The Constitutional Court’s first panel ruled December 6 that President Andrej Kiska, with his decision not to appoint the remaining three constitutional judges out of offered candidates, violated the candidates’ right to have access to elected and other public functions under the same conditions.
The Constitutional Court (CC) also cancelled the president’s decision and ordered him to act on the issue again and appoint three constitutional judges from the sufficient number of candidates proposed by parliament.
“All the candidates that have been proposed by parliament since 2014 thus remain candidates for constitutional judges,” the first panel chairman Peter Brňák said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “These are Ján Bernát, Miroslav Duriš, Eva Fulcová, Juraj Sopoliga, Jana Laššáková, Mojmír Mamojka, and Imrich Volkai.”
What happened between Kiska and the judges?
The president refused to appoint judges for three vacant posts in the Constitutional Court in 2014-2016, claiming that the candidates failed to meet the requirements for these posts. These three posts in the 13-strong plenum have thus been unoccupied for a long time.
The president will announce how he will proceed as soon as he gets to know the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the head of the President Office’s legislative department, Stanislav Gaňa, reported for TASR. “But a kind of interesting situation has emerged, since the Constitutional Court with its ruling has returned the issue to the year 2014, so we have seven candidates for three posts. The Constitution stipulates, though, that there have to be two candidates for each post, so we’ll have to look at it very carefully with Mr. President and his advisers in order to avoid a stalemate situation,” Gaňa summed up.
The complaining judges expressed satisfaction with the ruling.
Why the non-appointment is an issue
The case concerns the complaint of five judges whom the president refused to appoint – as candidates approved by parliament – for Constitutional Court judges: Ján Bernát, Miroslav Duriš, Eva Fulcová, Juraja Sopoliga and Jana Laššáková. Kiska argued they fail to fulfil the demands connected with such a position. Since 2014, Kiska has appointed only one judge (Jana Baricová) to fill CC vacancies out of a total of six candidates presented by parliament, claiming that the remaining five do not seem to be genuinely and deeply interested in constitutional law and that they lack what he deemed the necessary skills. The three spots left vacant by retiring judges thus remain unoccupied.
The CC assessed whether with his steps Andrej Kiska of not appointing the judges has violated the candidates’ constitutional right, as alleged by the five rejected applicants.
The president even turned to the Venice Commission but it refused to step in as arbiter and will let Slovakia resolve its own issue.