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Reforms to address unreasonable legal delays

Rumpf v. Germany  | 2010

Reforms to address unreasonable legal delays

Background

Dozens of cases were brought to the Strasbourg court about excessive legal delays in Germany.

One example was the case of Rüdiger Rumpf. Mr Rumpf ran a personal security service. He lodged an administrative request – later leading to a legal challenge – which had been crucial to the running of his business.

However, it took 13 years and 5 months for his case to be finally rejected. Whilst losing the case had cost money, the length of proceedings and resulting uncertainty had also caused him significant damage.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

There had been no reason for Mr Rumpf’s proceedings to take such a long time. The length of the case had violated his right to have his claim decided by a court in a reasonable time.

Using Mr Rumpf’s application as a test case, the court identified a structural problem. German law did not provide a way for people to obtain a remedy for unreasonable legal delays – such as proceedings being speeded up, or compensation.

The court found similar violations in 70 other cases.

Follow-up

This judgment and others led to a new law In December 2011 to tackle unreasonable legal delays. It gave people the opportunity to challenge slow progress in judicial proceedings and ask for this to be remedied. It also provided a right to compensation if the delays continue after a request has been made for them to stop. 

These reforms and others allowed Germany to overcome a long-standing structural problem concerning remedies for excessively long civil proceedings.