No rematch in the Court of Appeal? Legislator extends scope of application of leave for continued consideration by the Court of Appeal
The rules governing the leave for continued consideration in the Courts of Appeal first entered into force in the beginning of 2011. Pursuant to the rules adopted in 2011, several types of cases were excluded from the scope of application of the leave system. Now the scope has been remarkably extended by a revision of the Finnish Code of Procedure.
After the amendment entered into force on 1 October 2015, an appealing party requires a leave in order to get an appeal case tried in full in the Court of Appeal, except for in certain criminal matters.
Wider scope of application
Before the amendment, the leave was required in civil dispute appeals only if the amount lost in the District Court was less than EUR 10,000. Now all civil dispute appeals fall within the scope of the leave system, regardless of the size or nature of the dispute. The legislator's reasoning behind the extension was that the size of the dispute does not necessarily mean that the subject matter could not be simple and vice versa. Also, it was pointed out that an interest-based leave system could be unequal, as the relative significance of the interest depends on the financial situation of each individual party.
Also, a wider range of criminal matters now falls within the system. For prosecutors, defendants and complainants, the general rule is that only cases in which the defendant has been sentenced to longer imprisonment than eight months fall outside the leave system. The scope of application now covers all petitionary matters as well. For instance, the leave is required in cases regarding recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements. The scope of application also covers matters relating to bankruptcy estates, reorganisation of enterprises as well as appeals in execution proceedings.
Leave for continued consideration
Lawmakers have tried to find an effective and legally secure way to limit the amount of cases that are tried in full in the Courts of Appeal after the District Court phase and, instead, focus the administration of justice on the District Courts.
The rules governing the leave for continued consideration first entered into force in the beginning of 2011. The ratio of the system is that a party always has the right of appeal, but, in certain cases, the full-scale trial of the appeal case in the Court of Appeal requires a leave granted by the Court of Appeal.
Pursuant to the rules adopted in 2011, several types of cases were excluded from the scope of application of the leave system. Cases falling outside the system were automatically tried in full in the Court of Appeal if a party appealed.
The cases that fall within the leave system are first assessed in the Court of Appeal from the point of view whether there are grounds to grant a leave. If the leave is granted wholly or partly, the appeal is tried normally in the Court of Appeal. If the leave is declined, the District Court's judgement becomes final.
The Court of Appeal must grant a leave for continued consideration if there is a reason to doubt as to the correctness of the District Court's decision or if the correctness cannot be assessed without granting the leave. The leave must be granted also if a continued consideration of the case is important, taking into account the application of law in other similar cases or if there are other weighty reasons.
The grounds for granting the leave have not been changed alongside with the recent extension of the type of cases falling within the scope of the leave system.
Implications for civil dispute appeals
According to the government bill of the amendment (HE 246/2014)), the leave for continued consideration system was applied in 20% of the civil dispute appeals in 2013. In these civil dispute cases, the leave was not granted in 35% of the appeals, while it was granted in 65% of them. In 35% of the civil dispute appeals where the leave was granted, the District Court's decision was amended and in 65 % of these cases the decision remained unchanged. In all civil dispute appeals in 2013, the District Court's decision was amended in 21% of the cases.
Now that all civil dispute appeals fall within the scope of application of the leave system, it is obvious that the amount of cases where the leave will not be granted will increase. Time will tell how the system will work in large civil disputes or civil disputes that do not concern a claim for money, but, for instance, ownership of a certain object.
The purpose of extending the leave system is not to limit the right of appeal, but rather to limit unnecessary trials in the Courts of Appeals in order to save the economic resources of the court system. Therefore, if the system works as it should, the leave should be declined only in cases where it is clear that there is no reason to change the District Court's decision.
Thus, the amendment of the leave system should not in itself affect the end result of the decisions of the Court of Appeals, i.e. the distribution between changed and unchanged District Court decisions should stay approximately on the same level that it has been previously.