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History of Polish notariat

History of Polish notariat

History of the Polish notary began with the intruduction of Christian civilization to Poland.

The notaries appeared in Poland presumably in the end of the XIII century. They were the Pope‛s notaries appointed by the archbishop of Gniezno. The oldest discovered Polish notary document was issued in 1287. In the XIV century a significant development of the Polish notary offices took place due to law suits in the Pope‛s courts, filed by King Władysław Łokietek against the Teutonic Knights, for which proofs from official document were of great significance. 

During the course of time, imperial notaries appeared in Poland; however they were of lesserminor importance than the Pope‛s notaries were. In our country, apart from notaries, the state and ecclesiastical administration offices and courts were also entitled to make public documents that limit the development of the notariat. However, the gradual evolution of the Polish law related to real estate turnover and mortgage issues, (an obligation of mortgage records in judicial books and the alienation of real estates), led to the development of the notariat in Poland, designated there the office of a regent.

The public notaries, (arch. regents - in polish rejents) notary regents and clerks in Poland used the collections of document forms elaborated for their own use during their notary assistance or practice or printed since the XVI century. Political partitions and the fall of Poland ended the Polish notary public institution.

When Poland regained independence in 1918, there were several legal systems inherited from the invaders functioning on a given territory. This was also reflected in the notary law and notarial practice by only few Polish notaries. In the 20‛s and 30‛s, the progressing legislation process of Codification Commission allowed passing of legal acts important for the notaries‛ activity i.e. the Code of Obligations in 1933, the Law on bills of exchange and promissory notes in 1936 or the Commercial Code in 1934. Whereas the uniform organizational and functional basis of the notaries was specified in the decree of the President of Republic of Poland of October 27, 1933 - The law about the notary institution, was enforced on January 1, 1934.

In accordance with the order of October 1933, the notary performed public service and notarially prepared documents by him considered as public documents. Despite the official character of the notary, the above mentioned decree determined the notary to become the independent profession.

During the period between world wars the notary had a single-stage self-administration similar to the presently existing system. It consisted of the notarial chambers in a number and in locations corresponding with a number and locations of the appeal courts. The chambers were located in Warszawa [Warsaw], Katowice, Kraków [Cracow], Lublin, Lwów [Lvov], Poznań and Wilno [Vilnius]. 

At the end of the ‛30, over eight hundred notaries operated in Poland. The most important edition of the notary institution was a monthly magazine "Przegląd notarialny" [Notarial Revue].

The outbreak of the World War II destroyed organizational and intellectual efforts of the Polish notaries. The notaries represented the Polish intellectuals and were exposed to repression from invaders on both sides. As a result, many of notaries were killed, which caused irreparable personnel losses.

The liberation from occupation did not bring a Renaissance of the independent notary reflecting the model of the between war period. The political and organizational assumptions of Polish People‛s Republic rejected standards of pre-war Poland and its derived institutions, including the considerably independent and self-administered notary instituton. It was followed by the specific legal acts. By the decree of January 1946, the profession of a notary could be performed, among others, by persons without legal education but having only some experience derived from performing administrative duties in the notary‛s offices or maintaing land and mortgage registers. In the ‛40 the notaries still performed as an independent profession but the range of performed notarial transactions had been limited and the notarial self-administration had been gradually liquidated. The final blow to the idea of the independent notary was a new law regarding the notary passed the May 25,1951. The notary became the servant of the State. He performed his duties not in the private notary‛s office but in the State notary‛s office. 

In the second half of the ‛80, the reconstruction works started to adapt the competence and structure of the notary institution to the economic needs slowly diverging from the socialistic centralism. 

On the 14th of February 1991 the new notary law was passed restoring the position of the notary (civil law notary) as the public confidence person and independent profession. At the same time, the provisions of the law provided a two year transition period to allow the Minister of Justice to abolish the State notary‛s offices and to convey maintaining of the land and mortgage registers to the appriopriate district courts. In practice, the re-privatization process of the notary, thanks to decisive and courageous attitude of the notaries, had been completed by the end of 1991.

Now the 11th of notarial Chambers corresponding with a number and locations of the appeal courts. The chambers were located in Warszawa, Katowice, Kraków, Lublin, Gdańsk, Białystok, Poznań, Łódź, Rzeszów, Szczecin and Wrocław. The notarial Chambers have a legal standing and are independent organizations subordinate to any of national superior structures within the hierarchy of the notarial self-administration.

At the Union of Latin Notary in Colombia Congress in 1992 - Polish Notary institution became a member of this world organization.