31. The Court has previously accepted that an attorney who had represented the management of a factory in a high-profile insolvency case and who had therefore become a well-known local lawyer had been rightly deemed to be a public figure by the domestic court (see Bodrožić and Vujin v. Serbia, no. 38435/05, § 34, 23 June 2009). In another case, which arose from criticism of the professional activity of the applicant as a public prosecutor, the Court has reasoned that public prosecutors are civil servants, part of the judicial system, whose task it is to contribute to the proper administration of justice. It has also held that there is no doubt that in a democratic society individuals are entitled to comment on and criticise the administration of justice and the officials involved in it (see Lavric v. Romania, no. 22231/05, §§ 34 and 35, 14 January 2014). By way of parallel, in a case which indirectly concerned the protection of the reputation of a doctor who had been responsible for over 8,000 cosmetic surgery operations, the Court also accepted that press articles which recounted the personal experiences of a number of women who had undergone cosmetic surgery, giving rise to a complaint under Article 10, concerned an important aspect of human health and as such raised serious issues affecting the public interest. In this regard, the Court did not accept the Government’s argument that the grievances of a few patients concerning the standard of health care afforded by a particular surgeon were private matters between the patient and surgeon themselves and were not matters in which the community at large had an interest. The articles concerned allegations of unacceptable health care provided at a private cosmetic surgery clinic and as such raised matters of consumer protection of direct concern to the local and national public (see Bergens Tidende and Others v. Norway, no. 26132/95, § 51, ECHR 2000 IV).
32. Lastly, Resolution 1165 (1998) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the right to privacy defines public figures as “persons holding public office and/or using public resources and, more broadly speaking, all those who play a role in public life, whether in politics, the economy, the arts, the social sphere, sport or in any other domain.”
33. It is unknown whether the applicant in the instant case has ever entered the public scene by virtue of being involved as a lawyer in any high‑profile cases. However, the applicant’s prior conduct is immaterial, since it can readily be accepted that although an attorney has a different status to that of a judge or a prosecutor, his profession is nevertheless one of public trust. As such, he is an indispensable element of the justice system. Whether hired privately or assigned to represent someone under the legal-aid scheme, the role of an attorney is not merely to advise a client on the material aspects of a case or to ensure that a client’s economic interests are well represented vis-à-vis the adversary. His role goes well beyond this private aspect of an attorney-client relationship because that role is primarily to ensure that a person’s right to a fair trial is respected, whether in the determination of such person’s civil rights and obligations or in respect of any criminal charge against him. It is within this context that comments on a lawyer’s professional skills constitute matters in which the community at large has an interest. It follows that, as rightly pointed out by the domestic courts in the instant case, the applicant, as a practising lawyer, should have accepted that he might be subjected to evaluation by anyone with whom he had ever had any professional dealings.
34. Further, the domestic courts rightly qualified the impugned statement as a value judgment. The post in question did not contain any allegations of unlawful and improper conduct on the part of the applicant and as such could not be subjected to any test of truthfulness, a contrario, what was suggested by the applicant (see, a contrario, Lavric, cited above, § 40), although, even a value judgment may be excessive if it has no factual basis to support it (see Cumpǎnǎ and Mazǎre v. Romania [GC], no. 33348/96, § 99, ECHR 2004‑XI).
35. Moreover, as to its content, the post related strictly to the applicant’s professional status, conveying no more than the author’s critical impressions of the applicant’s legal skills. The message was phrased in non-offensive language, without recourse to vulgarities, threats or derogatory accusations – for example, that the applicant had committed any disciplinary or criminal offence in connection with his professional activity (see, a contrario, Lavric, cited above, §§ 41 and 42; Delfi, cited above, § 114); and Mikolajová v. Slovakia, no. 4479/03, § 57, 18 January 2011).
36. Lastly, in respect of both context and consequences, the critical post in question was followed by numerous posts in which the applicant was assessed as a very good lawyer.
37. The above considerations lead the Court to the conclusion that, although the criticism in question undoubtedly affected the applicant’s reputation as a lawyer, it did not offend, shock or disturb, nor did it significantly and adversely undermine that reputation to such a degree as to go beyond the limits of permissible criticism. In such circumstances, and having regard to the margin of appreciation enjoyed by the national courts when balancing competing interests, it must be concluded that the latter have not failed to comply with their positive obligations under Article 8 of the Convention. A limitation on freedom of expression for the sake of the applicant’s professional reputation in the circumstances of the present case would have been disproportionate under Article 10 of the Convention.