The applicant, Mr. Croissant, was tried in connection with his activities as the lawyer of various members of the "Red Army Faction". He was represented by two lawyers, but the court which tried the case appointed a third lawyer to ensure the continuance of the trial. Mr. Croissant requested the third counsel to be dismissed as they had opposite political views. His request was dismissed and after conviction he was required to pay the fees of all three lawyers.
Mr. Croissant argued that an obligation to pay the costs of a lawyer appointed essentially to ensure the continuance of the trial violated his right to a fair trial.
The Court noted that everyone has a right to choose his own counsel. Appointing multiple counsels for the accused is not in principle incompatible with the Convention, however before nominating a counsel a court should take note of the accused’s views in this regard. This is so especially where, as in Germany, the accused will in principle have to bear the subsequent costs if he/she is convicted. The Court noted that failure to provide sufficient and relevant justification for a decision to appoint a lawyer against defendant’s wishes would violate his/her right to a fair trial. The Court also noted that the right to choose the lawyer is not absolute and can be subject to certain limitations if there are relevant and sufficient reasons for holding that such restriction is in the interests of justice.
In the particular case the Court found that the national court’s reasons for appointing another counsel were sufficient – since it aimed at avoiding interruptions or adjournments. The national court also considered the probable length and complexity of the case and chose a lawyer qualified to deal with a case involving those special features. Thus the Court found no violation of the right trial of Mr. Croissant.