European Court of Human Rights
19 December 1997

Facts

The applicant, Ms. Brualla Gómez de la Torre, was involved in a civil lawsuit concerning a lease agreement. She wanted to appeal the decision of a lower court to the Supreme Court. Shortly before entering her appeal with the Supreme Court the law regulating the admissibility of claims was amended setting a higher minimum amount of rent due for a claim to be admissible. As a result the Supreme Court found that the annual amount of rent payable under the applicant’s lease in question was less than the minimum amount required under the law for an appeal to lie to the Supreme Court and found the applicant’s appeal inadmissible.

Complaint

The applicant complained that the decision of the Supreme Court violated her right of access to a court.

Court’s ruling

The Court noted that Convention does not compel the Contracting States to set up courts of appeal or of cassation, but where such courts do exist, the guarantees of Article 6 must be complied with, for instance in that it guarantees to litigants an effective right of access to the courts for the determination of their “civil rights and obligations”. The Court emphasized that the right to access to court is not absolute and states have certain freedom to determine conditions of admissibility of an appeal. Furthermore, the conditions of admissibility of an appeal on points of law may be stricter and more formal than for an ordinary appeal. However, these limitations must not restrict or reduce a person’s access in such a way or to such an extent that the person cannot use this right at all. Additionally, these limitations must have a legitimate aim and they have to be proportionate to this aim. In the particular case the Court accepted that the minimum amount of claim before the Supreme Court was set to avoid that court’s becoming overloaded with cases of lesser importance. Having regard to the proceedings as a whole, the Court considered that the applicant, whose case was already heard by two lower courts was not unduly hindered in her right of access to a tribunal. Therefore there was no violation of Article 6 of the Convention.

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