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ECHR: Slovakia owes Lawyer Partners

THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has delivered a written judgment in the case of Lawyer Partners, A.S. v. Slovakia on June 16. The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of the right of access to a court established in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the refusal by the domestic courts to register actions submitted by the applicant company in electronic form.

THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has delivered a written judgment in the case of Lawyer Partners, A.S. v. Slovakia on June 16. The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of the right of access to a court established in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the refusal by the domestic courts to register actions submitted by the applicant company in electronic form.

ECHR awarded the applicant company €10,000 in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage and €8,000 for costs and expenses.

Between 2005 and 2006 Lawyer Partners concluded contracts with Slovak Radio in which it acquired the right to recover unpaid broadcast receiver licences in 355,917 cases. Lawyer Partners was obliged to sue those persons who had refused to pay the debt which it had acquired the right to recover. In March and July 2006 the applicant company filed actions with several district courts. The actions were generated by means of computer software and recorded on DVDs that were sent to the courts concerned, accompanied by an explanatory letter. The courts refused to register the actions, indicating that they lacked the equipment to receive and process submissions made and signed electronically.

Although other means such as telegraph, fax, or in written or oral form had been provided in Slovak law for filing submissions with courts, the only practical possibility for the applicant company to institute the 70,000 individual proceedings was to submit the actions electronically.

If printed, the documents recorded on the DVDs would have filled more than 40 million pages.

Slovak Justice Minister Štefan Harabin said that the ruling is European proof of the moral and professional failure of his predecessors, according to a press release.

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