Amendments to the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure – Civil Law

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Certain provisions of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure, Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta (“COCP”) have recently been amended by Law XXXII of 2021 (the “Law”). The main changes (briefly listed below) relate to the provisions contained in title 1 of part 1 of the COCP on “the mode of procedure by way of appeal”.

Procedural changes that the law introduced to the COCP include:

  • an extension of the deadline for filing the response against an appeal from twenty (20) to thirty (30) days within the meaning of article 144 paragraph 1 and article 226 (COCP);

  • the obligation to provide a single address for the execution of the notification relating to the guarantee of costs relating to an appeal and conviction within the meaning of Article 144, paragraph 3, (COCP);

  • the exclusion of the obligation to furnish other documents with the application, the reply or the joinder unless expressly authorized by the Court under article 145 (COCP);

  • under Article 147, paragraphs 2 and 4, the Court now has the possibility of asking the parties, by means of a judgment, to answer any questions it may have or to ask the parties to clarify the questions deemed necessary for the Court before rendering its judgment as well as requesting a hearing within the meaning of Art. 207 (5) of the COCP with regard to the clarifications requested by the Court under this new provision;

  • Article 152 (COCP) now provides that the clerk verifies, after the closure of the procedural documents, the payment of the deposit for costs relating to the main and incidental appeal and, unless the court decides otherwise, publishes these causes on the list of cases brought to trial. Notice of the date and time of judgment shall also be served on the parties unless the parties exempt the clerk from the obligation of service by means of a note. The notification is also affected within the meaning of Art. 187 of the COCP;

  • Article 153 has been completely amended to provide that in the absence of filing of a reply to an appeal or to a cross-appeal, the defaulting party is not prevented from filing its conclusions. The amended provision now allows the defaulting party to file a motion with the court hearing the case asking the court to allow the filing of a written response and to produce evidence thereof. This course of action will only be accepted if a good reason is demonstrated. Notwithstanding this, paragraph (2) of article 153 (COCP) further provides that the request cannot be made if more than ten (10) days have elapsed from the service of the notice of the day the case was scheduled for trial. The amendments provide additional protection to the defaulting party by allowing it to appear at the hearing of the case and provide evidence even if it fails to submit a written response.

  • Article 207 (COCP) has also undergone substantial amendments and now provides that with the exception of cases before the Constitutional Court and all cases before the Court of Appeal where there has been no hearing in the first instance, all proceedings before an appellate court are conducted in writing, unless the Court sees fit to hear evidence or oral submissions from the parties. Hearings permitted under this provision shall be conducted in the manner provided for in sub-section (8) of Section 207 (COCP). Furthermore, Article 207(2) provides that where a reply to an appeal raises questions about the invalidity of the appeal or mentions facts or points of law which were not raised by the applicant in the application appeal, the latter may, within a period of thirty (30) days from the notification of the answer, ask the court by way of request to authorize him to file a rejoinder on the new points. The Court will only grant leave if it deems it reasonable and expedient in the circumstances for the appellant to file a reply. If so granted, the reply must be filed within a period not exceeding thirty (30) days from the written notification of the judgment to the appellant’s lawyer. Judgment is rendered after closure of the written pleadings and payment of the guarantee for the costs relating to the appeal.

  • Amendments to Article 209 (COCP) now provide that when the Court puts an appeal in open session and after being called three (3) times, neither one of the parties nor his counsel shall appear, or only if the defendant or his lawyer appears, the court may declare the appeal abandoned. The case may be reinstated if the appellant within eight (8) days from the day on which the appeal was declared discontinuance of the records and motion ordering the re-registration of the case on the roll for hearing and judgment as well as than the amounts of the costs incurred for non-appearance.

  • Whereas previously, the appellant had to produce a cost guarantee within twelve (12) months, the amendments made to article 249 (COCP) reduced this period to three (3) months from receipt by the caller of the advice of payment. If the appellant is not duly notified, the clerk must, within ten (10) days, inform the appellant’s attorney in writing that notice has not been served and the attorney must duly sign an acknowledgment of receipt of this communication. No action may be brought against the lawyer for failure to notify this party.

  • The time allowed for the court to rename civil cases that have been adjourned sine die was also reduced from six (6) months to three (3) months within the meaning of article 964 (COCP).

The above changes to the COCP became effective under Legal Notice 315 of 2021 as of 1st of August 2021 and are not applicable to appeals and/or adjourned matters sine die filed before the entry into force of this law. These will continue to be governed by the law in effect prior to the amendments.

The corresponding changes and legal notices can be accessed here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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