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Czekalla v. Portugal, (38830/97) [2002] ECHR 657 (10 October 2002)
The text of this case can be found on the European Court of Human Rights' HUDOC database, available here.

Facts: During his trial, Czekalla asked to be officially assigned a lawyer by the Court.  The new defence lawyer lodged an appeal against the judgment on the applicant's behalf. The applicant's appeal was declared inadmissible by the Supreme Court for failure to state the grounds of appeal adequately.

Complaint: On the basis of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) and Article 6 § 3 (right to legal assistance). Czekalla denounced the inadequacies in the legal assistance he received. To him, the acts of negligence of his officially assigned defence lawyer had deprived him the right of access to the Supreme Court.

Holding: The officially appointed lawyer failed to comply with the simple and purely formal rule when lodging the appeal on points of the law to the Supreme Court. In the Court’s view, that was a “manifest failure” which called for positive measures on the part of relevant authorities. It ruled that the domestic authorities had to intervene to ensure the protection of the accused's defence rights and, accordingly, that there had been a violation of Article 6.

Reasoning: It follows from the independence of the legal profession from the State that the conduct of the defence is essentially a matter between the defendant and his counsel, whether appointed under a legal-aid scheme or privately financed. The competent national authorities are required under Article 6 § 3 (c) to intervene only if a failure by legal-aid counsel to provide effective representation is manifest or sufficiently brought to their attention in some other way. The Court recalled that deficiencies or errors made in the presentation of the defendant's case by an officially assigned lawyer does not engage the state's responsibility. However, the Court takes a different approach where a failure to comply with procedural requirements deprived the accused of a remedy and this deficiency was not corrected by the higher courts

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