Cyprus: Judicial System And Court Procedure

LITIGATION

1. COURT SYSTEM

What is the structure of the civil court system?

There are two tiers of courts in Cyprus, i.e., the Supreme Court and the subordinate courts.

The Supreme Court

The Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Law 1964, as amended, merged the Supreme Constitutional Court and the High Court set up under the Constitution into one court, called the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court consists of 13 members, one of whom is the President. The President of the Supreme Court is primus inter pares with no second or casting vote.

The Supreme Court exercises both original and appellate civil and criminal jurisdictions. It is vested with authority as:

  • The Supreme Constitutional Court;
  • An Administrative Court;
  • An Admiralty Court;
  • An Appellate Court; and
  • A court with exclusive jurisdiction to issue prerogative writs (e.g., habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari).

No special leave to file an appeal is required. The Supreme Court, in its appellate jurisdiction, is not bound by any determination on a question of fact made by the trial court, and it has power to review all the evidence, draw its own inferences, hear or receive further evidence, and give any judgment or make any order which the circumstances of the case may justify, including an order of re-trial.

The Subordinate Courts

The subordinate courts are inferior courts. There are five types of subordinate courts in Cyprus.

District Courts

The five District Courts exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction. In their civil jurisdiction, they can entertain any action whose cause arose within the district where the court is situated or in which the defendant or one of the defendants in the action resides. They also can entertain any claim which has not been specifically assigned to the jurisdiction of the Family Courts, Labour Courts, or Rent Control Courts or to the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

The District Court has jurisdiction to try offences summarily whenever the punishment provided by the law does not exceed three year's imprisonment and in certain other cases with the consent of the Attorney-General, where the punishment provided by the law does not exceed seven years; however, in the latter case, the power of the trial court is limited to a punishment not exceeding three year's imprisonment.

Assize Courts

Assize Courts are vested with unlimited jurisdiction to try all criminal offences and to impose punishment provided by the law. There are six Assize Courts, these being:

  • Two for the district of Nicosia;
  • One for each of the district of Limassol, Larnaca, Famagusta and Paphos.

Family Courts

Each district has its own Family Court, which has jurisdiction in all family matters including divorces, custody disputes, property provisions, and all other matters ancillary thereto.

Labour Courts

There are two Labour Courts which is situated in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus and Limassol. They have jurisdiction in claims concerning disputes between employers and employees.

Rent Control Courts

There are three Rent Control Courts, one for the district of Nicosia, one for the districts of Larnaca and Famagusta, and one for the districts of Limassol and Paphos. These courts have jurisdiction in claims concerning evictions, rent adjustments, and any other matter ancillary thereto which arise in relation to rented premises in the district situated within the area specified by the Rent Control Law.

2. JUDGES AND JURIES

What is the role of the judge and, where applicable, the jury in civil proceedings?

The trial system in Cyprus is adversarial, with the judge playing a relatively passive role, deciding on issues of fact and law after hearing evidence and submissions from the competing Parties.

All the civil cases are tried by a single judge sitting without a jury.

In Cyprus there is no right to trial by jury.

3. LIMITATION ISSUES

What are the time limits for bringing civil claims?

In Cyprus all claims and rights of recourse to the Courts are subject to extinction by statutory time-barring. Depending on the nature of the claims, there are various prescription periods.

There was a suspension of all time-bars in respect of actions instituted on or after 21st December 1963 due to the enactment of the Law of Suspension of Limitation of Actions 57 of 1964.

The above suspension was abolished by Law 66 (1)/2013 as amended by Law 41 (1)/2013 and Law 159 (1)/2013. The limitation period defines the period in which a claim must be issued from the Court Registry. Service must usually take place within one year after issue but there is a judicial discretion to extend time for service for good reasons.

The normal time limits are six years on a contractual claim and six years on a tort claim. The time limits generally run from the date when the cause of action accrues. A two-year time limit applies to personal injury arising out from traffic accidents. The Parties can agree to suspend the running of time or alternatively the defendant can waive a time-bar defence either expressly or by not raising it in its pleadings.

4. PRE-ACTION BEHAVIOUR

Are there any pre-action considerations the parties should take into account?

Generally there are no required procedures prior to the commencement of civil actions. However a letter of demand sent before the filing of an action is recommended except in cases where the Plaintiff will apply for the issue of an ex-parte injunction.

Failure to send a letter of demand is not a bar to commencing legal proceedings but might have adverse cost consequences if the Court considers the Plaintiff to have acted unreasonably.

5. STARTING PROCEEDINGS

How are civil proceedings commenced?

Civil proceedings are commenced in all Cypriot courts with the issue or filing of an originating process which states the nature and extent of the claim made or the remedy or relief sought.

The forms of an originating process are the writ of summons, the application for originating summons, and the petition.

Writs are used for commencing almost all Common Law actions. There are two prescribed forms of writ, namely:

  • The form for a writ with a general endorsement; and
  • The form for a writ with a special endorsement.

The specially endorsed writ of summons has the claimant's first pleadings included in it, and the generally writ has only a concise statement of the nature of the claim made and the relief sought.

Cyprus Civil Procedure Rules provide that the claims for libel, slander, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, seduction or breach of promise of marriage and fraud, must be brought by a writ with a general endorsement:

A writ is issued when it is sealed by the court. Time stops running for limitation purposes on the date of issue, which also marks the beginning of the period of validity of the writ for the purpose of service.

Originating summonses are issued to invoke the court's jurisdiction in proceedings in which the principal question is one of construction of a law, deed, will, contract, or other document or some other question of law or which are unlikely to raise any substantial dispute of fact.

The body of the summons must include a statement of the questions on which the plaintiff seeks the court's determination of the relief or remedy claimed. Issue of originating summonses follows the procedure for issuing writs and takes effect on sealing.

Typical examples of petitions are those for bankruptcy of individuals and winding-up of companies.

Petitions are instituted in the matter of the law which gives the court the power to entertain the proceedings. Like a pleading, the body of a petition states, usually in several numbered paragraphs, the grounds on which the petitioner claims to be entitled to an order from the court. It then includes a concise statement of the relief or remedy claimed.

The Defendants' procedural obligations in connection with the proceedings only start running once he has been served with the legal process.

A legal process may be served within Cyprus without leave of the Court. If the Defendant shall be served outside the jurisdiction, the Plaintiff shall obtain firstly an ex-parte leave, from the Court authorising such service.

Where a Defendant can be demonstrated to be evading service the Court has power to authorise "substituted" service, for example through delivery of the legal process to a person known to be in communication with the Defendant.

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