The EU Court in Luxemburg today ruled in favour of Pirate Party politician Patrick Breyer and invalidated the EU Commission’s decision to refuse access to written pleadings in court (T-188/12). The EU Commission is generally obliged to disclose pleadings in completed court proceedings to the public, says today’s judgement.
Breyer, whose action was supported by the Swedish government, welcomes this decision:
This judgement forces the Commission to make legal proceedings in the EU more transparent. More transparency is especially important where EU Courts decide on mass surveillance schemes such as blanket data retention. The admissibility of such interferences in our civil liberties is of general interest. The arguments and applications put forward by our governments in court need to be subject to public scrutiny. Democratic governments are accountable to the public, even for their actions in court.
On the other hand, the Court ruled against the publication of pleadings in pending proceedings. The parties should be able to act “independent from any outside influence” and public debate. The judges specifically criticised comments by internet users which were “critical of the Commission”.
The ban on publishing pleadings in pending proceedings is unacceptable. EU court cases with far-reaching effects on millions of citizens are in danger of being declared state secrets. Protecting governments from public influence in court contradicts the concept of democratic overseight and freedom of the press. Parliaments and the public need to be able to discuss whether officials honour their oath to act in public interest when representing us in court, and to call for changes in time where necessary. Democracy is no abuse of rights. Unfortunately I cannot contest the judgement in this respect. Therefore the legislator should create a public right to access court files. Justice requires transparency.