Unlike the Supreme Court in the U.S., Thailand’s Supreme Court has provided a right of appeal for most cases heard by the Thailand’s lower courts. In particular, any factual issue heard by the Court of Appeals would be entitled to Supreme Court review provided that the matter in controversy exceeded Baht 200,000 (for those cases involving money or property), and questions of law could be appealed directly to the Supreme Court with the permission of the court of first instance. But this is about to change.
Following passage of amendments to Thailand’s Civil Procedure Code (“CPC”), the right to appellate review to the Thai Supreme Court has changed. A panel of at least three Supreme Court judges, as appointed by the President of the Supreme Court, will now decide by majority vote whether or not to hear a case that has been petitioned for Supreme Court review. The CPC amendments set out six criteria, which will guide the panel in decision if an appeal to the Thai Supreme Court will be permitted, namely
- whether the case is of public concern;
- whether the Court of Appeals issued a judgment contrary to Supreme Court precedent;
- whether any Supreme Court precedent exists on any important legal issues addressed by the case;
- whether there is a conflict between the decisions or orders of different lower courts;
- whether any development in legal interpretation is required; and
- any other criteria prescribed by the President of the Supreme Court (as the CPC amendments have just been enacted, there are currently no other criteria).
As the guidelines do not include a minimum amount in controversy as previously required, the scope of appeal will actually be broader in some respects, and it is unclear how the guidelines will impact the caseload currently before the Supreme Court as well as the length of proceedings (which can be lengthy).
No cases are entitled to be appealed to the Supreme Court as a matter of right, meaning that all lower court cases will be subject to panel approval for review, with the exception of judgments from certain specialized courts, such as the Labour Court and Bankruptcy Court (as the process of appeal for such judgments is not affected by the CPC amendments, they may continue to be appealed directly to the Supreme Court).
The CPC amendments will be effective as of 8 November 2015, but will not affect civil cases filed before this date.