In the case of Süßmann v. Germany (1),

        The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, pursuant to
Rule 53 of Rules of Court B (2), as a Grand Chamber composed of the
following judges:

        Mr  R. Ryssdal, President,
        Mr  R. Bernhardt,
        Mr  L.-E. Pettiti,
        Mr  R. Macdonald,
        Mr  A. Spielmann,
        Mr  N. Valticos,
        Mrs E. Palm,
        Mr  I. Foighel,
        Mr  R. Pekkanen,
        Sir John Freeland,
        Mr  A.B. Baka,
        Mr  M.A. Lopes Rocha,
        Mr  G. Mifsud Bonnici,
        Mr  J. Makarczyk,
        Mr  D. Gotchev,
        Mr  B. Repik,
        Mr  P. Jambrek,
        Mr  K. Jungwiert,
        Mr  U. Lohmus,
        Mr  J. Casadevall,

and also of Mr H. Petzold, Registrar, and Mr P.J. Mahoney, Deputy
Registrar,

        Having deliberated in private on 26 April and 31 August 1996,

        Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the
last-mentioned date:
_______________
Notes by the Registrar

1.  The case is numbered 57/1995/563/649.  The first number is the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the
relevant year (second number).  The last two numbers indicate the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its
creation and on the list of the corresponding originating applications
to the Commission.

2.  Rules of Court B, which came into force on 2 October 1994, apply
to all cases concerning the States bound by Protocol No. 9 (P9).
________________

PROCEDURE

1.      The case was referred to the Court by the Government of the
Federal Republic of Germany ("the Government") on 30 June 1995 and by
a German national, Mr Gerhard Süßmann ("the applicant"), on
16 August 1995, within the three-month period laid down by
Article 32 para. 1 and Article 47 (art. 32-1, art. 47) of the
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
("the Convention").

        It originated in an application (no. 20024/92) against Germany
lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights ("the Commission")
under Article 25 (art. 25) by Mr Süßmann, in his own name and in that
of Mrs Irmgard Stieler (see paragraph 24 below) on 21 May 1992.

        The Government's application referred to Articles 32 and 48 of
the Convention (art. 32, art. 48); that of the applicant referred to
Article 48 (art. 48) as amended by Protocol No. 9 (P9), which has been
ratified by Germany.  The object of the applications was to obtain a
decision as to whether the facts of the case disclosed a breach by the
respondent State of its obligations under Article 6 para. 1 of the
Convention (art. 6-1) (length of proceedings in the
Federal Constitutional Court).  Mr Süßmann's application alleged in
addition a breach of Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1)
(fair trial) and of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1), and of
Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 (art. 14+P1-1).

2.      On 30 October 1995 the President of the Court gave the
applicant leave to present his own case (Rule 31 of Rules of Court B)
and to use the German language in both the written and the oral
proceedings (Rule 28 para. 3).

3.      The Chamber to be constituted included ex officio
Mr R. Bernhardt, the elected judge of German nationality (Article 43
of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr R. Ryssdal, the President of the
Court (Rule 21 para. 4).  On 13 July 1995, in the presence of the
Registrar, the President drew by lot the names of the other
seven members, namely Mrs E. Palm, Mr I. Foighel, Mr R. Pekkanen,
Mr A.B. Baka, Mr M.A. Lopes Rocha, Mr G. Mifsud Bonnici and
Mr J. Makarczyk (Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21
para. 5) (art. 43).

4.      As President of the Chamber (Rule 21 para. 6), Mr Ryssdal,
acting through the Registrar, consulted the Agent of the Government,
the applicant and the Delegate of the Commission on the organisation
of the proceedings (Rules 39 para. 1 and 40).  Pursuant to the order
made in consequence, the Registrar received the Government's memorial
on 20 December 1995 and the applicant's memorial on 4 January 1996.

        On 19 March 1996 the Commission produced the file on the
proceedings before it, as requested by the Registrar on the President's
instructions.

5.      On 28 March 1996 the Chamber decided to relinquish jurisdiction
forthwith in favour of a Grand Chamber (Rule 53).  The Grand Chamber
comprised as ex officio members the President and the Vice-President,
Mr Bernhardt, who in this case was already sitting as national judge,
together with the other full members of the Chamber and the
substitutes, the latter being Mr C. Russo, Mr P. Jambrek,
Mr K. Jungwiert and Mr U. Lohmus. The names of the remaining
eight judges were drawn by lot by the President in the presence of the
Registrar on 30 March 1996, namely Mr L.-E. Pettiti, Mr R. Macdonald,
Mr A. Spielmann, Mr N. Valticos, Sir John Freeland, Mr D. Gotchev,
Mr B. Repik and Mr J. Casadevall (Rule 53 para. 2 (a) to (c)).
Mr Russo, who had been unable to attend the deliberations on
26 April 1996, did not take part in the further consideration of the
case.

6.      In accordance with the decision of the President, who had also
given the Agent of the Government leave to address the Court in German
(Rule 28 para. 2), the hearing took place in public in the Human Rights
Building, Strasbourg, on 24 April 1996.  The Court had held a
preparatory meeting beforehand.

        There appeared before the Court:

(a)  for the Government

     Mr J. Meyer-Ladewig, Ministerialdirigent,
        Federal Ministry of Justice,                           Agent,
     Mr M. Weckerling, Regierungsdirektor,
        Federal Ministry of Justice,
     Mr E. Radziwill, Regierungsrat zur Anstellung,
        Federal Ministry of Justice,                        Advisers;

(b)  for the Commission

     Mr F. Martínez,                                        Delegate;

(c)  the applicant.

        The Court heard addresses by Mr Martínez, Mr Süßmann and
Mr Meyer-Ladewig, and their answers to the questions put by two judges.

AS TO THE FACTS

I.      Circumstances of the case

7.      Mr Süßmann, a German national born in 1916, worked as a
physicist in research institutes whose remuneration and pension system
was the same as that of the civil service.

8.      The applicant retired in 1980 and receives, in addition to the
statutory pension, a supplementary pension (Versorgungsrente) paid to
him by the Supplementary Pensions Fund of the Federation and the Länder
(Versorgungsanstalt des Bundes und der Länder - VBL - "the Fund").  The
Fund administers a supplementary old-age pensions scheme, which enables
German civil servants or persons with an equivalent status to receive
a progressive supplementary pension.

9.      As the total of the sums paid under the general old-age
pensions scheme and the civil service supplementary scheme regularly
exceeded the last net civil service salary, employers' and employees'
representatives reached an agreement to amend the rules governing the
Fund.  These amendments, which came into force in March 1982 and
March 1984, also concerned persons who were already affiliated to the
supplementary scheme or in receipt of a pension thereunder.

        On 16 March 1988, giving judgment in a series of test cases,
the Federal Court (Bundesgerichtshof) upheld the validity of these
amendments.

    A.  Arbitration proceedings

10.     On 30 April and 31 May 1985 the Fund calculated the sum payable
to the applicant under the amended scheme with the result that his
supplementary pension was reduced.

11.     The applicant appealed to the Arbitration Tribunal of the
Supplementary Pensions Fund (Schiedsgericht der VBL), challenging,
inter alia, the legality of the amendments made to the rules governing
the scheme.

12.     Under an arbitration agreement of 3 and 18 September 1985
Mr Süßmann and the Fund had recognised the jurisdiction of the Fund's
arbitration tribunals.

13.     On 20 February 1987 the Arbitration Tribunal dismissed the
applicant's appeal.

14.     On 11 May 1987 Mr Süßmann appealed from that decision to the
Arbitration Appeals Tribunal of the Supplementary Pensions Fund
(Oberschiedsgericht der VBL).

15.     On 10 March 1989 the Appeals Tribunal likewise dismissed the
applicant's appeal finding that the reduction in his supplementary
pension resulting from the amendment of the rules governing the Fund
was not unlawful.

    B.  Proceedings in the Federal Constitutional Court

16.     On 11 July 1988 the applicant lodged an appeal in the Federal
Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) concerning the
amendments to the Fund's rules made in 1982 and 1984.  Subsequently he
also invoked other grounds.

        On 4 April 1989 he extended the scope of his appeal to cover
the decision of the Arbitration Appeals Tribunal of 10 March 1989.

17.     Sitting as a panel of three members, on 6 November 1991 the
Second Section of the First Division (zweite Kammer des ersten Senats)
of the Federal Constitutional Court declined to accept the case for
adjudication on the ground that the prospects of its succeeding were
insufficient.

        The Federal Constitutional Court noted that the appeal was
inadmissible in so far as it raised for the first time issues of fact
or of law that could have been pleaded in the ordinary courts.
However, it found the remaining complaints admissible, in particular
those relating to the unfair character of the proceedings in the
Federal Court and the interference with the applicant's right of
property.  As the Federal Court had ruled on the issues of fact and law
at last instance in its judgments in the test cases of 16 March 1988,
it was not necessary to file further appeals to exhaust the remedies
in the ordinary courts.

        However, even in regard to the complaints declared admissible,
the Federal Constitutional Court considered that the constitutional
appeal lacked sufficient prospects of success.  It gave the following
reasons:

        1. There had been no violation of the applicant's right to be
heard in a court (Recht auf Gewährung rechtlichen Gehörs).  In
particular there was nothing to suggest that the tribunals had not
taken due account of evidence concerning the amendment of the Fund's
rules.  The decisions were essentially based on two reports drawn up
by expert commissions in September 1975 and November 1983.  It had not
been necessary to take additional evidence.

        2. Even if it were accepted that pension rights came within the
ambit of the constitutional right of property, there was nothing to
indicate that there had been an infringement of that right.  It was
lawful to reduce pension rights by amending the rules which were of a
private-law character.

        The Federal Court had held that the pensions under the scheme
administered by the Fund were a matter of private law and this view had
not been contested by the applicant.  The Federal Court had moreover
regarded the old-age pensions scheme in question as a collective
insurance scheme (Gruppenversicherung), under which only the employers
were considered to be insured, the employees (Arbeitnehmer) remaining
mere beneficiaries (Bezugsberechtigte).  Finally, the Federal Court had
examined whether the amendment of the Fund's rules had respected the
interests of the employees and the principle of "good faith" (Treu und
Glauben) and had taken the view that the measure in question had
checked a development that was unacceptable socially and politically
and had put an end to a situation that represented a considerable
departure from the aims of the supplementary pensions scheme.  In its
opinion, the amendment of the rules was intended to consolidate all the
old-age pensions schemes in order to meet the problems arising from
economic and demographical changes and was based on a decision of
principle taken by the employers' and employees' representatives.

        The Federal Constitutional Court concluded its reasoning in the
following terms:

        "This application of the civil law does not infringe any
        fundamental right.  The objective protection afforded by the
        right of property is not undermined by the classification of
        the insurance contract as group insurance, in which the
        employees are mere beneficiaries, or in the assessment of
        their individual interests.  The argument that the public
        interest, and notably the interest of all employees in the
        consolidation of their pensions schemes, called for a reform
        of those schemes is plausible and is in any event not open to
        criticism from the point of view of constitutional law.  The
        interests of employees regarded as beneficiaries may be
        adequately protected by the organisations that represent them.
        In view of the superior interest of all civil service
        employees in having a sound and affordable pensions scheme, a
        collective defence of those interests would seem objectively
        appropriate, as it is the sole means of ensuring the necessary
        balancing of interests within the group.  Whatever the case
        may be, the objective substance of the right of property does
        not require additional protection of the individual
        beneficiary.  The same applies to the assessment of the merits
        of the new rules.  This is based on both the principle of
        proportionality and the need to protect confidence in the
        preservation of acquired pension rights."

        Nor, it added, did the reversal of case-law by the
Federal Court, which had previously considered employees to be insured
under the rules in question, interfere with the right of property,
because case-law had no legislative force and could evolve.

        Finally, the Federal Constitutional Court observed that the
amendment of the Fund's rules did not breach the principle of equality
before the law or that of the freedom of association.  The applicant's
doubts as to the impartiality of the arbitrators were not relevant as
the latter were not members of the judiciary, but sat on private-law
arbitration tribunals.

18.     The decision was notified to the applicant on 5 December 1991.

19.     In the two years that followed the lodging of the applicant's
appeal in July 1988, the Second Section of the First Division dealt
with twenty-four cases concerning the compatibility of the new rules
of the Supplementary Pensions Fund with the Basic Law (Grundgesetz).
Other appeals were lodged with it relating, inter alia, to redundancy
notices served on employees (decision of 30 May 1991), an employer's
right to lock out strikers (decision of 26 June 1991) and the appeals
filed by former civil servants of the German Democratic Republic
challenging a provision of the Treaty on German Unification which
terminated the employment contract of some 300,000 persons (decision
of 24 April 1991).

II.     Relevant domestic law

    A.  The Basic Law

20.     Article 93 para. 1 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) provides as
follows:

        "The Federal Constitutional Court shall rule:

        ...

        4. (a) on constitutional appeals which may be lodged by any
        person who considers that the public authorities have
        infringed one of his or her fundamental rights or one of his
        or her rights as guaranteed under Articles 20 (4), 33, 38,
        101, 103 and 104 [of the Basic Law]."

    B.  The Federal Constitutional Court Act

21.     The composition and functioning of the Federal Constitutional
Court are governed by the Federal Constitutional Court Act (Gesetz über
das Bundesverfassungsgericht).

22.     Sections 90 to 96 of that Act concern constitutional appeals
lodged by individuals (see paragraph 20 above).  At the material time
the version adopted in 1985 (applicable with effect from
1 January 1986) was in force (1).
_______________
Note by the Registrar

1.  This translation of these provisions appeared in the "Law on the
Federal Constitutional Court" in the collection "Documents on Politics
and Society in the Federal Republic of Germany", Bonn, 1982.
_______________

                              Section 90

        "1.     Any person who claims that one of his basic rights or
        one of his rights under Articles 20 (4), 33, 38, 101, 103 and
        104 of the Basic Law has been violated by public authority may
        lodge a complaint of unconstitutionality with the Federal
        Constitutional Court.

        2.      If legal action against the violation is admissible,
        the complaint of unconstitutionality may not be lodged until
        all remedies have been exhausted.  However, the Federal
        Constitutional Court may decide immediately on a complaint of
        unconstitutionality lodged before all remedies have been
        exhausted if it is of general relevance or if recourse to
        other courts first would entail a serious and unavoidable
        disadvantage for the complainant.

        ..."

                              Section 92

        "The reasons for the complaint shall specify the right which
        is claimed to have been violated and the act or omission of
        the organ or authority by which the complainant claims to have
        been harmed."

                              Section 93a

        "A complaint of unconstitutionality shall require acceptance
        prior to a decision (Annahme zur Entscheidung)."

                              Section 93b

        "(1)    A section may refuse acceptance of a complaint of
        unconstitutionality by a unanimous order if

        1.      the complainant has not paid the required advance at
                all (section 34 (6)) or has not paid it on time,

        2.      the complaint of unconstitutionality is inadmissible
                or does not offer sufficient prospects of success for
                other reasons, or

        3.      the division is not likely to accept the complaint of
                unconstitutionality in accordance with the second
                sentence of section 93c below.

        The order shall be final.

        (2)     The section may uphold the complaint of
        unconstitutionality by a unanimous order if it is clearly
        justified because the Federal Constitutional Court has already
        decided on the relevant question of constitutional law ...

        (3)     The decisions of the section shall be taken without
        oral pleadings.  In stating the reasons for an order by which
        acceptance of a complaint of unconstitutionality is refused,
        it is sufficient to refer to the legal aspect determining the
        refusal."

                              Section 93c

        "If the section neither refuses acceptance of a complaint of
        unconstitutionality nor upholds it, the division shall then
        decide on acceptance.  It shall accept the complaint of
        unconstitutionality if at least two judges hold the view that
        a question of constitutional law is likely to be clarified by
        a decision or that the denial of a decision on the matter will
        entail a serious and unavoidable disadvantage for the
        complainant.  Section 93b (3) above shall apply
        mutatis mutandis."

        Section 94 provides for the right of third parties to be heard
in appeal proceedings in the Federal Constitutional Court.

                              Section 95

        "1.     If the complaint of unconstitutionality is upheld, the
        decision shall state which provision of the Basic Law has been
        infringed and by which act or omission.  The Federal
        Constitutional Court may at the same time declare that any
        repetition of the act or omission complained of will infringe
        the Basic Law.

        2.      If a complaint of unconstitutionality against a
        decision is upheld, the Federal Constitutional Court shall
        quash the decision and in cases pursuant to the first sentence
        of section 90 (2) above it shall refer the matter back to a
        competent court.

        3.      If a complaint of unconstitutionality against a law is
        upheld, the law shall be declared null and void.  The same
        shall apply if a complaint of unconstitutionality pursuant to
        paragraph 2 above is upheld because the quashed decision is
        based on an unconstitutional law ..."

23.     The Federal Constitutional Court Act was subsequently amended
with a view to reducing the court's workload.  The amendments adopted
in 1993 (which entered into force on 11 August 1993), among other
things, reorganised the procedure for individual appeals
(section 93a-93d of the 1993 Federal Constitutional Court Act).

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

24.     Mr Süßmann applied to the Commission on 21 May 1992 in his own
name and in that of Mrs Stieler.  Relying on Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) and Article 6 of the Convention (art. 6), he
complained of the reduction in their supplementary pension and the lack
of a fair trial before the arbitration tribunals and in the Federal
Court.  He also complained, only on his own behalf, of the length of
proceedings in the Federal Constitutional Court.

25.     On 8 September 1993 and 30 August 1994 the Commission declared
the application (no. 20024/92) admissible as regards Mr Süßmann's
complaint concerning the length of the proceedings in the Federal
Constitutional Court (Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention) (art. 6-1)
and declared the remainder of the application inadmissible.

        In its report of 12 April 1995 (Article 31) (art. 31), it
expressed the unanimous opinion that there had been a violation of
Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).  The full text of the Commission's
opinion is reproduced as an annex to this judgment (1).
_______________
Note by the Registrar

1.  For practical reasons this annex will appear only with the printed
version of the judgment (in Reports of Judgments and
Decisions 1996-IV), but a copy of the Commission's report is obtainable
from the registry.
_______________

FINAL SUBMISSIONS TO THE COURT

26.     In their memorial the Government requested the Court to hold:

        "that the application is inadmissible or in the alternative
        that there has been no violation of the applicant's right to
        have his case heard within a reasonable time as guaranteed
        under Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1)".

27.     The applicant asked the Court, on his own behalf and that of
Mrs Stieler,

        "to find that there had been a violation of Article 6 and
        Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (art. 6-1, P1-1) and of Article 14
        of the Convention [taken in conjunction with] Article 1 of
        Protocol No. 1 (art. 14+P1-1) and to reinstate them in their
        prior contractual rights as reparation".

AS TO THE LAW

I.      SCOPE OF THE CASE

28.     In his application to the Court and in his memorial, Mr Süßmann
repeated all the complaints that he had raised before the Commission
in his own name and in that of Mrs Stieler (see paragraph 24 above).

29.     In its decisions of 8 September 1993 and 30 August 1994 the
Commission declared admissible only the applicant's complaint
concerning the length of proceedings in the Federal Constitutional
Court (see paragraph 25 above).

        The Court recalls that, as the scope of the case before it is
delimited by the Commission's decision on admissibility, it has no
jurisdiction to revive issues declared inadmissible (see, as the most
recent authority, the Leutscher v. the Netherlands judgment of
26 March 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-II, p. 434,
para. 22).

30.     In addition, before the Court the applicant alleged a violation
of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 1 of
Protocol No. 1 (art. 14+P1-1).  As he did not raise this complaint
before the Commission, the Court cannot take cognisance of it.
Moreover, Article 14 (art. 14), being complementary to the other
substantive provisions of the Convention and the Protocols, has no
independent application (see, for instance, the Karlheinz Schmidt
v. Germany judgment of 18 July 1994, Series A no. 291-B, p. 32,
para. 22) and the Commission declared the applicant's complaint
concerning Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) inadmissible
(see paragraph 25 above).

II.     ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 PARA. 1 OF THE CONVENTION
        (art. 6-1)

31.     In the applicant's submission the length of the proceedings in
the Federal Constitutional Court exceeded a reasonable time within the
meaning of Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1), which
provides as follows:

        "In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ...,
        everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time
        by [a] ... tribunal ..."

32.     The Government disputed this, whereas the Commission agreed
with the applicant.

33.     The Court must first determine whether Article 6 para. 1
(art. 6-1) is applicable.

    A.  Applicability of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1)

34.     According to the Government, the Federal Constitutional Court
is not an ordinary court.  Its role at national level is comparable to
that of the European Court of Human Rights at European level.  As the
supreme guardian of the Constitution, the task of the Federal
Constitutional Court is to ensure that general constitutional law is
complied with and not to rule on the "civil rights and obligations" of
individuals.  That is why, the Government contended, the requirements
set forth in Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1) could not
apply to it.  Equally the criterion laid down in the Court's case-law
as to the effect of a decision of a Constitutional Court on the outcome
of litigation in the ordinary courts was not helpful; it was virtually
inconceivable that Constitutional Court decisions should not have an
effect on disputes in such courts.  Moreover, the present case
concerned the length solely of the proceedings in the Federal
Constitutional Court and not the length of the whole proceedings.
Finally the decision given by the Federal Constitutional Court was of
a preliminary nature and was part of proceedings to determine whether
the case could be accepted for adjudication; as such it fell outside
the scope of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).

35.     The applicant argued that the aim of his appeal was not the
verification by the Federal Constitutional Court of the
constitutionality of a law, but exclusively to have that court examine
whether the lower courts had properly directed themselves as to the
law.  There could be no doubt that Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) was
applicable to this type of procedure.

36.     Referring to its own decisions and opinions and to the case-law
of the Court, the Commission likewise took the view that
Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) was applicable to the procedure in
question.  It observed among other things that a State which
established a constitutional-type court was under a duty to ensure that
litigants enjoyed in the proceedings before it the fundamental
guarantees laid down in Article 6 (art. 6).

37.     The Court is fully aware of the special role and status of a
Constitutional Court, whose task is to ensure that the legislative,
executive and judicial authorities comply with the Constitution and,
which, in those States that have made provision for a right of
individual petition, affords additional legal protection to citizens
at national level in respect of their fundamental rights guaranteed in
the Constitution.

38.     The Court recalls that it has had to examine the question of
the applicability of Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1) to
proceedings in a Constitutional Court in a number of cases.

39.     According to the its well-established case-law on this issue
(see the Deumeland v. Germany judgment of 29 May 1986, Series A
no. 100, p. 26, para. 77; the Bock v. Germany judgment of
29 March 1989, Series A no. 150, p. 18, para. 37; and the Ruiz-Mateos
v. Spain judgment of 23 June 1993, Series A no. 262, p. 19, para. 35),
the relevant test in determining whether Constitutional Court
proceedings may be taken into account in assessing the reasonableness
of the length of proceedings is whether the result of the
Constitutional Court proceedings is capable of affecting the outcome
of the dispute before the ordinary courts.

        In the Ruiz-Mateos case the Court also found that Article 6
para. 1 (art. 6-1) applied to Constitutional Court proceedings from the
point of view of fair trial (see the above-mentioned judgment,
pp. 23-24, paras. 55-60).  It held that, while it was not called upon
to give an abstract ruling on the applicability of Article 6 para. 1
(art. 6-1) to Constitutional Courts in general, it had nevertheless to
determine whether any rights guaranteed to the applicants under that
provision (art. 6-1) were affected in the case before it (ibid.,
para. 57).  It noted further that by raising questions of
constitutionality, the applicants were using the sole - and indirect -
means available to them of complaining of an interference with their
right of property (ibid., para. 59).

        It follows that Constitutional Court proceedings do not in
principle fall outside the scope of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1).

40.     However, the present case differs from earlier cases in that
it concerns the length only of proceedings in a Constitutional Court
and not also that of proceedings conducted in ordinary courts.  In this
instance the proceedings in the Federal Constitutional Court were not
an "extension" of proceedings in the ordinary courts.  The applicant
had first contested the lawfulness of the reduction of his
supplementary pension, following the amendment of the Fund's rules, in
the arbitration tribunals (see paragraphs 10-15 above).  As the
Federal Court, in a series of test cases, had confirmed the validity
of these amendments (see paragraph 9 above), the applicant could appeal
directly to the Federal Constitutional Court, without first bringing
proceedings in the ordinary civil courts (see paragraphs 16-17 above).

41.     The Court recalls that proceedings come within the scope of
Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1), even if they are
conducted before a Constitutional Court, where their outcome is
decisive for civil rights and obligations (see, inter alia, the Kraska
v. Switzerland judgment of 19 April 1993, Series A no. 254-B, p. 48,
para. 26).

42.     The dispute as to the amount of the applicant's pension
entitlement was of a pecuniary nature and undeniably concerned a civil
right within the meaning of Article 6 (art. 6) (see the
Schuler-Zgraggen v. Switzerland judgment of 24 June 1993, Series A
no. 263, p. 17, para. 46, and the Massa v. Italy judgment of
24 August 1993, Series A no. 265-B, p. 20, para. 26).  Following the
decisions of the Federal Court in the test cases, the only avenue
through which Mr Süßmann could pursue further determination of that
dispute was by means of an appeal whereby he alleged a breach of his
constitutional right of property.  The Federal Constitutional Court
proceedings therefore concerned a dispute over a civil right.

43.     In the event of a successful appeal, the
Federal Constitutional Court does not confine itself to identifying the
provision of the Basic Law that has been breached and indicating the
public authority responsible; it quashes the impugned decision or
declares void the legislation in question (section 95 of the
Federal Constitutional Court Act - see paragraph 22 above).

        In the present case, if the Federal Constitutional Court had
found that the amendments to the civil servants' supplementary pensions
scheme infringed the constitutional right of property and had set aside
the impugned decisions, Mr Süßmann would have been reinstated in his
rights.  Thus he would have received the full amount of his initial
supplementary pension.

44.     The Federal Constitutional Court proceedings were therefore
directly decisive for a dispute over the applicant's civil right.

45.     Admittedly in this case the Second Section of the First
Division, sitting as a panel of three judges, had declined to accept
Mr Süßmann's complaint in the course of preliminary proceedings
(sections 93a and 93b of the Federal Constitutional Court Act as
amended in 1985 - see paragraph 22 above).  Nevertheless, in giving the
reasons for its decision, it examined the submissions on the merits
made by the applicant and, in particular, considered in detail whether
the Federal Court, by confirming the validity of the amendments to the
rules, had infringed the applicant's constitutional right of property
(see paragraph 17 above).

46.     In these circumstances Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) is
applicable to the proceedings in issue.

    B.  Compliance with Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1)

        1. Period to be taken into consideration

47.     The Court is concerned only with the length of the proceedings
before the Federal Constitutional Court.  Thus the relevant period
began on 11 July 1988, the date on which the applicant appealed to the
Federal Constitutional Court, and ended on 5 December 1991, the date
on which the decision was notified to him.  It therefore lasted
three years, four months and three weeks.

        2. Applicable criteria

48.     The reasonableness of the length of proceedings must be
assessed in the light of the particular circumstances of the case and
having regard to the complexity of the case, the conduct of the parties
and of the authorities, and the importance of what is at stake for the
applicant in the litigation (see, as the most recent authority, the
Phocas v. France judgment of 23 April 1996, Reports 1996-II, p. 546,
para. 71).

        (a) Complexity of the case

49.     In the Commission's view, the case was not in itself especially
complex; the procedure was summary in character and did not include a
phase liable to give rise to delays.

50.     The Court considers that although the decision not to entertain
Mr Süßmann's appeal was one taken in preliminary proceedings, the case
was one of some complexity.  It was one of twenty-four constitutional
appeals raising similar issues of some difficulty, concerning
supplementary pensions of large numbers of German civil servants, which
necessitated a detailed examination in substance by the court
(see paragraphs 19 and 45 above).

        (b) Conduct of the applicant

51.     Like the Commission the Court notes that the applicant's
conduct did not cause any delay in the proceedings and indeed the
Government did not allege that it had done.

        (c) Conduct of the Federal Constitutional Court

52.     According to Mr Süßmann, the Federal Constitutional Court did
not examine the appeals relating to the amendments to the rules
governing the Supplementary Pensions Fund until three years after they
were filed.  These disputes concerned some 600,000 persons.  Moreover,
many of them were already elderly and this delay had caused them mental
and physical suffering as well as financial hardship.

53.     The Government, on the other hand, stressed the special
features of the procedure in the Federal Constitutional Court and the
specific nature of the present case.  The applicant had not brought
proceedings in the ordinary courts, unlike other persons who had
pursued that avenue of appeal and who had as a result applied to the
Federal Constitutional Court at a later date.  In order to give a
coherent decision, it had had to group together the twenty-four cases
raising similar issues.  Furthermore, over the same period the
Federal Constitutional Court had had to rule on more urgent cases of
considerable political importance, for instance cases concerning
implications of German reunification.

54.     In the Commission's view, it was primarily for the
Federal Constitutional Court to adapt its procedure to the large number
of appeals concerning the reduction of civil servants' supplementary
pensions and to bring to a conclusion other cases pending before it,
in particular the cases assigned to the Second Section.  It considered
that in this case the length of the proceedings in the
Federal Constitutional Court was excessive, having regard, among other
things, to what was at stake for the applicant given his age.

55.     The Court recalls that, as it has repeatedly held,
Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) imposes on the Contracting States the duty
to organise their judicial systems in such a way that their courts can
meet each of its requirements, including the obligation to hear cases
within a reasonable time (see, for example, the Muti v. Italy judgment
of 23 March 1994, Series A no. 281-C, p. 37, para. 15).

56.     Although this obligation applies also to a Constitutional
Court, when so applied it cannot be construed in the same way as for
an ordinary court.  Its role as guardian of the Constitution makes it
particularly necessary for a Constitutional Court sometimes to take
into account other considerations than the mere chronological order in
which cases are entered on the list, such as the nature of a case and
its importance in political and social terms.

57.     Furthermore while Article 6 (art. 6) requires that judicial
proceedings be expeditious, it also lays emphasis on the more general
principle of the proper administration of justice (see in this
connection, mutatis mutandis, the Boddaert v. Belgium judgment of
12 October 1992, Series A no. 235-D, p. 82, para. 39).

58.     In view of the importance of the decision taken by the
German Federal Constitutional Court in the present case, the impact of
which extended far beyond the individual application before it, this
principle is of special relevance here.

59.     It was also reasonable for the Federal Constitutional Court to
have grouped together the twenty-four cases pending before it so as to
obtain a comprehensive view of the legal issues arising from the
reduction of civil servants' supplementary pensions.

60.     In addition these appeals were filed at the same time as those
brought by former civil servants of the German Democratic Republic to
challenge a provision of the Treaty on German Unification terminating
the employment contracts of around 300,000 persons (see paragraph 19
above).

        Admittedly, as the Commission pointed out, the amendments to
the supplementary pensions scheme also concerned a large number of
German civil servants.

        However, bearing in mind the unique political context of
German reunification and the serious social implications of the
disputes which concerned termination of employment contracts, the
Federal Constitutional Court was entitled to decide that it should give
priority to those cases.

        (d) What was at stake for the applicant

61.     Finally, what was at stake in the proceedings for the applicant
is also a material consideration.  Mr Süßmann's supplementary pension
had been reduced and, in view of his age, the proceedings before the
Federal Constitutional Court were of undeniable importance for him.

        However, the amendments to the supplementary pensions scheme
did not cause prejudice to him to such an extent as to impose on the
court concerned a duty to deal with his case as a matter of very great
urgency, as is true of certain types of litigation (see, as the most
recent authority, the A and Others v. Denmark judgment of
8 February 1996, Reports 1996-I, p. 107, para. 78).

        (e) Conclusion

62.     In the light of all the circumstances of the case, the Court
finds that a reasonable time within the meaning of Article 6 para. 1
(art. 6-1) was not exceeded and that there has accordingly been no
breach of that provision (art. 6-1) on this point.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT

1.      Holds unanimously that Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention
        (art. 6-1) applies to the proceedings in issue;

2.      Holds by fourteen votes to six that there has been no
        violation of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) in respect of the
        length of the proceedings.

        Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public
hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 16 September 1996.

Signed: Rolv RYSSDAL
        President

Signed: Herbert PETZOLD
        Registrar

        In accordance with Article 51 para. 2 of the Convention
(art. 51-2) and Rule 55 para. 2 of Rules of Court B, the following
separate opinions are annexed to this judgment:

        (a) partly dissenting opinion of Mr Foighel, joined by
        Mr Lohmus;

        (b) partly dissenting opinion of Mr Mifsud Bonnici;

        (c) partly dissenting opinion of Mr Jambrek, joined by
        Mr Pettiti;

        (d) partly dissenting opinion of Mr Casadevall.

Initialled: R.R.

Initialled: H.P.

  PARTLY DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE FOIGHEL, JOINED BY JUDGE LOHMUS

        Like the majority, I find Article 6 (art. 6) applicable.
However, I share the unanimous view of the Commission and consider that
Constitutional Court proceedings lasting almost three years and
five months and terminating with a decision not to admit the
applicant's complaint for insufficient prospects of success were too
long.  In this respect I, like the Commission, take into account that,
given the applicant's age, what was at stake for him in the proceedings
before the Federal Constitutional Court was of pressing importance
(see the  A and Others v. Denmark judgment of 8 February 1996, Reports
of Judgments and Decisions 1996-I).

        I find that Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1) has been violated.

           PARTLY DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE MIFSUD BONNICI

1.      Regretfully I did not find it possible to subscribe to the
judgment arrived at by the majority of the Court that Mr Süßmann's
application to the German Constitutional Court was decided within a
reasonable time and therefore there occurred no breach of Article 6
para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1).

2.      The applicant lodged his appeal to that court on 11 July 1988.
He was notified that his appeal had been rejected on 5 December 1991,
three years and five months later.

3.      In paragraph 48 of the judgment it is stated that the
reasonableness of the length of the proceedings must be assessed in the
light of:

        (a) the particular circumstances of the case, having regard to
its possible complexity;

        (b) the conduct of the parties and the authorities; and

        (c) the importance of what is at stake for the applicant.

4.      The judgment considers that the case was one of some
complexity, and mentions that there were twenty-four other appeals
similar to that of the applicant and the points raised had relevance
to the supplementary pensions payable to a large number of
German civil servants (paragraph 50).

        There is no doubt that the appeal was important because it
affected a matter of principle which involved the reduction of the
supplementary pension payable to a large number of civil servants.
Nevertheless, the decision not to entertain the appeal was taken in
preliminary proceedings (paragraph 50) and therefore one is entitled
to conclude that the Constitutional Court did not consider that the
points raised were of constitutional value and I cannot therefore
reconcile, in such a context, lack of importance and constitutional
value of the matter in issue, and at the same time consider it of some
complexity.

5.      Moreover, I am of the opinion that there were particular
circumstances in the case which called for a quicker consideration of
the appeal than is usual.  Pension rights obviously and of their very
nature, require, almost always, urgent consideration.  It follows that
it would be unrealistic if in conformity with this necessity one does
not take into account that the applicant's case and contestation had
begun in July 1985, by simply saying that all the arbitration
proceedings are not relevant because those are a matter of private law
(see paragraph 17).  These may be considered outside the jurisdiction
but surely they must be given weight when the question of the
assessment of the reasonableness of the length of the "public law"
proceedings which followed, is examined, since the longer the matter
has been pending, in whatever forum, the greater the urgency in the
proceedings in the Constitutional Court.

6.      As to the conduct of the Constitutional Court, it is
unfortunate that the judgment absolves that court on certain erroneous
assumptions of facts.  In paragraph 60 it is stated:

        "In addition these appeals [i.e. the twenty-four appeals
        similar to that of the applicant] were filed at the same time
        as those brought by former civil servants of the
        German Democratic Republic to challenge a provision of the
        Treaty on German Unification terminating the employment
        contracts of around 300,000 persons ...

        ...

        ... bearing in mind the unique political context of
        German reunification and the serious social implications of
        the disputes which concerned termination of employment
        contracts, the Federal Constitutional Court was entitled to
        decide that it should give priority to those cases."

        This argumentation, however, is not valid.  The Treaty on
German Unification was signed on 3 October 1990, that is two years and
two months after the applicant filed his appeal and when all the
twenty-four similar appeals were already before the Constitutional
Court (paragraph 19).

7.      It is for these reasons that I cannot find any real extenuating
circumstances for the unreasonable length of the proceedings of the
German Constitutional Court in the instant case and I therefore find
a violation of Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1).

  PARTLY DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE JAMBREK, JOINED BY JUDGE PETTITI

1.      I am in agreement with the majority's decision as to the
applicability of Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1) to the
German Federal Constitutional Court proceedings, in particular where
they are directly decisive for a dispute over the applicant's civil
right which is the subject of his constitutional complaint.

2.      In the present case, the Court was concerned only with the
length of the proceedings before the
German Federal Constitutional Court.  Its task was to determine whether
the relevant period met the standard of reasonable time.  The
Constitutional Court proceedings, at the end of which the
Second Section of the First Division (zweite Kammer des ersten Senats),
sitting in a panel of three Constitutional Court judges, reached its
decision not to accept the case for adjudication on the ground that the
prospects of its succeeding were insufficient, lasted three years,
four months and three weeks.

3.      To my regret I cannot agree with the majority of the Court, who
found that the relevant period did not exceed the reasonable time
within the meaning of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1), and that there had
accordingly been no breach of this provision (art. 6-1).  I list
grounds for my dissent below.

4.      The decision not to entertain the applicant's appeal was one
taken in preliminary proceedings.  The panel of three judges only
examined the submissions on the merits made by the applicant with the
view to determine whether the prospects of their succeeding in the
panel of seven judges constituting the First Division of the
Constitutional Court were sufficient or not.  Such a preliminary
decision thus falls short of the exercise of full jurisdiction of the
Constitutional Court which would end up with the final adjudication of
the merits of the case.

5.      I agree with the majority that even the preliminary decision
entailed a detailed examination in substance of the case.  The reading
of the text of the relevant decision, however, did not convince me that
it should necessarily take more than three years to draft the judgment
and to take the decision.  After all, the Kammer had the advantage of
being able to rely on the Bundesgerichtshof's judgment in a series of
test cases, and also on the case-law of the
German Federal Constitutional Court itself, relating to the character
of the pension rights within the ambit of the constitutional right of
property and to the protection of public confidence in law in cases
where acquired pension rights are affected ex nunc.

6.      I am also in agreement with the view that there are good
reasons for a Constitutional Court to group together a number of cases
raising similar issues in order to give a coherent decision.  Such a
grouping, however, may only serve the purpose of the proper
administration of justice if the period defined by the arrivals of the
first and the last of such cases remains reasonable, i.e. if it is
shorter than "reasonable time within the meaning of Article 6 para. 1"
of the Convention (art. 6-1).  If that is not the case, then a
Constitutional Court would be better advised to adjudicate one of the
first cases, and to then deal with new cases following the precedent
set and according to the specific circumstances of each case.

7.      The Court also stated that in relation to a Constitutional
Court the obligation to hear cases within a reasonable time "cannot be
construed in the same way as for an ordinary court".

        The Court then seems to identify application of the relevant
obligation with the "chronological order in which cases are entered on
the list".  I could in principle agree with such a view.  I cannot
agree, however, with the specific reasoning of the majority implied in
paragraph 56 of the judgment.

8.      First, the shifting of the cases downwards from the top of the
list - although in principle legitimate - must nevertheless respect the
basic obligation of the Constitutional Court to hear also the case
moved further down the list within a reasonable time-limit, set by the
European Convention.

9.      And secondly, all the cases on the list should be treated on
equal terms when their nature and their importance in political and
social terms is considered as a criterion of priority.  Here it seems
that the Court's reasoning is contradictory.  In paragraph 53 the Court
observes that the Constitutional Court "had had to rule on more urgent
cases of considerable political importance, for instance cases
concerning implications of German reunification".  This argument for
unequal treatment is repeated in paragraph 60 of the judgment where the
Court suggests "bearing in mind the unique political context of
German reunification" which in its view entitled the
German Constitutional Court to give priority to such cases.

        On the other hand, the Court also noted that the applicant's
appeal concerned "supplementary pensions of large numbers of
German civil servants".  According to Mr Süßmann, this number amounted
to some 600,000 persons.  The Court further stated (in paragraph 58)
that the importance of the decision taken by the
German Federal Constitutional Court in the present case was implied by
its impact, which extended far beyond the individual application before
it.

        It therefore appears as if the Court would on the one hand (in
German reunification cases) consider the "importance of a case in
political and social terms" as a good reason for giving it priority,
and deal with it sooner and faster.  It appears on the other hand
(supplementary pension fund cases) to consider differently the
criterion of "proper administration of justice".

10.     The Court observes that: "Its role as guardian of the
Constitution makes it particularly necessary for a Constitutional Court
sometimes to take into account other considerations ..., such as the
nature of a case and its importance in political and social terms."

        Again, I could agree with such a general formulation only
within a predefined context.  First, any modern Constitution is based
upon respect of the rule of law and of the fundamental human rights and
freedoms, while the principles of fair and speedy trial are
prerequisites for their genuine and effective respect.  Therefore,
those "other considerations" to be taken into account by the
Constitutional Court may never be interpreted as "other than human
rights considerations".

        The same applies to the criterion of "the importance of a case
in political and social terms", which should, at least in principle,
never be interpreted in such a way as to justify prolongation of the
period to hear another human rights case within a reasonable time.

11.     The present case before the Court originated in an application
lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights by Mr Süßmann on
21 May 1992.  It was registered on 22 May 1992.  The complaint relating
to the length of proceedings was declared admissible by the Commission
on 30 August 1994.  The Commission's report was adopted on
12 April 1995.  The case was then referred to the Court on 30 June 1995
and the hearing took place in public on 24 April 1996.

12.     I am well aware of the fact that neither the
German Federal Constitutional Court, nor the European Court of
Human Rights are ordinary courts.

        However, they both cannot escape their obligation to hear cases
within a reasonable time.  Furthermore, Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1)
imposes in my view on the Contracting States not only the duty to
organise their own judicial systems in such a way that their courts can
meet the requirement to hear cases within a reasonable time, but also
to organise their common international mechanism in a similar way.

13.     In paragraph 37 the Court recognised the special role, status
and tasks of a Constitutional Court as a guardian of the Constitution
and, which, in those States that have made provision for a right of
individual petition, affords additional legal protection to citizens
in respect of their fundamental rights.

        I am in agreement with such an assessment.  However, even in
countries where judicial review of constitutionality is concentrated
and specialised, all courts are as a rule considered guardians of the
Constitution in a broader sense.  For the case at hand, however,
another more specific feature of the Constitutional Court, empowered
to adjudicate individual human rights cases, seems pertinent.

14.     Due to this status, Constitutional Courts - and all other
supreme courts alike - are under pressure to respond to two often
contradictory requirements:

        Wider public and applicant parties expect the Supreme Court of
a country to take care of the totality of injustices that occur, and
particularly their own appeals.

        On the other hand, Supreme Courts should perform the role of
the judicial leader.  They should control the evolution of judge-made
law in a country, set precedents and standards and articulate the
judicial philosophy of the nation.

        Anyhow, the preliminary stage of "filtering cases", should not
take too long.  The applicants should not be left to wait so long for
the preliminary decision on acceptability.

        A decision on the preliminary proceedings should have been
taken more rapidly to determine Mr Süßmann's appeal.

             PARTLY DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGE CASADEVALL

                             (Translation)

        Following the unanimous decision of the Court concerning the
applicability of Article 6 para. 1 (art. 6-1), I regret that I am
unable to agree with the majority as regards the length of the
proceedings in the Federal Constitutional Court and I consider that
there was a failure to conduct the proceedings within a "reasonable
time" which was capable of giving rise to a breach of Article 6
para. 1 of the Convention (art. 6-1).

        According to the Court's case-law, the question whether
proceedings have been conducted within a "reasonable time" is resolved
on the basis of a careful examination of the facts, the complexity of
the case, the circumstances and the causes of any delay, the conduct
of the applicant and of the authorities, and what was at stake in the
litigation for the applicant.  It is not merely a matter of assessing
the amount of time that has elapsed during the proceedings (see the
Buchholz v. Germany judgment of 6 May 1981, Series A no. 42).

        Each State has to organise its legal system so as to ensure
that all disputes over civil rights and obligations are dealt with by
a judicial decision with a "reasonable time" (see the König v. Germany
judgment of 28 June 1978, Series A no. 27, and the Milasi v. Italy
judgment of 25 June 1987, Series A no. 119).

        A State may not shelter behind the imperfections of its court
system, whether they be of a procedural nature or in any other area,
to evade liability for the resulting delays (see the Guincho
v. Portugal judgment of 10 July 1984, Series A no. 81).

        To take into account the argument based on an excessive
workload in the Federal Constitutional Court would be inconsistent with
the Court's decision in similar cases (see the Ruiz-Mateos v. Spain
judgment of 23 June 1993, Series A no. 262).  This reasoning could then
be invoked for all types of courts.

        In the present case, even if it is accepted that the
substantive issues raised were of some complexity, the decision taken
by the Second Section of the First Division of the
Federal Constitutional Court was an extremely simple one, a finding of
inadmissibility based on the provisions of the
Federal Constitutional Court Act (paragraph 2 of section 93b).

        The refusal to accept for adjudication the applicant's appeal
was based simply on the ground that its prospects of success were
insufficient.

        Such a decision, of a purely procedural nature cannot justify
proceedings in the Constitutional Court lasting three years and five
months.  Moreover, in view of Mr Süßmann's age (80), the case was of
undeniable importance for him.  If the Court accepts in the present
case a period of three years and five months to reach a decision that
an appeal is inadmissible (even where the court concerned is a
Constitutional Court), why should it not accept in a future case four
or even five years?

        I therefore agree with the unanimous opinion of the Commission
and find, having regard to the Court's case-law in this area, that the
length of the proceedings exceeded a "reasonable time" and that there
has therefore been a violation of Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention
(art. 6-1).