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HFHR on ten-year administrative proceedings

The HFHR has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Administrative Court, commenting on the excessive duration of administrative proceedings that were has been pending for almost a decade. The main purpose of the opinion is to summarise the jurisprudence of the ECtHR related to the calculation of the excessive length.

In 2006, H.K. filed a motion with the Minister of Agriculture seeking to invalidate an administrative decision from 1979 under which the State Treasury acquired a property owned by his parents. Proceedings concerning the motion have been pending from that moment on, while all further decisions made by the Minister have been annulled by administrative courts as illegal.

When in July 2015 the Minister once again denied his motion, H.K. applied for the re-examination of the case. The man should have received a decision within one month. However, this did not happen and at the end of September 2015 H.K. called on the body to remedy the infringement. In the absence of the Minister’s response, in November 2015 H.K. submitted a complaint to the Provincial Administrative Court claiming the excessive duration of the proceedings. However, several days later he received the decision of the Minister sustaining the decision to dismiss his application. The decision was dated 4 November 2015, which is one day before H.K. filed a complaint against the excessive duration.

In March 2016, the Provincial Administrative Court dismissed the complaint of H.K. stating that at the moment when the complaint was filed the body had already issued a decision, thus the decision was not delayed and the fact that it was delivered a few days later was of no consequence. The fact that on the same day the Provincial Administrative Court once again reversed the Minister’s decision was also found to have been immaterial. Currently, the complaint of H.K. is considered by the Ministry already for the fifth time. H.K. filed a complaint in cassation with the Supreme Administrative Court against the decision of the Provincial Administrative Court to dismiss his complaint against the excessive duration of the proceedings. The HFHR decided to take action in this case.

In its legal opinion, the HFHR argues that the interpretation of the Provincial Administrative Court is incompatible with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. In assessing whether or not a case of excessive duration occurred, the ECtHR takes into consideration proceedings as a whole, that is from their commencement to the ultimate conclusion. According to the reasoning of the ECtHR, proceedings in the case of the motion of H.K. have not yet been completed but are pending uninterruptedly since 2006. While for the Supreme Administrative Court the only significant part of the proceedings is that during which the complaint against the excessive duration was filed. “The ECtHR has repeatedly criticised Polish courts for such a selective interpretation of the concept of the length of proceedings. In July 2015, the ECtHR entered a pilot judgment – in the case Rutkowski and v. Poland – in which the Court obliged Poland to implement appropriate changes to the law on complaints against excessive durability. In our opinion, this judgment should also apply to complaints against the excessive duration of administrative procedures”, explains Marcin Szwed, lawyer of the HFHR.

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