Wolfgang Jakob Hau
Zivilprozesse mit geringem Streitwert: Small claims courts, small claims tracks, small claims procedures
Volume 81 (2017) / Issue 3, pp. 570-607 (38)
26,60 € including VAT
In principle, constitutional standards require courts to deal with actions irrespective of the amount in controversy. But this does not necessarily mean that it is appropriate to let ordinary courts apply the standard rules of civil procedure in small claims cases. Rather, it is commonly understood that petty litigation raises particular problems and deserves special solutions. The question of how to design such organizational and/or procedural rules seems to gain momentum perpetually and across all jurisdictions. A comparative and historical analysis reveals an amazing variety of approaches and solutions, i.e. small claims courts, small claims tracks and small claims procedures. When providing special rules for small claims disputes, law-makers normally purport to facilitate access to justice, but more often than not try to cut costs. The latter aim, however, is not to be disregarded since affordability of justice is of utmost importance; moreover, there are numerous examples illustrating that procedural rules which emerged by necessity rather than by design may stand the test of time. Yet one should accept that both goals – removing barriers to justice and relieving the burden on the justice system – are unlikely to be simultaneously achieved: you cannot have your cake and eat it. Both aims can be reached only if one is willing to cut down on the quality in the administration of justice (in particular as regards factfinding, the legal assessment of the case and the respondent's rights to defend). But in a system governed by the rule of law, this is no less acceptable than the converse, i.e. restricting access to justice as a means of cost-efficiently providing a high-quality system to a reduced number of lawsuits. High standards of accessible justice come at a price: a reasonably funded and elaborated judicial infrastructure available even for small claims.