CASE OF JEŠINA v. THE
(Application no. 18806/02)
26 July 2007
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Ješina v. the
The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr P. Lorenzen, President,
Mrs S. Botoucharova,
Mr K. Jungwiert,
Mr V. Butkevych,
Mrs M. Tsatsa-Nikolovska,
Mr R. Maruste,
Mr M. Villiger, judges,
and Mrs C. Westerdiek, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 3 July 2007,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 18806/02)
2. The Czech Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr V.A. Schorm, Ministry of Justice.
3. The applicant complained, in particular, about the decision of the Constitutional Court of 14 May 2001 by which his constitutional appeal had been dismissed for failure to exhaust statutory remedies by appealing on points of law.
4. On 4 October 2005 the Court declared the application partly
inadmissible and decided to communicate the complaint concerning the aforesaid
decision of the
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The applicant was born in 1942 and lives in Bruntál.
7. On 21 October 1996 the Bruntál District Court (okresní soud) granted his action and delivered a payment order against the applicant who filed a protest (odpor) on 3 November 1996 alleging that S. was responsible for the accident.
8. On 28 March 1997 the
10. In the meantime, on
11. On 30 December 1998 the applicant requested the District Court to suspend the proceedings in order to bring the case to the Constitutional Court (Ústavní soud), for a preliminary ruling on the constitutionality of a certain provision of the Code of Civil Procedure which was allegedly in contradiction with certain provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (Listina základních práv a svobod).
14. On 2 September 1999 the court resumed the proceedings and ordered the applicant to pay the damages claimed plus 16% default interest as of 1 November 1996. The court based its finding that the applicant was responsible for the accident on the parties' statements, the police file concerning the traffic accident and other documentary evidence. The court did not grant the applicant's request to suspend the proceedings pending the outcome of proceedings for damages which he had brought against the police officers who had investigated the accident.
16. In a letter of
18. On 27 February 2001 the applicant lodged a constitutional appeal (ústavní stížnost) alleging, inter alia, a violation of Articles 37 § 2 (the right to legal assistance) and 37 § 3 (equality of the parties) and 38 § 2 (the right to a public hearing without delay and the right to comment on submitted evidence) of the Charter.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
20. The relevant provisions of the national law and practice are described in detail in Běleš and Others v. Czech Republic of 12 November 2002 (no. 47273/99, §§ 17-41, ECHR 2002-IX), Zvolský and Zvolská v. Czech Republic of 12 November 2002 (no. 46129/99, §§ 18-36, ECHR 2002-IX) and Vodárenská akciová společnost, S.A. v. Czech Republic of 24 February 2004 (no. 73577/01, § 21).
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
21. The applicant complained that the
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal...”
22. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
23. The Government left the matter to the Court's discretion.
24. The Court reiterates that it is primarily for the
national authorities, notably the courts, to resolve problems of interpretation
of domestic legislation. Its role is limited to verifying whether the effects
of such interpretation are compatible with the Convention. This applies in
particular to the interpretation by courts of procedural rules such as
time-limits for filing documents or lodging appeals (Běleš and Others v. the Czech Republic, cited above, § 60; mutatis mutandis, Tejedor
García v. Spain, judgment of 16 December 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-VIII,
§ 31). The rules on the procedure and time-limits for appeals are designed to ensure
the proper administration of justice and, in particular, legal certainty.
Litigants should normally expect those rules to be applied (Miragall Escolano and Others v.
25. Furthermore, the “right to a court”, of which the right of access is one aspect, is not absolute; it is subject to limitations permitted by implication, in particular where the conditions of admissibility of an appeal are concerned, since by its very nature it calls for regulation by the State, which enjoys a certain margin of appreciation in this regard (García Manibardo v. Spain, no. 38695/97, § 36, ECHR 2000-II, and Běleš and Others v. Czech Republic, cited above, § 61). Nonetheless, the limitations applied must not restrict or reduce the individual's access in such a way or to such an extent as to impair the very essence of the right. Furthermore, limitations will only be compatible with Article 6 § 1 if they pursue a legitimate aim and there is a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim pursued (Guérin v. France, judgment of 29 July 1998, Reports 1998-V, § 37; Běleš and Others cited above, § 62).
26. The Court notes that the situation of the applicant is identical to that of the applicants in the aforesaid case Běleš and Others v. Czech Republic in which the Court found a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. In Běleš the Court made the following findings (see paragraphs 63 et 68):
“63. ... [T]he decision whether or not to grant leave to appeal on points of law, within the meaning of Article 239 § 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, was within the sole discretion of the Supreme Court, which had to decide whether the impugned decision concerned a point of 'crucial legal importance'. In those circumstances, neither the applicants nor their lawyer were in a position to assess their prospects of obtaining leave from the Supreme Court, particularly it had been refused by the appeal court. In the event of leave to appeal on points of law being refused, there was a risk that the applicants' constitutional appeal would be dismissed as being out of time.
68. The Court also finds that the requirement in sections 72(2) and 75(1) of the Constitutional Court Act for 'all remedies' to be exercised, without any distinction being made between ordinary and special remedies (apart from applications to reopen proceedings), coupled with the unpredictability of applications for leave to appeal on points of law as a result of the way Article 239 § 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure is applied, undermines the very essence of the right of recourse by imposing on appellants a disproportionate burden that upsets the fair balance that has to be struck between the legitimate concern to ensure that the formal procedure for appealing to the Constitutional Court is complied with and the right of access to that court. Since, under Czech law, an appeal on points of law is a special remedy that is not automatically available and for which leave at the discretion of the Supreme Court is required, it cannot be regarded as an effective remedy that required exhaustion in the instant case (see, mutatis mutandis, Esposito v. Italy, no. 20855/92, Commission decision of 16 October 1996, unreported).”
27. Turning to the instant case, the Court sees no reason to depart from its conclusions reached in Běleš and Others case which are entirely pertinent in the case of the present applicant.
28. The Court notes with satisfaction that after the
delivery of its judgments in cases of Běleš
and Others v. Czech Republic (cited),
and Zvolský and Zvolská v. Czech
29. In these circumstances, the Court finds that the particularly restrictive interpretation by the Constitutional Court of a procedural rule deprived the applicant of his right of access to court.
30. Consequently, there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
31. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
32. The applicant claimed 12,424,000 Czech korunas (CZK), that is to say 441,319 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary damage and CZK 1,000,000 (EUR 35,522) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
33. The Government contended that there was no causal link
between the conduct of the
34. As to the reparation sought by the applicant for non-pecuniary damage, the Government considered that the finding of a violation would afford sufficient just satisfaction.
35. The Court considers that the basis for an award of just
satisfaction in the present case must be the denial of access of the applicant
to a court, which is part of the right to a fair trial, within the meaning of
Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. It finds no causal link between the pecuniary
damage alleged by the applicant and its finding of a violation of Article 6.
Nor can it speculate on what the outcome would have been if the
36. Having regard to the nature of the violation of Article 6 § 1 found in the present case, the Court considers – as it did in other similar cases (Běleš and Others cited above, §§ 76 and 77, Vodárenská akciová společnost, S.A. v. Czech Republic, cited above, § 40, Šroub v. Czech Republic, no. 5424/03, § 29, Mařík v. Czech Republic, no. 73116/01, § 21, Soudek v. Czech Republic, no. 56526/00, § 26) - that the finding of a violation constitutes sufficient just satisfaction in the circumstances.
B. Costs and expenses
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Declares the remainder of the application admissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
4. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant's claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 26 July 2007, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Claudia Westerdiek Peer
 Article 239 § 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure as worded at the material time provided that if an appeal court refused to grant an application for leave to appeal on points of law that had been made by one of the parties before the decision upholding the decision at first instance was adopted, leave to appeal could only be obtained if the Supreme Court itself considered that the appeal court’s decision gave rise to a question of crucial legal importance.