Legal Principles and Key Points
- In the case of c-279/09 DEB v Germany 2010 ECR I-3849 it was held by the European Court of justice that the principle of effective judicial protection as enshrined in Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental rights of the European Union, must be interpreted as to mean legal persons can be entitled to legal aid.
Facts of the Case
- The European Court of Justice was required to give a preliminary ruling on whether the principle of effectiveness precluded national rules under which the pursuit of a claim seeking to establish state liability under EU law was subject to the advance payment of costs and under which legal person unable to pay such costs did not qualify for legal aid.
- The question arose first when D brought an application for legal aid to pursue an action against the German Government.
- The action was seeking reparation for the profits it had been obliged to forego because of the German Government’s delay in transposing Directive 98/3-, liberalising the natural gas market.
Issues in Case c-279/09 DEB v Germany 2010 ECR I-3849
- Could Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union be interpreted to mean a legal persons can be entitled to legal aid.
Held by Court of Justice (European)
- Preliminary ruling given.
- It was held that since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon 2007, it was necessary to recast the question as one of interpretation of the principle of effective judicial protection as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 2000.
- Paragraph three of the charter, under which legal aid must be made available insofar as such aid was necessary to ensure effective justice.
- From a linguistic view, the wording of the first two paragraphs of art.47, did not exclude legal persons and that is supported using the word “person” rather than “Mensch” in the German Language version of art.47 of the Charter, the provision’s place in the title relating to justice rather than solidarity and the provisions’ inclusion in the article relating to the right to an effective remedy.
- Considering case law of the European Court of Human Rights, it had to be concluded that it was not impossible for legal persons to rely on the principle of effective judicial protection as enshrined in art.47 of the Charter and that legal aid granted under that principle could extend to a dispensation from advance payment costs as well as the assistance of a lawyer.
- “ In the light of all of the foregoing, the answer to the question referred must be that the principle of effective judicial protection, as enshrined in Article 47 of the Charter, must be interpreted as meaning that it is not impossible for legal persons to rely on that principle and that aid granted pursuant to that principle may cover, inter alia, dispensation from advance payment of the costs of proceedings and/or the assistance of a lawyer.
- In that connection, it is for the national court to ascertain whether the conditions for granting legal aid constitute a limitation on the right of access to the courts which undermines the very core of that right; whether they pursue a legitimate aim; and whether there is a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the legitimate aim which it is sought to achieve.” Para 59-60