Act on Legal Advisors.
Legal ethics is not a mandatory subject at Polish universities, neither for undergraduate or graduate students. It is taught merely as a facultative subject. Syllabi are determined by lecturers. Law students are obliged to pledge, but the text of the oath is usually identical for all faculties throughout a university and relates to ethical conduct while studying. The pledging ceremony is organized upon entry to a university and the exact wording varies from university to university.
Professional ethics is a mandatory subject during the advocates training and the legal advisors training. Issues related to that topic are usually one of the first to be discussed during the courses for newly adopted advocate and legal advisors’ trainees. Scope of the course and its position within the curriculum varies by local division of the bar. For instance the Warsaw Bar Council organizes approximately 10 meetings for first-year advocate trainees, from 2,5 hour to 3,25 hour each. The professional ethics course ends with an exam held in the third month of the training.
Apart from that, professional ethics is an obligatory element of the vocational exam for both advocate trainees and legal advisors’ trainees. They are to prepare a legal opinion covering a problem described in a given case file prepared for the purposes of the exam.
Legal ethics is not a mandatory field in continuing professional development. Advocates and legal advisors can freely choose fields of law in which they would like to specialize. Particular lectures or other activities are granted a specific amount of points, and lawyers are merely obliged to gather a given number of points.
Before starting the performance of professional activities, advocates and legal advisors are obliged to pledge before the dean of the corresponding bar council. The text of the oath is regulated by the Act on Advocates Bar and the Act on Legal Advisors.
Advocates’ oath is the following: “I solemnly vow in my work as an advocate to contribute with all my strength to the protection of civil rights and freedoms and the strengthening of the legal order of the Republic of Poland, to fulfil my duties earnestly, diligently and in accordance with the law, to keep professional secrecy and in my conduct to follow the principles of dignity, honesty, equity and social justice”.
Legal advisors’ oath is the following: “I solemnly vow in my work as a legal advisor to contribute to the protection and the strengthening of the legal order of the Republic of Poland, to fulfil my duties diligently and in accordance with the law, to keep professional secrecy and to act with dignity and fairness, following the principles of the professional ethics of a legal advisor and the principle of justice”.
Lawyers in Poland do actively participate in the public discourse regarding changes in substantive law or regulations. This includes activity for the benefit of underprivileged members of society. Over the years, a community of lawyers active for the public good has been established, coordinated by a number of NGOs in the fields of human rights, minorities, migration, persons with disabilities, poverty, environment, urban planning, consumer rights, quality and technology of regulation, citizens’ access to information, surveillance etc.
Activities undertaken include participation in media debates, publication of reports and studies, participation in public hearings and legislative process, provision of expertise for the public administration, filing amicus curiae briefs, obtaining information from authorities (often in an adversarial form), and front-line provision of legal aid. A current example could be the joint initiative of bar associations and NGOs to propose concrete amendments to the legal framework of legal aid, so that its multiple deficits are addressed. Public engagement of lawyers has also given rise to multiple public interest lawyering cases before Polish and international courts.
Whilst active and robust, the community of lawyers active in the public sphere in Poland is still limited in numbers. It would therefore be an exaggeration to say that Polish lawyers generally perceive the obligation to perform public roles as an element of their professional ethics. The rule of law crisis is having an effect here, because it has created an increased sense of responsibility for the public good. It also incentivizes lawyers to act collectively also in the professions that have traditionally been more conservative in lobbying for particular reforms, including judges and public prosecutors. A number of professional associations are currently active in this area.
A rule remaining unwritten, a sense of the necessity to succour those who are not able to afford help from a legal practitioner remains in the professional ethics of advocates. When realized, it most commonly takes two forms – either of a pro bono representation or of a consent to receive cases assigned as legal aid.
In line with this, legal firms and individual lawyers do offer pro bono assistance at a fairly extensive scale. Yet, there are neither official statistics nor academic research regarding the number of cases and characteristics of pro bono legal aid and its recipients. Precedent character of a case or a bad financial condition of a person seeking legal advice is likely to increase the possibility of pro bono involvement of legal professionals.
Bar associations are active in promoting pro bono activities of their members, i.e by establishing pro bono officers and organizing pro bono days. pro bono awards are also awarded on a regular basis: 17 editions of the “Lawyer pro bono Award” have taken place so far.
Legal ethics is also a topic of continued discussion in the professions, but the ideas of a universal international code of professional conduct as well as of a common oath have not been widely discussed yet. It is not excluded that some support for efforts to converge may appear, but the difficulties could arise in determining the detailed solutions. As can be seen on the basis of the comparison between advocates’ and legal advisors’ oath, to some extent the values taken as basic for these professions do not coincide.
The test of openness to transnational regulations is the involvement of Polish lawyers in works on the European Convention on the Profession of Lawyer. Representatives of advocates’ bar and legal advisors’ bar take part in the discussions held among CCBE (Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe) whose special working group provides technical support to the Council of Europe in this project.
9. TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE
In principle, mobile phone use and internet access in Poland are widely available, affordable and the service is reliable. Still, digital divide persists and is likely to correlate with difficulties in accessing justice. According to market research commissioned by the Office of Electronic Communication (OEC), in 2018 72,7% of respondents aged 15 and older used the internet, 93,1% had a mobile phone, of which 74,8% used a smartphone. Within the 27,3% group of persons who said they didn’t use internet, 45% indicated they didn’t need to, 38% – did not have the competence, 22% lacked the required devices, 14.4% just couldn’t afford it, and 1.4% could not do so for a technical reason. According to Statistics Poland study of 2018, usage of smartphones and web services strongly depends on age, educational status and dwelling, with the eldest, least educated inhabitants of the country being far less likely to use technology than the young educated big city dwellers.
Use of technology for provision of public service is on the rise, but still limited. Certain public services – mainly those related to contacting public administration and providing it with required documents (i.e. filing forms, obtaining information from public registers, paying taxes, obtaining medical prescriptions and certificates of sick leaves) – may be accessed on the internet. Technology is still mainly used rather as a method of communication with traditional service providers, than blended into the core of public services and affecting their nature.
In line with this, according to OEC’s survey in 2018, 10% of internet users who used mobile phones, declared that they used them to deal with official matters (compared to 66,7% who used their phones to access social media). Statistics Poland finds that in 2017 approx. 21% of individuals completed official forms online, compared to the EU average of 30%.
It is typical for legal practitioners to use IT for business purposes, including standard productivity software and legal databases. Email communication is typical, and may be used (although not obligatorily) also for serving motions and court decisions. Elements of the case management system are made available for practitioners by courts. It is reasonable to believe that more advanced systems of case and client management are in use in large firms delivering service to corporate clients and specializing in specific areas of practice (i.a. debt recovery), but no systematic data exists to support this perception. This may have an impact on the use of technology for low income clients, because they are more likely to use small firms and individual practitioners.
On the other hand, in the simple advice segment of the legal services market, some attempts are made to deliver advice and other types of service in a limited or unbundled mode, over the internet. Segmentation of the legal services market is yet not systematically researched so it is impossible to judge on popularity of such services and the impact they may have on the situation of low income clients.
Productivity software, legal databases, and email communication are also widely used by NGOs working in the not-for-profit sector. Depending on the scale of an NGO’s operations, they may also use some other technological tools, like a case management system and client relationships managers. Some NGOs, particularly those which have secured stable public funding, also provide regular distance service, including email advice and hotlines. The advice offered in this mode is yet limited to the out-of-court service. Similarly, running websites with up-to-date content is only possible for select few NGOs having stable external financing.
Consequently, technology is not used in Poland to improve effectiveness of referrals, helping self-represented litigants to take their own cases, assisting in the delivery of pro bono service by private legal practitioners and support for paralegals. Social media may be used for some campaigning and advocacy, but the efforts to do so are not an element of sustained PR efforts.
Similarly, private practitioners and NGOs which obtain funding from the public sources to deliver assistance for eligible persons in the state out-of-court legal aid system are only obliged to report to the funder in the electronic mode the statistical reports of service provided. No such duty exists in the case of publicly funded representation. Except for being able to provide distance service in the out-of-court system to persons with restricted mobility, practitioners are not required and encouraged to use technology.
No ODR systems are officially developed by the state in Poland, other than the mechanisms introduced by the EU as the Online Dispute Resolution platform. Similarly, no successful initiatives to provide legal services in an innovative way in Poland are known to the authors.
10. UNMET LEGAL NEEDS
Over the last decade, a number of studies on unmet legal needs have been conducted. The methodologies applied and quality of data obtained differ, but the general picture delivered by such studies is consistent. In principle, justiciable problems appear at a mass scale, but utilization of legal service to address them is low, and unpaid services play only a minor role in assisting people in need. The studies suggest that this legal abstinence is largely due to non-financial barriers, such as ineffective intake systems, limited interest among generalist practitioners to provide assistance to the underprivileged groups, and insufficient legal capacity of potential users. About 65% of justiciable problems are resolved without legal assistance.
Similar phenomena are observed not only in the most vulnerable groups, but also among owners and managers of small businesses who are found to manage the majority of their legal problems informally. As in the general population, also in SMEs two thirds of justiciable issues appear to be resolved without seeing a lawyer.
As a result of these findings, it is justified to believe that persons who are in need of first line legal assistance may currently obtain it either as a paid service or as free advice in state, local, and non-governmental establishments (there isn’t a situation of insufficient supply). However, non-economic issues seem to be an important barrier of access.
The situation appears to be less optimistic in the case of representation. Access to court representation may be limited due to stringent eligibility conditions in the free segment and high costs elsewhere. Some of the procedural regulations are also dysfunctional. Clearly, limited accessibility is an issue in criminal proceedings, where presence of state-appointed attorneys in the initial stages of procedure, particularly police interrogation and detention, is in fact unheard of.
A good indication of the scale of unmet need is the doubling of ex-officio cases regarding psychiatric treatment in 2018, when the presence of a lawyer during hearing became mandatory. Due to the nature of such cases, it is unlikely that in this area representation was commonly delivered on a commercial basis. It follows that until 2018 the majority of such cases were resolved without an attorney present.
As far as geographical coverage is concerned, the out-of-court state system of legal advice in Poland has been developed in such a way as to evenly cover the entire population. Legal aid offices are established in all powiats, in a number proportional to the official number of powiats’ inhabitants. For example, Warsaw (1,7 million inhabitants plus an unspecified but large number of unregistered migrants) has 35 legal aid offices, and the powiat of Trzebnica (85 thousand inhabitants) has 3. As a result, the access to the out-of court system of legal advice is theoretically equal for all eligible persons. However, the system does not take into the account the geographically varying demand for legal assistance, i.e. disproportionately low demand in rural areas compared to densely populated towns and cities. While at the moment the overall demand for legal assistance is well below the maximum supply deliverable in the system, in the future the geographical imbalance may become a source of decreased availability of legal assistance in larger cities.
Additionally, the availability of legal assistance delivered by independent NGOs is geographically rather unequal and concentrates in larger cities and towns. Due to the increase of the number of licensed legal practitioners in recent years, it is reasonable to believe that the hitherto observed unequal distribution of practitioners offering commercial services diminished.
11. PUBLIC LEGAL EDUCATION
Systematic public legal education programmes provided by the state are limited to school pupils, and their scope is narrow. Occasionally, some detached initiatives aiming at the general public are undertaken, mostly to promote some types of available service (mediation, out-of-court advice) or to provide some information to narrow groups of beneficiaries (i.e. victims of crime, the elderly). Since 2018 (under the amended act on out-of-court legal aid), vaguely specified public education duties, including information about citizens’ rights and duties, the activities of the judiciary, mediation, public hearings, and access to free legal services are vested in NGOs providing out-of-court assistance in individual powiats. According to the official report of the Ministry of Justice, these activities are mostly limited to publishing information leaflets. Other than that, no comprehensive public legal education programmes aiming at the general public have been formulated and executed in the last decades.
Legal education in the school curriculum is limited to the civic education classes. They provide general information about the legal structure of the country, human and civic rights, the structure of the judiciary, sources of law, and types of legal professionals. However, very little stress is put on how to practically resolve justiciable problems of daily life. Effectively, the programme provides pupils with abstract information that can hardly be used in practice.
In the face of this, some grassroot initiatives are undertaken by members of bar associations and NGOs to organize legal education events at schools, providing information on the practical role and meaning of the Constitution, means to address common justiciable problems, ways to obtain legal service etc. No matter how well evaluated these events are, by nature they are unable to fill the gap resulting from state omissions.
Limited scope of public legal education, the increasing complexity of legislation and its diminishing quality make it difficult for non-legally trained members of the public to read and comprehend laws in Poland. Another issue in public access to legal information is the dispersed and limited nature of official legal information systems. Whilst the access to the texts of individual laws is provided by the specialized information service of the Parliament, it effectively presupposes that users have minimum legal education to know what they are looking for. No aid in the form of expert systems are provided to aid the navigation. Moreover, the information provided is not contextual, i.e. it does not include information on court adjudication or legal literature, which may only be obtained using commercial legal databases. Similar observations hold for services publishing court adjudication.
The state had conducted a limited and ineffective campaign on the right to legal aid shortly before the out-of-court system of legal advice was launched in 2016. The obligation to provide information is effectively vested with powiats which decide on the precise expectations towards NGOs responsible for education activities and execute the oversight over them. This may be criticized for putting too much expectations in the local-self government units which may not have the sufficient competence to develop public legal education PR programmes.
12. GLOBAL EFFORTS ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Global efforts on access to justice have very limited resonance in Poland, both in the public and non-governmental sector. For instance, UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16.3 has been practically absent from the public debate and has no reflection whatsoever in the Ministry of Justice’s policy declarations. One global initiative that might have recently had impact on access to justice in Poland is the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While it is not exclusively oriented at access to justice, it is very relevant to it in a number of fields. It also indirectly produced tangible results in the form of establishment of mandatory free legal aid in forced psychiatric treatment proceedings.
Regional attempts at improving access to justice are much more pronounced and provide much more impact, as discussed in the preceding sections. This includes European Union’s initiatives in the field of consumer access to justice and cross-border access to justice, EU’s and Council of Europe’s activity in the area of access to courts and legal aid and obligations following from the UNECE’s convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.
International cooperation in the non-governmental sector aimed at improving access to justice isn’t particularly developed in Poland. Individual contacts between organizations are of course maintained (examples include such organizations as PILnet), but organized collective activities to improve access to justice in concert with foreign colleagues are few and far between. For instance, the rule of law crisis, which continues to have an impact on access to justice in Poland, has incentivized the legal professions in a number of countries to establish closer links with Polish professional associations in collaboration to reverse the negative changes.
The state of access to justice in Poland could be described with the following adage: whilst it is difficult to fix, it is difficult to break. On the one hand, last decades have seen progress in provision of access in many fields and aspects. Establishment of the out-of-court advice system and the continued activity of many independent providers are clearly indications of progress. On the other hand, provision of free representation is insufficient and organized according to outdated principles both in the ideological and practical sense. Therefore at its core the system remains incomplete, poorly designed, and badly coordinated. This negatively affects access to justice contributing to the considerable justice gap. Still, despite these imperfections, access to justice initiatives in Poland persist, thrive and remain resilient despite all odds.
The fields that demand most reform are clearly public legal education, secondary legal aid, and utilization of modern technology. This should include establishment of well organized, accountable, and competent public institutions to coordinate efforts for access to justice and promote evidence-based solutions.
This necessity also demonstrates the sources for the current deficits. The reasons for imperfect development of access to justice mechanisms in Poland’s democratic time until 2015 seem to be the insufficient quality of public administration, which clearly was unable to recognize the gravity of the matter and properly address it. It follows that in order to transform access to justice mechanisms in such a way as to meet the justice needs emerging in a democratic system with a market economy, much effort needs to be put in developing strong and healthy public institutions.
 The authors would like to thank Adriana Bartnik for providing some statistical data needed to complete this report.
 Statistics Poland, Demographic Yearbook of Poland, Warsaw 2019.
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 IMF, World Economic and Financial Surveys, World Economic Outlook Database, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2019/01/weodata/index.aspx, Last accessed: 29/01/2020.
 Calculation based on data in A. Siemaszko, P. Ostaszewski, J. Włodarczyk-Madejska, Tendencje wpływu spraw do polskich sądów powszechnych [Inflow tendencies in Polish common courts], IWS Warszawa, 2019, p. 12.
 Wydział Statystycznej Informacji Zarządczej, Departament strategii i funduszy europejskich. Ewidencja spraw według działów prawa i instancyjności w roku 2018 [Case flow statistics by area of law and instance in 2018], https://isws.ms.gov.pl/pl/baza-statystyczna/opracowania-jednoroczne/rok-2018/download,3787,0.html, last accessed 1/03/2020.
 Official data obtained from Ministry of Justice in response to public information request by Adriana Bartnik.
 See Urgent interim opinion on the bill amending the act on the organization of common courts, the act on the supreme court and certain other acts of Poland (as of 20 December 2019), OSCE, Warsaw, 14 January 2020, Opinion-Nr.: JUD-POL/365/2019 [AlC], available at: https://www.osce.org/odihr/443731?download=true, last accessed 14/02/2020; Poland joint urgent opinion of the Venice Commission and the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule Of Law (DGI) of the Council of Europe on amendments to the law on the common courts, the law on the supreme court, and some other laws, Strasbourg, 16 January 2020, opinion No. 977/2019, available at: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-PI(2020)002-e), last accessed 14/02/2020.
 J. Winczorek, Stan kadry sędziowskiej w świetle badań przeprowadzonych przez Krajową Radę Sądownictwa [The current state of judicial staff in the light of an empirical study executed by the National Council of the Judiciary]. Krajowa Rada Sądownictwa. Kwartalnik. 2(19)/2013, p. 30.
 Statistics Poland. Statistical Yearbook of Poland 2009, Warsaw 2009, Statistics Poland. Statistical Yearbook of Poland 2019, Warsaw 2019.
 See: A. Klepczyński, P. Kładoczny, K. Wiśniewska, Tymczasowe aresztowanie. (Nie)tymczasowy problem. Analiza aktualnej praktyki zatrzymania i tymczasowego aresztowania. [Temporary detention, a (non)temporary problem. Analysis of current practice of detention on remand], HFHR, Warszawa 2019.
 Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości. Centralny Zarząd Służby Więziennej. Roczna informacja statystyczna 2019 [Statistical yearbook of the Main Office of Prison Service] Warszawa 2019. https://www.sw.gov.pl/strona/statystyka-roczna, Last accessed: 30/3/2020.
 A. Klepczyński, P. Kładoczny, K. Wiśniewska, Tymczasowe… p. 13.
 ECHR judgement of 7 July 2015 in re Rutkowski and others v. Poland
 J. Winczorek, Dostęp do prawa. Ujęcie socjologiczne [Access to justice. A sociological approach] Warszawa 2019, p. 323-324.
 UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Concluding observations on the initial report of Poland, October 2018, p. 6.
 B. Siemieniako. Reprywatyzując Polskę. Historia wielkiego przekrętu. [Reprivatising Poland. The story of a grand scam]. Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej 2017.
 Reproduced from: Wydział Statystycznej Informacji Zarządczej, Departament Strategii i Funduszy Europejskich Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości, Postępowanie mediacyjne w świetle danych statystycznych. Sądy rejonowe i okręgowe 2006-2018 oraz w I półroczu 2019 roku [Mediation procedure in the light of statistics. Regional and district courts, 2006-2018 and 1st half of 2019] , Warszawa 2019, p. 2.
 A. Jakubiak-Mirończuk, M. Stachura, Alternatywne i polubowne sposoby rozstrzygania sporów na gruncie przepisów Kodeksu postępowania cywilnego [Alternative and amicable dispute resolution in Code of Civil Procedure], Instytut Wymiaru Sprawiedliwości, Warszawa 2017, p. 13.
 Regulation (EU) No 524/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (Regulation on consumer ODR).
 OCCP, Sprawozdanie z działalności Inspekcji Handlowej jako podmiotu ADR za rok 2018 [Report of activity of Trade Inspection in 2018], Warszawa 2019.
 Cf. J. Kurczewski, K. Frieske, “The Social Conciliatory Commissions in Poland’, in M. Cappelletti and J. Weisner (eds), Access to Justice: Promising Institutions. Milan 1978, pp. 153–27.
 Prokuratura Krajowa, Sprawozdanie z działalności powszechnych jednostek organizacyjnych prokuratury w sprawach karnych za rok 2019 [Report on the activity of branches of Prosecutor Office in criminal matters], Warszawa 2020. https://pk.gov.pl/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/PK-P1K.pdf, last accessed 31/03/2020.
 Supreme Audit Office, Pozasądowe dochodzenie roszczeń przez pacjentów. Informacja o wynikach kontroli [Extrajudicial redress for patients. Information on evaluation results]. Warszawa 2018.
 Departament Strategii i Deregulacji Ministerstwa Sprawiedliwości, Strategia systemu wymiaru sprawiedliwości na lata 2014-2020 [Strategy of the justice system in the years 2014-2020], Warszawa 2013.
 A. Tomaszek. “Od przysługi do profesji. Kształtowanie się zawodu pełnomocnika procesowego w dawnej Polsce [From courtesy to profession. The shaping of the professional representation in the old Poland]” Palestra 9/2014, pp. 258–272.
 Cf. opinions of the Venice Commission: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?country=23&year=all, last accessed 14/02/2020.
 Results on file with the authors.
 Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości, Departament Strategii i Funduszy Europejskich, Wydział Nieodpłatnej Pomocy Prawnej i Poradnictwa Obywatelskiego, Analiza statystyczna działania punktów nieodpłatnej pomocy prawnej oraz nieodpłatnego poradnictwa obywatelskiego w pierwszej połowie 2019 roku [Statistical analysis of the operation of offices of free legal advice and free civic advice] Warszawa 2019, p. 88.
 Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości, Departament Strategii i Funduszy Europejskich Wydział Nieodpłatnej Pomocy Prawnej i Poradnictwa Obywatelskiego. Analiza statystyczna działania punktów nieodpłatnej pomocy prawnej oraz nieodpłatnego poradnictwa obywatelskiego w pierwszej połowie 2019 roku [Statistical analysis of the activity of free legal advice and ciitzens advice offices in the first thalf of 2019]. Warszawa, 15 listopada 2019 roku.
 Waldemar Florczak, Szacunki kosztów nieformalnego systemu pomocy prawno-obywatelskiej, [Cost estimates of the informal civic and legal advice system] Wiadomości Statystyczne 3/2017, pp. 68-85.
 They may, however, authorize advocate/legal adviser trainees to handle some cases.
 OJ L 297, 4.11.2016, p. 1–8.
 OJ L 294, 6.11.2013, p. 1–12.
 Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości, Departament Strategii i Funduszy Europejskich, Wydział Nieodpłatnej Pomocy Prawnej i Poradnictwa Obywatelskiego, Analiza statystyczna działania punktów….Warszawa 2019, p. 32
 Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości, Departament Strategii i Funduszy Europejskich, Wydział Nieodpłatnej Pomocy Prawnej i Poradnictwa Obywatelskiego, Analiza…. p. 12-14
 The data does not sum up to 100% because a single episode of advice could consist of a number of services.
 Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości, Departament Strategii i Funduszy Europejskich, Wydział Nieodpłatnej Pomocy Prawnej i Poradnictwa Obywatelskiego, Analiza…. p. 10
 Cf. the Supreme Court cases I CZ 26/87 and III SPP 11/05.
 Ministry of Justice – reports of activity of the out-of-court advice system for the years 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 (1st half) on file with the authors.
 Until 2019, refusals were more common, yet due to the technique of regulation they were not disputed. In the law of the time, a number of categories of persons entitled to obtain advice was listed, designed with ease of verification at mind, rather than any specific policy of access to justice. As a result, a person willing to obtain advice had to provide a relevant official document confirming his/her legal status. No case of a court dispute over access to out-of-court aid is known.
 Data prior to 2012 is not available due to abolishment in 2009 of the hitherto system of collecting information on ex-officio cases in common courts, based on attorney self-reporting. In the years 2009-2011 data was not being collected, since 2012 it is gathered using the court reporting mechanism.
 Statistics 2019, January 2020, https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Stats_analysis_2019_ENG.pdf.
 Komisja Nadzoru Finansowego, Quarterly Bulletin. Insurance Market IV/2019. Part D: Statistical Statement KNF-02. Domestic Insurance Companies. Warszawa 2020.
 Source: J. Winczorek, Dostęp do prawa. Ujęcie socjologiczme, Scholar, Warszawa 2019, p. 279 with subsequent additions, using data from reports by aid providers.
 Change is calculated as change in averages for the two years preceding and following introduction of legal aid scheme in 2016.
 The number refers to both legal aid and other specialist service
 The data refers to academic years, not calendar years, respectively: 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016, 2016/2017.
 Authority overseeing consumer rights in financial markets.
 Including 11612 motions from the insurance market and 341 – financial market. In the latter the Financial Inspector started its activity on 11 October 2015 r.
 In 2014 and 2015 there were 25 offices in the network, in 2016 – 19, in 2017 – 17.
 Authority protecting market competition and consumer rights.
 „Number of phone calls received”.
 In 2016 funding reduced by 30% compared to 2015 and 2017.
 J. Winczorek, Dostęp…. p. 279.
 Regulation (EC) No. 1896/2006 of the European Parliament and the Council of 12 December 2006 creating a European order for payment procedure (O J L 399, 30.12.2006, p. 1, as amended).
 Regulation (EC) No. 861/2007 of the European Parliament and the Council of 11 July 2007 establishing European Small Claims Procedure (OJ L 199, 31.07.2007, p. 1, as amended).
 UKE, Badanie opinii publicznej w zakresie funkcjonowania rynku usług telekomunikacyjnych oraz preferencji konsumentów Raport z badania klientów indywidualnych [A public opinion survey on the functioning of the telecom market and consumer preferences. Report on customers]. Warszawa-Gdańsk 2018.
 Statistics Poland, Information society in Poland. Results of statistical surveys in the years 2014-2018, Warsaw-Szczecin 2018.
 Discussion in: J. Winczorek, Dostęp do prawa. Ujęcie socjologiczne [Access to justice. A sociological approach] Warszawa 2019.
 J. Winczorek, Dostęp… p. 174.