30. The Government submitted four final judgments delivered by the courts concerning civil proceedings for damages brought by applicants against the State and/or various prosecutor offices for a breach of their rights to be presumed innocent and/or to honour and reputation, following press releases issues by the authorities with regard to the criminal proceedings opened against them and/or leaks of information to the press from the investigation files. Two of the judgments granted, at least in part, the damages claimed (those of the Bucharest County Court of 19 April 2013 and the Oradea Court of Appeal of 21 October 2015) and two of the judgments dismissed them (those of the Galați District Court of 30 September 2014 and the Bucharest County Court of 17 April 2015).
34. The applicant argued that the remedies indicated by the Government would have been ineffective because they could not have repaired her damaged reputation immediately, the civil proceedings had been merely illusory given the insufficient case-law on the subject, and the Government had failed to submit examples of judgments concerning the tarnishing of a magistrate’s image by the organisation mandated to protect it.
39. As regards the civil proceedings, the Court notes that the CSM released most of the damaging information to the press willingly in a press release (see paragraph 7 above) or by publishing relevant documents from the applicant’s disciplinary file on the Internet after 3 September 2013 (see paragraph 24 above). It is true that the available evidence also suggests that after April 2013 the press referred to other documents and information from the applicant’s files which seem to have been made public by other sources (see paragraph 21 above). However, given the available evidence, it cannot be excluded that even those additional sources could have been identified by the applicant (see paragraphs 15, 18 and 26 above).
40. In these circumstances, the Court takes the view that the applicant’s case may be distinguished from other cases where it has considered the civil proceedings to be an ineffective remedy for complaints similar to the one raised by the applicant mainly because the persons or authorities responsible for the leak to the press could not be identified (see Cășuneanu, cited above, § 71; Voicu v. Romania, no. 22015/10, §§ 81-82, 10 June 2014; and Apostu, cited above, § 110).
41. The Court notes that the Government adduced examples of domestic case-law whereby plaintiffs had had the merits of their cases examined or had been awarded damages for breaches of their Convention rights in circumstances resembling the applicant’s situation (see paragraph 30 above). Moreover, it notes that such examples of domestic case-law may also be found in other cases raising similar issues which have already been examined by the Court (see, for example, Cășuneanu, cited above, §41).
42. In the light of the above, the Court sees no reason, in the particular circumstances of the applicant’s case, to hold that the civil proceedings would not have been an effective remedy capable of redressing the alleged breach of the applicant’s Convention rights.
43. It follows that the application is inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies and must accordingly be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 in fine of the Convention.
Curtea Europeană a Drepturilor Omului
(Decizia din 4 iunie 2019, Agheniței împotria României, cererea nr. 64850/13, disponibilă aici)