Application no. 52039/99 
against Poland

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 8 July 2003 as a Chamber composed of

Sir Nicolas Bratza, President
 Mr M. Pellonpää
 Mrs V. Strážnická
 Mr R. Maruste
 Mr S. Pavlovschi
 Mr L. Garlicki, 
 Mr J. Borrego Borrego, judges
and Mr M. O’Boyle, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 26 February 1999,

Having regard to the partial decision of 16 October 2001,

Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:


The applicant, Marek Zmaliński, is a Polish national, who was born in 1957 and lives in Tychy, Poland.

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

The applicant is a member and an employee of a labour co-operative (spółdzielnia pracy).

On 12 April 1991 he filed with the Warsaw Regional Court (sąd wojewódzki) an action in which he requested the annulment of several resolutions adopted by the assembly of the representatives of the co-operative (walne zgromadzenie). The contested resolutions concerned the co-operative’s finance.

Between 1992 and 1995, in addition to the original claim, the applicant challenged other resolutions relating to the division of the yearly profit of the co-operative.

On 18 November 1992 the court heard two witnesses and ordered an expert opinion.

On 14 May 1993 the applicant extended his claim.

On 9 September 1993 an expert refused to prepare the opinion ordered by the court, relying on the applicant’s alleged lack of co-operation. The applicant submits that that allegation was not confirmed by the court.

At the hearing held on 15 October 1993 the court summoned the applicant to submit documents that could be of relevance to that opinion.

The opinion was submitted to the court in March 1994.

On 3 March 1994 the applicant modified his claim.

On 24 March 1994 the court issued a decision concerning the remuneration of the court expert. The decision was subsequently amended by the Warsaw Court of Appeal.

On 9 May 1994 the applicant extended his claim.

In a letter of 9 August 1994 the President of the Warsaw Court of Appeal (sąd apelacyjny) admitted that the time-limit for preparing the expert opinion had not been observed by the expert and that there had been periods of inactivity on the part of the Regional Court. On 10 October 1994 the court refused the applicant’s request for exemption from court costs. On 13 December 1994 the Warsaw Court of Appeal upheld that decision.

On 21 October 1994 and 4 April 1995 the applicant modified his claim.

According to the Government, on 19 May 1995 the court held a hearing. The applicant submits that it was adjourned because the defendant had not been duly summoned.

On 23 May 1995 the court dismissed the applicant’s subsequent request for exemption from court costs. On 3 October 1995 the Warsaw Court of Appeal amended in part that decision.

On 7 February 1996 the Regional Court held a hearing.

On 21 March and 1 July 1996 the applicant extended his claim.

The Government submit that the hearing scheduled for 4 December 1996 was adjourned, as the parties considered reaching a settlement. The applicant states that the court itself suggested the settlement of the case and gave the parties a time-limit to start negotiations. On 22 January 1997 the defendant informed the court that no settlement had been reached.

On 5 November 1997 the court held another hearing.

On 14 November 1997 it gave judgment in which it dismissed the applicant’s action. The applicant appealed.

On 24 April 1998 the Warsaw Court of Appeal gave judgment. It quashed a part of the first-instance court’s judgment and remitted the case in that part for re-examination. The applicant lodged with the Supreme Court a cassation appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

On 25 May 2001 the Supreme Court refused to entertain that appeal. Subsequently, pursuant to the judgment of the Warsaw Court of Appeal, some of the applicant’s claims were remitted to the Regional Court for re-examination.

On 14 January 2002 the Regional Court held a hearing.

On 28 January 2002 it gave judgment in which it dismissed the applicant’s claim. On 14 May 2002 the applicant appealed.

The proceedings are still continuing.


The applicant’s complaint relates to the length of the proceedings, which began on 12 April 1991 and are still pending. They have therefore already lasted 12 years, 2 months and 26 days, out of which a period of 10 years, 2 months and 8 days falls within the Court’s competence ratione temporis, Poland having recognised the right of individual petition as from 1 May 1993.

According to the applicant, the length of the proceedings is in breach of the “reasonable time” requirement laid down in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. The Government reject the allegation.

The Court considers, in the light of the criteria established in its case-law on the question of “reasonable time” (the complexity of the case, the applicant’s conduct and that of the competent authorities), and having regard to all the information in its possession, that an examination of the merits of this complaint is required.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares the remainder of the application admissible, without prejudging the merits of the case.

Michael O’Boyle Nicolas Bratza 
 Registrar President