Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by LawEuro
The applicant, a Slovak national, complained of the excessive length of civil proceedings which started on 20 June 2012 when he lodged a claim for damages against the State, complaining that a denial by a court of his claims submitted in insolvency proceedings amounted to official misconduct (nesprávny úradný postup).
CASE OF SARKOCY v. SLOVAKIA
(Application no. 1971/22)
21 September 2023
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Sarkocy v. Slovakia,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Krzysztof Wojtyczek, President,
Ivana Jelić, judges,
and Viktoriya Maradudina, Acting Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 31 August 2023,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application against Slovakia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on 9 December 2021.
2. The Government of the Slovak Republic (“the Government”) were given notice of the application.
3. The applicant’s details and information relevant to the application are set out in the appended table.
4. The applicant, a Slovak national, complained of the excessive length of civil proceedings which started on 20 June 2012 when he lodged a claim for damages against the State, complaining that a denial by a court of his claims submitted in insolvency proceedings amounted to official misconduct (nesprávny úradný postup).
5. The first-instance court delivered a judgment on 8 September 2015, against which the applicant appealed. On 11 March 2016 the case file was transmitted to the appellate court, which upheld the first-instance court’s judgment on 19 December 2017 and sent the case file back on 31 January 2018. The appellate court thus dealt with the appeal from 11 March 2016 until 31 January 2018.
6. On 16 October 2019, following the applicant’s appeal on points of law, the first-instance court transmitted the case file to the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal; on 17 April 2020, the case file was returned to the first‑instance court.
7. On 4 May 2021 the first-instance court’s decision concerning the costs became final, which put an end to the proceedings.
8. During the proceedings, the applicant turned to the Constitutional Court with two complaints about their length before the first-instance court.
9. Upon the applicant’s first complaint lodged on 28 May 2015, on 1 June 2016 the Constitutional Court found a violation of his right to a hearing within a reasonable time (I. ÚS 13/2016). It ordered the first-instance court to proceed without unnecessary delay and to reimburse the applicant’s legal costs. It also awarded him 600 euros (EUR) for non-pecuniary damage.
10. Following the applicant’s second complaint, the Constitutional Court found another violation of his right to a hearing within a reasonable time (III. ÚS 160/2021). It ordered the first-instance court to reimburse the applicant’s legal costs but made no award for non-pecuniary damage. The Constitutional Court considered that the applicant had previously been compensated for non-pecuniary damage and his second complaint had been lodged after the impugned proceedings in the part concerning merits had already been concluded. It found that the applicant had not suffered any irreparable damage and therefore the finding of a violation and reimbursement of legal costs provided sufficient redress.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
11. The applicant complained that the length of the civil proceedings in question had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement. He relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
12. The Government considered that the applicant was no longer a “victim” of the alleged violation, given namely the acknowledgement of the violation by the Constitutional Court, the earlier award for non-pecuniary damage and the order for the first-instance court to act without delay. They also contended that the applicant had not suffered any significant disadvantage. Indeed, the outcome of the impugned proceedings had been clear from the very outset because the applicant derived his claim against the State from alleged official misconduct in the insolvency proceedings in which he had failed to exhaust available remedies. In any event, his claims submitted in the insolvency proceedings would never have been satisfied due to a lack of the debtor’s assets.
13. Furthermore, the Government pointed out that the applicant had been a claimant in about 90 sets of judicial proceedings at that time. Relying on the Court’s findings in Žirovnický v. the Czech Republic ([Committee], nos. 10092/13 and 6 others, § 117, 8 February 2018), the Government concluded that such a fact necessarily had an impact on the applicant’s perception of the damage caused by the unreasonable length of the proceedings, compared to people for whom lodging an action and participating in judicial proceedings was not a common part of their everyday lives.
14. The Court notes that the applicant’s constitutional complaints were not directed against the appellate court and the Supreme Court (see paragraphs 9 and 10 above). Hence, the relevant period before the latter courts (see paragraphs 5 and 6 above) is outside the scope of the examination by the Court due to the applicant’s failure to exhaust domestic remedies in accordance with the applicable procedural rules and established practice (see Obluk v. Slovakia, no. 69484/01, § 62, 20 September 2006). The Court will thus examine the period as specified in the appended table, which excludes the parts of the proceedings before the appellate court and the Supreme Court.
15. The Court observes that the Constitutional Court twice found a violation of the applicant’s right to be heard within a reasonable time before the first-instance court and ordered it to act without delay and to reimburse the applicant his legal costs. It also awarded compensation of EUR 600 for the non‑pecuniary damage suffered by the applicant (see paragraph 9 above).
16. It remains to be assessed whether the above redress can be considered appropriate and sufficient under the circumstances of the present case (see, for example, Jensen v. Denmark (dec.), no. 48470/99, 20 March 2003). In that connection the Court reiterates that there is a strong but rebuttable presumption that excessively long proceedings will occasion non‑pecuniary damage unless duly justified otherwise (see Šedý v. Slovakia, no. 72237/01, § 89, 19 December 2006, with further references).
17. Taking into consideration the above-mentioned elements, the Court finds that the redress obtained by the applicant at the domestic level cannot be considered sufficient in the light of its case-law. In contrast with Šedý (cited above, §§ 90-92), the proceedings in the instant case had not been substantially prolonged by the applicant and the fact that he had lodged an action, even though seemingly to no avail, cannot be imputed to him as regards the length of the concerned proceedings. Moreover, although the Constitutional Court ordered the first-instance court to act without delay in its judgment of 1 June 2016, the first-instance court took almost another three years after the case file had been returned to it from the appellate court and the Supreme Court, respectively (see paragraphs 5 and 6 above), to decide with final effect. Therefore, the applicant can still claim to be a “victim” of a breach of the “reasonable time” requirement.
18. Neither can the Court agree with the Government that the disadvantage suffered by the applicant is “non-significant”, given that the proceedings before the first-instance court alone lasted almost six and a half years. Clearly, such length cannot not be considered as being compatible with the principle of reasonableness laid down in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, all the more so in the light of the Government’s argument that the applicant’s claim lacked from the very outset any chance of success.
19. The Court reiterates that the reasonableness of the length of proceedings must be assessed in the light of the circumstances of the case and with reference to the following criteria: the complexity of the case, the conduct of the applicant and the relevant authorities and what was at stake for the applicant in the dispute (see Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII).
20. In the leading case of Obluk (cited above), the Court has already found a violation of Article 6 of the Convention given an excessive length of the proceedings.
21. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court has not found any fact or argument capable of justifying the overall length of the proceedings at the national level. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that in the instant case the length of the proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement.
22. These complaints are therefore admissible and disclose a breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
23. 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.”
24. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case‑law (see, in particular, Obluk, cited above), the Court considers it reasonable to award the sum indicated in the appended table.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the application admissible;
2. Holds that this application discloses a breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention concerning the excessive length of civil proceedings;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months, the amount indicated in the appended table;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 21 September 2023, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Viktoriya Maradudina Krzysztof Wojtyczek
Acting Deputy Registrar President
Application raising complaints under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention
(excessive length of civil proceedings)
Date of introduction
Year of birth
|Start of proceedings||End of proceedings||Total length
Levels of jurisdiction
|Amount awarded for
pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage per applicant
|6 years, 5 months and
1 level of jurisdiction
III. US 160/2021 and
I. US 13/2016
 Plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant.