[Editor’s Note: I-CONnect is pleased to feature a special symposium on the recent Slovak Constitutional Court Appointments Case. The symposium will feature five parts, including this introduction. We are grateful to Simon Drugda for partnering with us to organize this symposium.]
—Simon Drugda, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford
Late last year, on December 6, the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic held that President Andrej Kiska infringed the rights of all candidates for the three vacant seats on the Constitutional Court. The President finally decided to appoint judges Jana Laššáková, Mojmír Mamojka, and Ladislav Duriš to the Court on December 14, 2017.
The case has on several occasions brought into question the institutional strength of and support for the Constitutional Court. We are therefore grateful to I-CONnect, for allowing us to host a symposium this week that will look back on this important controversy and asses the strengths and weaknesses of the Senate decision that concluded it – the decision I. ÚS 575/2016.
The symposium will feature contributions from four scholars: (1) Šimon Drugda (an MSt candidate at Oxford); (2) Marek Domin (Comenius University); Kamil Baraník (Comenius University); and (4) Tomáš Ľalík (Comenius University).
The case which we are to review has a long history that reaches to the year 2014 and beyond. There are several resources online, available in English, which lay out the timeline of the dispute and may inform an inquisitive reader on details we will not have space to cover.
I encourage you to read the report on the Developments in Slovak Constitutional Law in 2016 compiled by three of the authors participating in this symposium, as well as an insightful contribution written by my former professor Tomáš Ľalík from of the same year: Constitutional Court Crisis in Slovakia: Still Far Away from Resolution.
The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) published two opinions in the case both in English and French.
Slovak Republic – Opinion on questions relating to the appointment of judges, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 110th Plenary Session (March 10-11, 2017)
Opinion on the procedure for appointing judges to the Constitutional Court in times of the Presidential transition in the Slovak Republic, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 99th Plenary Session (June 13-14, 2014)
The constitutional provisions having a bearing on the case include (transl. Constitute):
I. Art. 101.1:
The Head of the Slovak Republic shall be the President. The President shall represent the Slovak Republic externally and internally, shall ensure the regular operation of Constitutional bodies by his or her decisions. The President shall perform the office according to his or her conscience and convictions, and shall not be bound by orders.
II. Art. 124
The Constitutional Court shall be an independent judicial authority vested with the mandate to protect the integrity of constitutional principles.
III. Art. 134
- The Constitutional Court shall consist of thirteen judges.
- The President of the Slovak Republic shall, on the nomination of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, appoint the judges of the Constitutional Court for a period of twelve years. The National Council of the Slovak Republic shall propose a double number of candidates who are to be appointed by the President of the Slovak Republic.
- Any citizen of the Slovak Republic who is eligible for election to the National Council of the Slovak Republic, has reached his 40 years of age, is a law school graduate, and has been practicing law for at least 15years may be appointed judge of the Constitutional Court. One person may not be eligible for reappointment as a judge of the Constitutional Court.
- A judge of the Constitutional Court shall be sworn in by the President of the Slovak Republic by taking the following oath: “I promise on my honor and conscience that I will protect the inviolability of the natural rights of man and civic rights, protect the principles of the rule of law, abide by the Constitution, constitutional laws and international agreements ratified by the Slovak Republic and which were declared in a manner provided by the law and decide to my best conscience, independently and impartially.”
- A judge of the Constitutional Court shall take up office upon taking his oath.