A nursery school teacher turns lawyer

03-09-2003

The fact that lawsuits in this country can drag on for years is something that most Czechs had become resigned to. Then a fifty two year old nursery school teacher from Klatovy in south west Bohemia established a precedent - she filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg and won her case. The Czech state was ordered to pay Mrs. Dana Borankova close to half a million crowns for failing to resolve her lawsuit in more than 14 years.

The day the news of Mrs. Borankova's victory became public her phone started ringing and it hasn't stopped since. Hundreds of people who have been embroiled in financially draining and emotionally exhausting lawsuits for years and years wanted advice on how they could make the state pay. Her mailbox was crammed with letters from people saying : We have the same problem, and we no longer trust lawyers. What do we do? The nursery school teacher won her case in Strasburg without a lawyer, just by getting her complaint translated into French. This alone set her up as an authority - and before she knew it she was acting as legal advisor -telling people what needed to be done and how they should proceed. "I cannot refuse to help people, but it is becoming quite draining" Mrs. Borankova said after she has a nervous breakdown from overwork and the doctor ordered a fortnights rest. Now it is her husband who answers the phone and filters only the most urgent requests through to her.

Aside from changing their name and moving house there is no way to stop the flow of requests. What is noteworthy here is that Mrs. Borankova has no big secret to share - she's merely giving Czechs the basic know-how and the self confidence to approach an international court of law, something that people wouldn't have thought of doing in the past. It is a serious warning to the Czech government - the state could find itself paying hundreds of compensation claims it can ill afford. And neither is it good news for the European Court of Human Rights in Starsbourg - it could find itself bogged under with complaints from Czech citizens - and end up with a backlog of its own.

03-09-2003