Following the president's nomination of the nine new Constitutional Court justices, the sigh of relief was so loud that it revealed the fears that had attended the event.
The dream of one of the most prominent candidates, Štefan Harabin, that he would conduct the Constitutional Court in the same way as he did the Supreme Court and now the Justice Ministry, was truly scary. No less dismaying was the prospect of the return of a judge - Tibor Šafárik - to the court who had ignored the Constitution and the court's judicature so grossly that his colleagues called it "a lawless act and an abuse of public office". But the fact that Harabin and Šafárik were not named to the bench is less important than the fact, as former Justice Minister Daniel Lipšic pointed out, that "most of the justices named are of high quality and are learned experts in constitutional law". If Lipšic is right, then this is news that truly justifies a sigh of relief.
The Constitutional Court rules on its most important cases in plenary session, and its decisions are valid when they attract the support of a majority of the 13 judges on the bench. If Lipšic's calculations are correct, then most justices will decide cases on the basis of the Constitution, the court's judicature and their consciences.
Even though it is naive to expect that every decision will meet these standards, the new Constitutional Court does not look as pro-government as it might have, given other nominations. Given that decisions on the conformity of laws with the Constitution and interpretations of the Constitution are handed down in plenary session, seven justices will be enough of a counterweight to halt or retard any anti-democratic or unconstitutional moves the government makes.
Nevertheless, this 'healthy majority' in the plenary session does not mean that less healthy elements might not dominate the three-member senates that hand down lesser decisions.
19. Feb 2007 at 0:00