(Application no. 75204/01)
5 October 2006
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 Klasen v. Germany,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr P. Lorenzen,
Mr K. Jungwiert,
Mr V. Butkevych,
Mrs M. Tsatsa-Nikolovska,
Mr J. Borrego Borrego,
Mrs R. Jaeger,
Mr M. Villiger, judges,
and Mrs C. Westerdiek, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 11 September 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
I. PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS
II. COMPLAINT UNDER ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION ABOUT THE LENGTH OF PROCEEDINGS
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
1. Substantiation of the complaint
2. Exhaustion of domestic remedies
26. Secondly, bearing in mind that the Federal Constitutional Court refused to admit the applicant's complaint about a length of over four years and nine months, it is uncertain whether an earlier complaint – about correspondingly shorter proceedings – would have had more prospects of success. In any event, the Court has recently held that a constitutional complaint is not capable of affording redress for the excessive length of pending civil proceedings (see Sürmeli v. Germany [GC], no. 75529/01, § 108, ECHR 2006-...).
31. The applicant argued that the suspension of the proceedings before the Social Court had only been necessary because of the delay occurred in the proceedings concerning the precedent. He contended that there had been no approval to a delay of more than one month of the impugned proceedings. Furthermore, the Government had failed to specify which case had been more urgent so as to justify the delay occurred before the Federal Constitutional Court.
33. The Court considers that the case involved points of fact and law of some complexity, as is shown by the fact that the Federal Constitutional Court solicited the observations of various authorities before rendering its decision (see § 15 above).
34. The applicant's conduct did not cause any delay in the proceedings.
35. With regard to the conduct of the Social Court, the Court considers that it might be reasonable for national courts to await under certain circumstances the outcome of parallel proceedings as a measure of procedural efficiency. However, this decision must be proportionate having regard to the special circumstances of the case (see König v. Germany, cited above, § 110; Boddaert v. Belgium, judgment of 12 October 1992, Series A no. 235 D, § 39; Pafitis and Others v. Greece, judgment of 26 February 1998, Reports 1998 I, § 97; and Stork, cited above, § 44). In the present case, the Social Court abstained from deciding on the applicant's case in view of the precedent pending before the Social Court of Appeal and the Federal Social Court. As the latter courts dealt with the precedent expeditiously, that is within ten and nine months respectively, the Court holds that, even assuming that the applicant's lawyer did not agree to the suspension of the proceedings at issue, their length of two years and four months before the Social Court may be considered as justified by considerations of procedural efficiency.
39. In the light of the foregoing, the Court concludes that the length of the proceedings before the Federal Constitutional Court exceeded a reasonable time. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
III. COMPLAINT UNDER ARTICLE 6 OF THE CONVENTION ABOUT UNFAIR PROCEEDINGS
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by an ...impartial tribunal...”
45. The Court therefore holds that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded.
IV. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“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.”
B. Costs and expenses
53. According to the Court's consistent case-law, to be awarded costs and expenses the injured party must have incurred them in order to seek the prevention or rectification of a violation of the Convention, to have the same established by the Court and to obtain redress for it. It must also be shown that the costs were actually and necessarily incurred and that they are reasonable as to quantum (see, inter alia, Venema v. the Netherlands, no. 35731/97, § 117, ECHR 2002-X).
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Holds that the applicant's widow, Mrs Pauline Klasen, had sufficient interest to justify the continuation of the examination of the case;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 1,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 500 in respect of costs and expenses, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts 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 5 October 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Claudia Westerdiek Peer