SLOVAKIA'S highest legal authority, the Constitutional Court, has been operating with just 4 justices out of its full complement of 13 since January 23, and will continue to run on this skeleton staff until new justices are appointed by the president.
The election terms of six judges came to an end on January 22, with three already having left their posts over the preceding months. Parliament has not yet managed to elect a sufficient number of candidates for President Ivan Gašparovič to choose a new complement of judges.
The court will be unable to rule on important matters in its current state, such as election result appeals, as these issues must be addressed in a plenary session of at least 7 justices.
Legal experts warn that the situation will result in further delays and an even larger case backlog at the Court, which is currently dealing with 2,667 filed petitions and cases.
So far, parliament has elected 17 candidates for the vacant seats, but Slovak law requires that the president be presented with twice as many candidates as there are vacant seats.
Thus, the president has to wait until parliament elects an 18th candidate before he can nominate the required 9 new justices to the Košice-based court.
Parliament is expected to elect the last candidate during its upcoming session starting on January 30.
29. Jan 2007 at 0:00 | From press reports