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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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The Power of the Rule of Law: The Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s Forceful Reaction

On 9th March ‒ just two days before the Venice Commission adopted its opinion on the same matter ‒ the Polish Constitutional Tribunal announced its judgment on the statute of 22nd December 2015 amending the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal. This legislative move resembled nothing less than a constitutional coup d’etat against the Polish judiciary and the constitutional state. Fortunately this assault encountered a forceful reaction of its designated target, the Tribunal itself. With the probably most important and in its substance most extraordinary ruling since its establishment thirty years ago the Court asserts itself as the guardian of the Polish constitution. The Court’s reasoning – widely applauded by legal scholars and practitioners – evidences one central point: The Tribunal proved to be a strong opponent within the power play of Kaczyński and its arsenal of puppets holding key public offices.

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Poland, Hungary and Europe: Pre-Article 7 Hopes and Concerns

The European Commission’s opening of a rule of law dialogue with Poland in the new pre-Article 7 format developed last year is an important test of European constitutionalism both on the EU and on the Member State level. The mechanism is meant to address systemic violations of the rule of law in several steps, in the format of a structured dialogue. The new procedure does not preclude or prevent the launching of an infringement procedure by the Commission. The probe into Poland’s measures against the Constitutional Tribunal and its new media regulation is expected to test the viability of an EU constitutional enforcement mechanism against a Member State.

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