THIRD SECTION

PARTIAL DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Applications no. 46072/99 and 46076/99 
by Janusz ZAŚKIEWICZ 
against Poland

The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting on 11 December 2001 as a Chamber composed of

Mr G. Ress, President
 Mr I. Cabral Barreto
 Mr P. Kūris
 Mr B. Zupančič
 Mr J. Hedigan
 Mrs M. Tsatsa-Nikolovska
 Mr K. Traja, judges
and Mr V. Berger, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above applications introduced on 3 November 1998 and 19 November 1999 respectively and registered on 9 February 1999,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

 

THE FACTS

The applicant is a Polish national, who was born in 1947 and lives in Poznań, Poland.

The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.

1. Proceedings against company X

On 21 February 1994 the applicant filed with the Łódź Regional Court (sąd wojewódzki) an action in which he claimed damages from one of his partners in a partnership allegedly responsible for a sale of the partnership’s property without the applicant’s prior approval. He sued also a certain company X which purchased that property.

On 14 March 1994 the court refused the applicant’s request for an interim measure. His appeal against that decision was dismissed on 16 May 1994 by the Łódź Court of Appeal (sąd apelacyjny).

The Regional Court held hearings on 11 January, 27 February and 27 March 1996.

On 10 April 1996 the Regional Court declared its lack of jurisdiction over the applicant’s claims in respect of his partner and transferred that part of the case to the Łódź District Court (sąd rejonowy). It relied on the fact that in April 1994 the partnership had been dissolved and all claims between the partners had to be examined in other proceedings.

The Regional Court held hearings on 26 November 1996, as well as on 29 January, 1 April and 23 July 1997. It ordered an expert opinion.

The opinion was submitted on 5 February 1998.

Subsequently, the applicant lodged another request for an interim measure, but it has never been examined. He also filed a petition challenging the expert opinion.

On 11 May and 25 June 1998 the court held further hearings. Subsequently, the applicant filed a petition in which he complained about certain errors in the minutes from one of those hearings.

On 7 July 1998 the court issued a decision concerning the errors in the minutes of the hearing.

In September 1998 the applicant raised an additional claim against a customs office.

At the hearing held on 9 November 1998 the court dismissed that additional claim. The applicant requested the written reasoning of that decision. On 18 November 1998 his request was rejected as not provided for by the law.

On 19 November 1998 the Regional Court gave judgment. It granted the applicant 32,345.23 Polish zlotys (PLN) with interest. Both the applicant and the defendant company appealed.

The Łódź Court of Appeal held hearings on 9 April and 1 June 1999.

On 15 June 1999 the Court of Appeal gave judgment. It amended the judgment of the first-instance court in that it dismissed the action filed by the applicant. He received a copy of the written reasoning of that judgment on 4 April 2000. Subsequently, the applicant lodged with the Supreme Court a cassation appeal against that judgment.

The proceedings are still pending.

2. Proceedings against the applicant’s partner

On 10 April 1996 the Łódź Regional Court declared its lack of jurisdiction over the part of the case relating to the applicant’s claims against the partner and transferred it to the Łódź District Court. The applicant did not appeal that decision.

On 29 October 1996 the District Court decided to return the statement of claim to the applicant, relying on his lawyer’s failure to comply with that court’s order concerning certain procedural shortcomings of the statement of claim. The relevant decision was served on the applicant on 6 December 1996.

In his pleadings of 10 February 1997 submitted to the Regional Court in the course of the proceedings against company X the applicant complained that the District Court’s order concerning his statement of claim had been sent to the lawyer who at that time had no longer been his representative. The applicant requested that in those proceedings his partner be a co-defendant. However, the applicant’s request was not examined.

3. Proceedings concerning compensation

On 3 January 1995 the applicant filed with the Łódź Regional Court an action in which he claimed compensation for the loss of profit he could have made on a rented building if the rent contract had not been terminated by a certain company Y.

On 4 July 1995 the court exempted the applicant from court costs.

In June 1996, as a result of the applicant’s complaint to the President of that court, a copy of the statement of claim was served on the defendant.

The court held hearings on 25 July and 9 October 1996. At the latter it allowed an intervener for the defendant to take part in the proceedings.

The court held further hearings on 26 March, 16 May and 13 June 1997.

On 20 June 1997 the Regional Court gave judgment. It dismissed the applicant’s action. The applicant appealed.

On 14 January 1998 the Łódź Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal. Subsequently, the applicant lodged with the Supreme Court a cassation appeal.

On 18 June 1999 the Supreme Court dismissed his cassation appeal.

 

4. Proceedings concerning overdue rent

On 26 January 1996 company Y filed with the Łódź Regional Court an action in which it requested that the applicant pay overdue rent for a building he had rented from that company.

On 9 October 1996 the applicant raised a counterclaim.

The court held hearings on 21 October 1996, 28 July 1997, as well as on 23 March and 27 April 1998.

On 11 May 1998 the Łódź Regional Court gave judgment. It ordered the applicant to pay overdue rent and dismissed his counterclaim. The applicant appealed.

On 16 September 1998 the Łódź Court of Appeal dismissed the part of the applicant’s appeal relating to company Y’s claims. However, it quashed the part of the first-instance judgment concerning the applicant’s counterclaim and remitted the case in this part for re-examination.

The hearing scheduled by the Łódź Regional Court for 17 March 1999 was adjourned because of an illness of the opposing party’s representative.

At the hearings held on 10 and 21 May 1999 the court imposed fines on a witness for his failure to attend those hearings.

In his pleadings of 19 August 1999 the applicant requested that that witness be escorted to the court for the following hearing.

On 20 September 1999 the court held a hearing at which it ordered an expert opinion and reversed the fines imposed on the witness. The expert opinion was supposed to be prepared within two months.

In his pleadings of 27 September 1999 the applicant broadened the scope of his counterclaim against company Y.

On 17 May 2000 the expert opinion was served on the applicant.

On 19 May and 6 June 2000 the applicant submitted further pleadings concerning his counterclaim.

On 10 August and 2 November 2000 the applicant requested that a hearing be held, since the expert opinion had been already prepared.

On 24 November 2000 the court held a hearing.

In his pleadings of 4 December 2000 the applicant further broadened his counterclaim.

On 27 December 2000 he submitted pleadings in which he requested, inter alia, that a hearing be held.

He submitted further pleadings on 4, 15 and 17 January 2001.

On 25 January 2001 he lodged with the President of the Łódź Court of Appeal a complaint about the length of the proceedings.

On 21 February 2001 the court ordered another expert opinion.

On 23 February 2001 the applicant submitted further pleadings.

In her letter of 5 March 2001, written in reply to the applicant’s complaint, the President of the Łódź Regional Court admitted that the proceedings were lengthy and explained that the delay had been caused in part by the expert, who had failed to prepare the opinion within the time-limit, and by the change of the presiding judge. She further informed that the proceedings would be taken under her administrative supervision. On 5 April 2001, replying to the applicant’s comments to her letter of 5 March 2001, the President of the Regional Court stated that she upheld her standpoint presented in that letter.

The proceedings are still pending.

5. Other proceedings

Between 1993 and 1996 the applicant was involved in several other sets of civil proceedings against companies X and Y.

COMPLAINTS

1. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that the proceedings against company X, as well as both sets of proceedings against company Y, concerning compensation and overdue rent, have exceeded a reasonable time.

2. In his letter of 12 May 2000 the applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that he was deprived of the right of access to a court, because his claims against his partner have never been examined. The applicant also submits that the courts were not impartial, since they failed to respond to his requests to have those claims examined within the proceedings against company X.

3. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that in the course of the proceedings against company Y concerning compensation the courts committed several errors of law.

4. In his letter of 30 April  2001 he complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that in the proceedings concerning compensation a certain claim raised by him was not examined.

5. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that in the proceedings concerning compensation the courts were not impartial. He refers in this connection to several errors of law allegedly committed by the courts in the course of those proceedings, as well as other proceedings conducted between 1993 and 1996. The applicant further submits that the lack of impartiality resulted from the fact that a certain two partners in company X, a vice-governor and a lawyer, had certain “connections”.

 

THE LAW

1. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the allegedly unreasonable length of the proceedings against company X and the proceedings concerning overdue rent.

The Court considers that it cannot, on the basis of the case file, determine the admissibility of this complaint and that it is therefore necessary, in accordance with Rule 54 § 3 (b) of the Rules of Court, to give notice of this part of the application to the respondent Government.

2. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the allegedly unreasonable length of the proceedings concerning compensation.

Article 6 § 1 provides, in so far as relevant:

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

The Court recalls that the reasonableness of the length of proceedings is to be determined in the light of the circumstances of the case and with reference to the criteria laid down in the Court’s case-law, in particular the complexity of the case, the conduct of the applicant and of the relevant authorities, and what was at stake for the applicant in the dispute (see, inter alia, Comingersoll S.A. v. Portugal [GC], no. 35382/97, § 19, ECHR 2000-IV).

The Court observes that the proceedings in question lasted 4 years, 5 months and 15 days. It further observes that courts at three judicial levels gave judgments in the course of the proceedings. There was a period of inactivity caused by the first-instance court’s failure to serve the statement of claim on the defendant. However, having regard to the overall duration of the proceedings and the number of court instances involved, the Court finds the length complaint in respect of those proceedings manifestly ill-founded and rejects it, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

3. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that his claims against his partner have never been examined, in breach of the right of access to a court and to an impartial tribunal.

Article 6 § 1 provides, in so far as relevant:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

(a) The Court notes that the Łódź District Court’s decision to return the relevant statement of claim was served on the applicant on 6 December 1996 and thus more than six months before the date on which this complaint was lodged with the Court (12 May 2000). It follows that, in so far as the applicant complains about the alleged failure of the Łódź District Court to examine his claims, his complaint is time-barred and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention.

(b) As far as the applicant complains about the domestic courts’ failure to respond to his requests concerning the examination of his claims within the proceedings against company X, the Court observes that on 10 April 1996, in the course of those proceedings, the Łódź Regional Court declared its lack of jurisdiction over those claims. The applicant did not appeal against that decision. The Court observes that there is nothing to suggest that the Regional Court was competent to examine the applicant’s claims against his partner in the proceedings in question and thus this part of the complaint must be rejected as being manifestly ill-founded, in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

4. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about errors of law allegedly committed by the domestic courts in the course of the proceedings concerning compensation.

The Court recalls that it is not called upon to deal with errors of fact and law allegedly committed by a national court unless and in so far as they may have infringed rights and freedoms protected by the Convention (see García Ruiz v. Spain [GC], no. 30544/96, ECHR 1999-I, § 28). It finds that there are no elements in the case-file which require it to consider whether the latter proviso applies.

Therefore, it rejects this complaint as being manifestly ill-founded, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

5. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the domestic court’s alleged failure to examine one of his claims in the course of the proceedings concerning compensation.

The Court notes that the final domestic decision in the proceedings at issue was given on 18 June 1999 and thus more than six months before the date on which this complaint was lodged with the Court (30 April 2001). It follows that this complaint is time-barred and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention.

6. The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the alleged lack of impartiality of the courts in the proceedings concerning compensation.

The Court observes that the applicant has not provided any prima facie evidence supporting his allegations. His complaint relates to errors of law allegedly committed by the courts in question and to alleged connections of certain partners in the defendant company. The Court sees no causal link between the applicant’s submissions in this connection and the alleged lack of impartiality on the part of the domestic courts.

It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Decides to join the applications;

Decides to adjourn the examination of the applicant’s complaints about the allegedly unreasonable length of the proceedings against company X and the proceedings concerning overdue rent;

Declares inadmissible the remainder of the application.

Vincent Berger  Georg Ress 
 Registrar President

ZASKIEWICZ v. POLAND DECISION


ZASKIEWICZ v. POLAND DECISION