The ECtHR judgment of 23 May 2017 in the case of Paluda v. Slovakia (application No. 33392/12).
In 2012, the applicant was assisted in preparing the application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to Slovakia.
In the case, the complaint on the impossibility of a judicial appeal against the decision to suspend the performance of the judge's duties for the time of the disciplinary proceedings initiated against him was successfully considered. There has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
In September 2009, the Judicial Council of the Slovak Republic (the supreme governing body of the judiciary in Slovakia, which at that time was headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) decided to suspend the applicant's discharge of the duties of a judge of the Supreme Court and bring him disciplinary charges. In particular, it was alleged that the applicant accused the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of abuse of office and publicly expressed that the chairman was trying to influence the outcome of the proceedings. The suspension, which under applicable law could last up to two years, entailed a 50 per cent reduction in the applicant's pecuniary maintenance. The applicant's attempts to challenge this suspension were unsuccessful. His complaint to the Judicial Council was dismissed on the grounds that it was within the competence of administrative courts. The administrative courts ruled that the decision to suspend the applicant was preliminary, did not constitute a definition of his rights with a final effect and as such did not affect his fundamental rights and freedoms. The applicant's complaints to the Constitutional Court were declared inadmissible. In the conventional proceedings, the applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that he was denied access to the court to challenge the order to suspend the performance of his duties.
ISSUES OF LAW
The suspension of the applicant's authority was applied by the Judicial Council, a body that was not judicial in nature and did not provide for the institutional and procedural safeguards inherent in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, in the context of the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Judicial Council. The applicant was not heard in relation to the suspension or related disciplinary charges.
The applicant did not have access to proceedings in the court within the meaning of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention in order to challenge the suspension, which for two years made it impossible for him to discharge his judicial duties and caused retention of half of his pay, while at the same time it was impossible to obtain any other income. The authorities of the respondent state did not refer to any reason that deprived the applicant of judicial protection in respect of this measure. In this respect, it was important to make a clear distinction between the provocatively compelling reasons for the suspension of the duties of the judge against whom a certain type of disciplinary charge was raised and the reasons preventing him from accessing the court in connection with this suspension. In the Court's opinion, the importance of this distinction was supplemented by the fact that the body that used the measure and the procedure during which it was applied did not meet the requirements of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, and also the fact that the measure was applied in a context such as the applicant's case. Consequently, the applicant's denial of access to the court could not be proportionate to any legitimate aim pursued. Accordingly, the very essence of his right to access to justice was diminished.
The violation of the requirements of paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Convention (unanimously) was committed.
In the application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicant EUR 7,800 in respect of non-pecuniary damage, the claim for pecuniary damage was rejected.