No. 24




High Court Fee as an Impediment to Access to a Court in Civil Proceedings *

  • Margit Vutt

    Private Law Analyst, Supreme Court of Estonia

The article is based on the court practice analysis entitled “High court fee as an impediment to access to justice”, conducted by the Legal Information Department of the Supreme Court.

According to the Constitution of Estonia everyone has the right to the protection of the state and of the law. The guarantee of rights and freedoms is the duty of the legislative, executive and judicial powers, and of local governments. Everyone whose rights and freedoms are violated has the right of recourse to the courts. Access to justice as a fundamental right is also protected by Article 6 of European Convention of Human Rights that foresees the right to a fair trial.

When evaluating whether the access to justice is guaranteed or not, one must take into ac-count several aspects. One of those is the cost of justice and therefore excessive court fees can also block the right to apply to court. The article focuses on the essence and purpose of a court fee and its aim is to find out what have been the main principles of establishing the rates of court fees in Estonia and what should be taken into account when introducing similar rules in the future. At the moment Estonian legislation lacks calculations that would help to determine the appropriate level of state fees.

The analysis shows that the main idea in establishing court fees is the cost principle. But this principle is at the moment only declarative as our legislation is lacking relevant calculations. It is true that almost every country levies some charge for use of its courts, but the rates of Estonian court fees tend to be very high compared to most of the other European countries. Several norms of Estonian Code of Civil Procedure and State Fees Act have lately been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Estonia and more similar cases are pend-ing. The legislator has yet not managed to react to the Supreme Court’s implications to care-fully analyse and correct the system of the court fees.

Full article in Estonian

*The article is based on the analysis conducted in the Riigikogu in May 2011. Read more at: Vutt, M., Lillsaar, M., Rohtmets, E. Kõrge riigilõiv kui õigusemõistmisele juurdepääsu takistus. Kohtupraktika analüüs (High State Fees as an Obstacle to the Access to Justice. Analysis of Case Law). Tartu, 9 May 2011 –