Outgoing Constitutional Court chief justice warns parliament

CONSTITUTIONAL Court Chief Justice Jan Mazák, who is to resign from his post on September 30, has called on parliament and the Slovak president to act responsibly in selecting a replacement for him and the six other Constitutional Court justices whose terms expire in January 2007.

The court carries a full complement of 13 justices.

"The applicants for these positions should realize that the powers of the Constitutional Court, and its irreplaceable role in ensuring compliance with the EU through its protection of the principles of European law, is so complicated that… it dramatically increases the demands on the candidates for these posts," he said at a meeting with journalists on August 30.

Mazák said he was not afraid that the Court would not get new justices after January 22, 2007, when the terms of some of the current justices ran out. “I am more afraid that not all of these candidates will be capable of doing the work, and that the court will not be as functional as it has been to date.”

Under the Slovak Constitution, the president selects new Constitutional Court justices from a list of candidates approved by parliament. Some constitutional experts have already raised the fear that the current parliament, dominated by MPs representing the socialist Smer party, the far-right Slovak National Party, and the inscrutable Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, will use the nominations to staff the court with political appointees rather than legal experts.

"I’m just saying how I define a Constitutional Court justice after my 14 years with this court,” Mazák said. “I’m just sending a signal that people can heed if they wish. I couldn’t leave for Luxemburg without having done so, because it would have pained me not to say what I know of the functioning of this vital constitutional body.”

Mazák is resigning to become an advocate general at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, where he will be sworn in on October 6 for a six-year term.

At the August 30 press conference, Mazák summed up his term as Constitutional Court chief justice, which began on January 22, 2000. He has also worked as a justice at the top court, and for a time was the chair of one of the court's senates. As a justice, Mazák has handled almost 1,000 cases.

"This is almost half the number of cases dealt with by the entire Constitutional Court," Mazák said.

Mazák is due to be replaced as Constitutional Court chief justice by the current deputy chief justice, Eduard Barány.

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