by Jerzy ZAJADŁO
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 17 February 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 15 June 2007,
Having regard to the decision to apply Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and examine the admissibility and merits of the case together,
Having regard to the formal declarations accepting a friendly settlement of the case,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Jerzy Zajadło, is a Polish national who was born in 1954 and lives in Gdynia. He was represented before the Court by Mr A. Drania, a lawyer practising in Gdynia. The Polish Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr J. Wołąsiewicz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A. The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
a. Civil proceedings for damages instituted by the applicant
The applicant is a professor of law and a member of the Bar. On 23 August 2002 a daily newspaper published an article entitled 200 tysięcy piechotą (“200 thousand on foot”). In this article the applicant was described as an advocate having ties with criminals and the Trójmiasto underworld.
On 27 August 2002 the applicant instituted civil proceedings for damages with the Gdańsk Regional Court, alleging a violation of his personal property (dobra osobiste), in particular his good name.
On 2 October 2002 the Gdańsk Regional Court found that it was not competent ratione loci to examine the case and ordered that it be transferred to the Warsaw Regional Court.
On 12 July 2005 the Warsaw Regional Court held a hearing in the case.
In the following months on several occasions, including on 19 June 2006, the applicant filed applications with the Warsaw Regional Court to have another hearing scheduled in the case.
Eventually, the hearing was scheduled for 23 January 2007.
On 5 August 2008 the Warsaw Regional Court gave judgment in favour of the applicant. It appears that this judgment was not appealed against.
b. Proceedings under the 2004 Act
On 29 January 2007 the applicant filed a complaint with the Warsaw Court of Appeal under the Law of 17 June 2004 on complaints about a breach of the right to a trial within a reasonable time (Ustawa o skardze na naruszenie prawa strony do rozpoznania sprawy w postępowaniu sądowym bez nieuzasadnionej zwłoki (“the 2004 Act”). He alleged that the civil proceedings before the Warsaw Regional Court had exceeded a “reasonable” time.
On 19 February 2007 the Warsaw Court of Appeal, despite admitting that the proceedings in the case had been unreasonably lengthy, dismissed the applicant’s complaint. The court found that the purpose of the remedies provided for by the 2004 Act was not to declare that proceedings had taken unreasonably long time and to award damages but to accelerate the course of pending proceedings. The court concluded that since the hearing in the case had eventually been scheduled for 23 January 2007, the complaint lodged by the applicant pursuant to the 2004 Act had thus served its purpose. Therefore it had become groundless and had to be dismissed.
B. Relevant domestic law and practice
The relevant domestic law and practice concerning remedies for the excessive length of judicial proceedings, in particular the applicable provisions of the Law of 17 June 2004 on complaints about a breach of the right to a trial within a reasonable time (Ustawa o skardze na naruszenie prawa strony do rozpoznania sprawy w postępowaniu sądowym bez nieuzasadnionej zwłoki) (“the 2004 Act”), are set out in the Court’s decisions in the cases of Charzyński v. Poland (dec.), no. 15212/03, §§ 12-23, ECHR 2005-V and Ratajczyk v. Poland (dec.), no. 11215/02, ECHR 2005-VIII, and the judgment in the case of Krasuski v. Poland, no. 61444/00, §§ 34-46, ECHR 2005-V.
The applicant complained under Article 6 of the Convention about the excessive length of the civil proceedings for damages he had instituted.
He further alleged, invoking Article 13 of the Convention, that the remedy provided for by the 2004 Act was not effective. He stressed that the domestic court, despite admitting that the proceedings in his case had been unreasonably lengthy, had dismissed his complaint.
On 21 January 2009 the Court received the following declaration from the Government:
“I, Jakub Wołasiewicz, agent of the Government, declare that the Government of Poland offer to pay 15,000 Polish zlotys to Mr Jerzy Zajadło with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, which is to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses, will be free of any taxes that may be applicable. It will be payable within three months from the date of notification of the decision taken by the Court pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In the event of failure to pay this sum within the said three-month period, the Government undertake to pay simple interest on it, from expiry of that period until settlement, at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points. The payment will constitute the final resolution of the case.”
On 21 January 2009 the Court received the following declaration signed by the applicant’s legal representative:
“I, Jerzy Zajadło, the applicant, note that the Government of Poland are prepared to pay me the sum of 15,000 Polish zlotys with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the above-mentioned case pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
This sum, which is to cover any pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage as well as costs and expenses, will be free of any taxes that may be applicable. It will be payable within three months from the date of notification of the decision taken by the Court pursuant to Article 37 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 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.
Having consulted my client, I would inform you that he accepts the proposal and waives any further claims against Poland in respect of the facts giving rise to this application. He declares that this constitutes a final resolution of the case.”
The Court takes note of the friendly settlement reached between the parties. It is satisfied that the settlement is based on respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols and finds no reasons to justify a continued examination of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine of the Convention). In view of the above, it is appropriate to strike the case out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza