A Polish Marbury v. Madison?

Has the new President of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal been lawfully appointed? This question is at the core of the latest act of the ongoing judicial drama in Poland. The Warsaw Court of Appeals has now referred this question to the Polish Supreme Court. Civil courts are called upon to at least partially fill the gap left by the subjugated Constitutional Tribunal in safeguarding the rule of law in Poland.

Continue Reading →

What is the Situation of Constitutional Jurisdiction in Europe? Worrying News from Spain

Although the situation in Poland is unique, the speed at which the Polish Constitutional Court has been subjugated should make the rest of us think about the regulations concerning our Constitutional jurisdictions and about the behaviour of other political actors with respect to them. Recent developments in Spain have led me to these reflections, and I would like to describe them briefly here to sound the alarm about what happens in other European countries more discretely than in Poland, but also very disturbingly.

Continue Reading →

Constitutional Review as an Indispensable Element of the Rule of Law? Poland as the Divided State between Political and Legal Constitutionalism

The power of constitutional courts appears to be a political matter which depends on the political majority and public support notwithstanding their desirability in certain political contexts, in particular in countries with relatively young democratic traditions and authoritarian pasts. This might not be the best news for modern constitutionalism but one we need to be aware of, in particular in times of the recent re-rise of populist movements, illiberal disenchantment, and anti-establishment rhetoric – not only in Poland.

Continue Reading →

The Hungarian Constitutional Court and Constitutional Identity

Ever since the 2010 parliamentary elections Hungary has set off on the journey to became an ‘illiberal’ member state of the EU, which does not comply with the shared values of rule of law and democracy, the ‘basic structure’ of Europe. The new government of Viktor Orbán from the very beginning has justified the non-compliance by referring to national sovereignty, and lately to the country’s constitutional identity guaranteed in Article 4 (2) TEU. This constitutional battle started with the invalid anti-migrant referendum, was followed by the failed constitutional amendment, and concluded in early December last year by a decision of the Constitutional Court, in which the packed body in a binding constitutional interpretation rubber-stamped the constitutional identity defense of the Orbán government.

Continue Reading →

Living under the unconstitutional capture and hoping for the constitutional recapture

After the unconstitutional capture of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland, ordinary courts will have to step in to provide constitutional review. Polish judges are faced with the most fundamental challenge since 1989. Are they ready to be constitutional judges in times of constitutional emergency?

Continue Reading →

Statutory tinkering: on the Senate’s changes to the Law on the Polish Constitutional Tribunal

The infamous law on the Polish Constitutional Tribunal of July 7th has met with an outcry of criticism among constitutional scholars. Last week, the upper chamber of the Polish Parliament, the Senate, has introduced a number of changes to meet some of the concerns. On the whole the effort amounts to little more than statutory tinkering, though. The effect, the emasculation of constitutional control in Poland, remains unchanged.

Continue Reading →

Farewell to the Polish Constitutional Court

The Law of July, 7th 2016 on the Polish Constitutional Court leaves no doubts that the parliamentary majority lead by Law and Justice party (PiS) is not holding back and is determined to see its plan through to make sure that Court is finally tamed and incapacitated. The Law signals the death knell for the Court. The institution once recognized as powerful, efficient and independent from whatever powers that be is left at the mercy of the politicians, and unable to effectively wield its power of judicial review. Most importantly, the Law will make it impossible for the Court to provide an effective check on the excesses of parliamentary majority.

Continue Reading →

Der Grundsatz (in)effektiver Opposition: zum Urteil des Bundes­verfassungs­gerichts in Sachen Oppositions­fraktionsrechte

Übermächtige Koalitionen mit zersplitterter Opposition werden wohl auch in Zukunft die Parlamentswirklichkeit in Deutschland bestimmen. Vom Prinzip effektiver Opposition bleibt dann nur wenig übrig. In seinem letze Woche verkündeten Urteil zu Oppositionsrechten scheint uns das BVerfG mit der Vorstellung des heroischen Abgeordneten trösten zu wollen, der mit der Waffe der Chancengleichheit in der Hand die Kontrolldefizite des parlamentarischen Regierungssystems kompensiert. Das klingt vertraut, ruft hehre Liberalismus-Bilder des 19. Jahrhunderts auf. Mit Verfassungswirklichkeit und Parlamentspraxis haben und hatten diese Bilder indessen nichts zu tun.

Continue Reading →

Paradoxes of Constitutionalisation: Lessons from Poland

This comment aims to explain a number of paradoxes of constitutionalization on the example of the current constitutional crisis in Poland. It attempts to demonstrate that this crisis is not only political in its nature, but structural as it results from the inherent tension between the concept of rule of law, democracy and human rights. It is also argued that the success of constitutionalization as a global project depends on strong social endorsement of constitutional institutions and practices, including judicial review.

Continue Reading →

“Emergency Constitutional Review”: thinking the unthinkable? A Letter from America

With the constitution and the rule of law in Poland under systemic attack and the Constitutional Court weakened by the refusal of the government to publish its decisions, ordinary judges should step in and, if need be, declare unconstitutional laws inapplicable by themselves. An example for this sort of emergency constitutional review has already been set by the Polish Supreme Court in a decision of March 17th.

Continue Reading →