The Supreme Administrative Court rendered the 109-Pan-397-Zi Decision of July 28, 2020 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that the preparation period for the criteria for “legal notification” when the arguments of the appearing party are heard only applies to the defendant, not the plaintiff.
According to the facts underlying this Decision, Individual A, mother of the Appellant (the Plaintiff in the original trial), was deceased, and the Appellee (i.e., the Defendant in the original trial) assessed an inheritance tax and a fine. The Appellant applied during the tax payment period to set off the land at issue in A’s estate against the above inheritance tax and fine. After approving the setoff of a portion of the land at issue against the inheritance tax, the Appellee still denied the setoff of another portion of the land at issue for that purpose. Dissatisfied, the Appellant filed an administrative appeal, which was rejected. As a result, the Appellant brought an administrative action with the Kaohsiung High Administrative Court (hereinafter, the “Original Trial Court”). After the action was dismissed by a court decision, the Appellant appealed.
In particular, the gist of the appeal states as follows. The ending date of the preparatory procedure of the Original Trial Court was July 25, 2018, and one Plaintiff present and the Defendant before the Original Trial Court were orally informed during the court proceedings of the oral argument proceedings scheduled for August 2, 2018. Since the preparation period is obviously shorter than the 10-day period set under Article 109, Paragraph 2 of the Administrative Litigation Law, the absent Appellant can hardly be deemed to have been lawfully notified. However, since the Original Trial Court entered into a default decision based on the arguments of the Appellee in violation of Article 218 of the Administrative Litigation Law, to which Article 386, Subparagraph 1 of the Civil Code applies mutatis mutandis, the litigation proceedings were materially flawed.
The trial court conceded that the following legal dispute exists in this matter: did the Original Trial Court’s default decision based on the arguments of the Defendant on the ground that the absent Plaintiff before the Original Trial Court had been legally notified violate Article 218 of the Administrative Litigation Law, to which Article 386, Subparagraph 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure applies mutatis mutandis? To wit, this calls into question if the preparation period as part of the criteria for “the legal notification” when only the arguments of the appearing party are heard applies to both parties (including the Plaintiff and the Defendant) or merely to the Defendant rather than the Plaintiff. After the trial court consulted the opinions of other courts pursuant to law and applicable procedures, the consolidated opinion of the Supreme Administrative Court based on the responses of other courts is provided as follows:
The preparation period is not required for the Plaintiff, who is the initiator of the litigation and has been already prepared for it, according to the gist of the legislative reasons for Article 109, Paragraph 2 of the Administrative Litigation Law. Moreover, in reference to the provision on the preparation period in Article 251 of the Code of Civil Procedure, although it is slightly different from Article 109 of the Administrative Litigation Law, still both adopt the opinion that the “preparation period does not apply to the plaintiff.” In addition, it is understood that the 93-Pan-1283-Zi Decision of the Supreme Administrative Court, which inappropriately adopted a different opinion, confused the “service of the complaint” concerning the preparation period under the Administrative Litigation Law with the service of the “notice for the oral arguments date” concerning the preparation period under the Code of Civil Procedure. Therefore, the unified legal opinion that the “preparation period does not apply to the plaintiff” should be adopted in this case. Since the Original Trial Court, which rendered a default decision based on the arguments of the Appellee on the ground that the absent Appellant (i.e., the Plaintiff before the Original Trial Court) had been legally notified, did not violate Article 218 of the Administrative Litigation Law, to which Article 386, Subparagraph 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure applies mutatis mutandis, the gist of the appeal is certainly not acceptable.