The Cyprus Legal System and Civil Litigation
The sources of Cyprus Law are the following:
• European Law (in certain cases);
• The Constitution;
• International agreements ratified by the House of Representatives;
• Laws enacted by the House of Representatives;
• Subsidiary Legislation;
• Judicial precedents;
• English Common Law.
Cyprus is a common law jurisdiction and as such applies English Common Law principles where there is no Cyprus legislation in force. These principles apply with regard to both substantive and procedural matters.
One common law principle or doctrine which is of fundamental importance to our judicial and court system is that of stare decisis, according to which Cyprus courts are bound to follow decisions of courts at a higher level (i.e. judicial precedents).
In practice, before reaching a decision, a court will apply the general rule that for the same legal matter (constitutional, statutory etc.) the court has to follow the reasoning (on the same matter) of a superior court (i.e. the Court of Appeal (in Cyprus the Supreme Court) or the plenary of the Supreme Court ).
In respect of civil (as opposed to criminal) cases the main stages in litigation are usually the following:
• Filing of the writ of summons by the plaintiff and service of proceedings to the defendant;
• Filing of appearance in Court (in England now called acknowledgment of service) by the defendant and service of same to the plaintiff;
• Filing and service of pleadings by both parties;
• Pre-trial stage; Disclosure of documents, better and further particulars and other directions by the Court;
• Assessment of costs;
• Right to Appeal;
• Enforcement of the judgement.
Filing and service of proceedings
Proceedings are initiated by creating a form (“the writ”) containing usually only a concise statement of the nature of the claim. However, for certain claims, there is the possibility of filing a writ which contains a more detailed description of the plaintiffs' claim.
Filing and service of Appearance to Court
After the writ has been served on the Defendant he has 10 days within which to file (at the Court) a “memorandum of appearance”, a statement by the Defendant’s lawyer stating that he will be representing the defendant in this action as well as stating the postal address for service of documents, which must be within the Court's jurisdiction. In the event that the Defendant fails to comply to the writ within the above time limits, the Plaintiff has the legal right to apply for judgement in default of Appearance.
Filing and service of pleadings
The Plaintiff pursues the case by filing a Statement of Claim, a form stating in detail the facts of the case and the demands of the Plaintiff. The defendant has 14 days after the filing of the “memorandum of Appearance” within which to file a Statement of Defence. That is a form denying some or all of the allegations and demands of the Plaintiff. If an allegation has not been denied (on behalf of the Defendant) then it is deemed to have been accepted. The statement of Defense is possible to contain also a counterclaim. The next step in the procedure is the filing by the Defendant of a Reply (Rejoinder) to the statement of Defence. If there has been filed a Defence to the Counterclaim, then the Defendant has the right to file a Reply (surrebutter), if however the Defendant does not file a Reply, then it is considered that the Defendant is refusing all the facts mentioned in the Defence to the counterclaim (if those are not in accordance with the facts mentioned in the counterclaim).
Disclosure of documents
After this stage, either side may file an application demanding that the other side disclose all documents under its possession relating to the case. A party may validly object to disclosure if, among other things, the application refers to irrelevant documents, is mala fide and oppressive or is merely a pretext for “fishing for evidence.”
At the next stage the two parties appear before the Court in order to assess how the case is proceeding. If the judge is satisfied that all preliminary matters have been resolved then he will set a future date for trial.
JudgementAfter hearing the evidence the judge gives judgement and considers the question of costs.
Assessment of costs
As a rule, the loser will pay the legal costs of the winner. Legal costs are determined in accordance with subsidiary legislation enacted by the Supreme Court. If the loser fails to pay the damages or costs, the winner may have to go on to enforce the judgement.
Right to Appeal
The loser may consider an appeal to the Supreme Court. A right to an appeal gives the loser the legal right to file for a stay of execution of the judgement or part of it, pending the appeal. The stay of execution is not considered common practice in the Cypriot legal system as the principal rule is that the winner must be allowed to enjoy the fruits of his success immediately.
The Courts in Cyprus possess the necessary powers to enforce compliance by parties who fail to obey judgements and orders made against them.
On the whole, there is a very high level of public confidence in the Cyprus legal system. Internationally, it is regarded as very efficient and one of the strongest in Europe as it combines the common sense and wisdom of the Common Law with the presence of constitutional safeguards for the protection of Human Rights.