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No obligation on the part of the Supreme Court to prepare a statement of reasons for its decision to dismiss a manifestly unfounded cassation appeal; the limited obligation to compensate any damage caused by manifestly unjustified detention pending trial SK 60/19

On 22 July 2021 at 2 p.m., the Constitutional Tribunal delivered its ruling on Mr M.K.’s constitutional complaint which concerned the following: the lack of an obligation on the part of the Supreme Court to prepare a statement of reasons for its decision to dismiss a manifestly unfounded cassation appeal; and the limitation of the State Treasury’s obligation to compensate any damage caused by manifestly unjustified detention pending trial to the direct effects of that detention.

The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated that Article 535(3), first sentence, of the Criminal Procedure Code of 6 June 1997 (Journal of Laws – Dz. U. of 2021, item 534, as amended) – insofar as it does not provide for the Supreme Court’s obligation to prepare a statement of reasons for the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss a manifestly unfounded cassation appeal, issued at a hearing, when a party is not deprived of liberty – is consistent with Article 45(1) of the Constitution.

Moreover, the Tribunal decided to discontinue the proceedings as to the remainder.

The ruling was adopted by a majority vote.

There was one dissenting opinion, filed by Judge Andrzej Zielonacki.

The Constitutional Tribunal deemed that Article 535(3), first sentence, of the Criminal Procedure Code of 6 June 1997, within the examined scope – considered in the context of the entirety of the procedural guarantees afforded to a party and by taking account of the nature of proceedings instituted by a cassation appeal – meets the minimum requirements of procedural justice which arise from Article 45(1) of the Constitution.

The legislature enjoys relatively wide freedom as regards shaping procedures for considering cassation appeals. What constitutes the insurmountable boundary – as it follows, in particular, from the Tribunal’s judgment of 16 January 2006, ref. no. SK 30/05is the concurrence of procedural restrictions which completely rule out the possibility that a party could obtain information on the basic reasons for the issuance of a ruling in the party’s case.

The challenged provision permits procedural simplifications with regard to decisions to dismiss manifestly unfounded cassation appeals. What is stated in such a decision is that there are no grounds for a cassation appeal in a given case or that the party has not indicated what constitutes the alleged irregularity. Those decisions concern cassation appeals that are indisputably and manifestly defective even at first glance. Such decisions do not cause changes in the legal situation, as the contested rulings still remain legally effective.

The reviewed provision, within the challenged scope, solely concerns decisions issued at hearings, where reasons for the decisions are mandatorily delivered in an oral form to the party, if the party is present. Such practice has been confirmed by the First President of the Supreme Court in the course of these review proceedings, and it is also approved in the legal literature on the subject.

It is possible to prepare a statement of reasons in writing for such a decision if, in a given case, the Supreme Court finds this appropriate; it is mandatory to draft the said statement where the decision is issued with a dissenting opinion.

The above-mentioned circumstances make it possible for a party to ascertain how the Supreme Court applies the criteria for deeming cassation appeals manifestly unfounded and to assess the party’s procedural chances in a given case. When reasons for issuing a relevant decision are delivered, in an oral form, at a hearing, the party receives specific information on the most important reasons for the determination of its case.

The adjudicating bench of the Constitutional Tribunal in the case was composed of: Judge Wojciech Sych – Presiding Judge; Judge Leon Kieres – Judge Rapporteur; Judge Jakub Stelina; Judge Jarosław Wyrembak; Judge Andrzej Zielonacki.