Case No 2003-04-01

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia
27 June 2003


The applicant, Ms. Strode, claimed that her rights to fair trial has been violated by the norm of Civil Procedure law providing that only sworn attorney can submit an appeal on points of law to the court of cassation. She claimed that it precludes her from submitting an application on points of law, because her level of income is too low to hire a sworn attorney.

Court’s ruling

The Court noted that the right to access court is part of the right to a fair trial. This right is not absolute and it can be restricted provided that these restrictions serve a legitimate aim and are proportional. The Court reminded that the Court of Cassation has a special public duty - to ensure correct and uniform application of the law. The Court recognized that professionally prepared claims which the applicant would not be able to write would enable the Court of Cassation to fulfill its public function and would protect the applicant’s rights more effectively. Therefore the participation of adequately trained and professional lawyer should indeed be obligatory.

However, the Court found that apart from sworn attorneys there were other persons having enough knowledge and training to be able to provide qualitative representation before the Court of Cassation. For example, those would be persons with a doctoral degree in law, legal entities with the main aim of giving legal aid, state institutions and other appropriately qualified persons. The Court also found that the state provided legal aid to the persons who were officially recognized as persons of low income only in criminal proceedings. Furthermore, a problem existed where a person whose income was slightly above the limit required to be recognized as person of “low-income” may also not afford the services of an attorney. Therefore Court found that civil litigants who cannot afford to pay for services of legal professionals must be able to acquire legal aid from the state. For these reasons the Court ruled that the contested legal provisions were not compatible with the right to a fair trial.

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Last updated 08/11/2023