Courts around the world have been developing new working patterns and using new technology to ensure that justice continues through the COVID-19 pandemic: the ECJ and ECHR are no exception.
The European Court of Justice
As of 16th March, the ECJ suspended all hearings and advised that some cases would receive written questions so they would not be any delay. Urgent cases are still being dealt with by the judiciary.
In respect of procedural time limits, the ECJ has advised that the time limits relating to issuing proceedings and lodging appeal are as usual. However, in on-going proceedings, all time limits are extended by 1 month. The time limit will expire at the end of the day on the same date of the following month, if this date does not exist, the time limit will be the last day of the following month.
The ECJ issued press release on 27th April 2020 advising that hearings are scheduled to resume on 25th May 2020.
The European Court of Human Rights
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ECHR issued 4 press releases advising of the measures that it has taken.
The ECHR has advised that it is complying with measures taken by the French Authorities and oral hearings are suspended and the Court is not convening in person. The Court is continuing to produce judgments with written procedures. This has enabled the Grand Chamber to adopt “judgments concerning 15 applications and decisions concerning 26 applications, while the Committees have adopted judgments relating to 49 applications and decisions relating to 146 applications” (as stated in the 27th March press release).
Further to this, the ECHR has extended some of it’s time limits. On 16th March, the ECHR announced that the 6 month time limit (for lodging applications) under Article 35 of the European Convention of Human Rights had been “exceptionally extended” for 1 month. This was subsequently extended for an additional 2 months from 16th April to 15th June.
Time limits that were originally allotted in pending proceedings (16th March) have been extended for an additional 2 months (from 16th April). This does not apply to Article 43 of the Convention, whereby 3 months are given to parties who intend to make a referral request to the Grand Chamber.
Crucially, the ECHR is maintaining Rule 39 of the Court which facilitates the ongoing examination of requests for interim measures.