Constitutional Court (Austria)

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Austrian Constitutional Court in session in 2016. Inscribed on the walls behind the court is the text of Article 1, Section 1 of the Federal Constitutional Law of Austria: Österreich ist eine demokratische Republik (Austria is a democratic republic) and Ihr Recht geht vom Volk aus (Its law emanates from the people).[1]
Seat of the Constitutional Court in Vienna

The Constitutional Court (German: Verfassungsgerichtshof, VfGH), is one of three judicial bodies charged with final appellate jurisdiction in Austria.

History[edit]

The VfGH was established in 1920 and is one of the oldest constitutional courts in the world.[2][3] The VfGH was the successor to the older Imperial Law Court.[4]

Jurisdiction and relationship with other highest Austrian courts[edit]

The Constitutional Court deals with constitutional law, while the Administrative Court deals with public law, and the Supreme Court of Justice (Oberster Gerichtshof, OGH) with civil and criminal matters. These three courts are hierarchically on the same level, with no superiority or subordination between them, "except in certain procedural contexts... where the Constitutions Court finds itself in a superior position vis-à-vis the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, notably regarding the Constitutional Court's exclusive competence on rescinding general norms by declaring laws unconstitutional and ordinances contrary to law...; on deciding conflicts between the highest courts, calculating the Constitutional Court itself ...; and on deciding on State liability claims in regard to decisions of the highest courts, calculating the Constitutional Court itself."[5]

Because the right of parties to appeal to the Constitutional Court is limited and review of most cases (even those involving Austrian constitutional law) is done by the Supreme Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is important in deciding many Austrian cases involving fundamental rights.[6]

Judges[edit]

The Constitutional Court consists of twenty judges: a president, a vice president, twelve other judges, and six substitute judges.[7]

The president and vice president of the court, as well as half of the further members and substitute judges, are appointed by the president of Austria on a proposal by the government. The remainder of the court are appointed by the president on a proposal submitted by the bicameral Austrian Parliament, with the National Council (Nationalrat) suggesting three members and two substitutes and the Federal Council (Bundesrat) suggesting three members and one substitute.[7] By convention, candidates are effectively selected by each of the two main political parties—the SPÖ and the ÖVP—maintaining "a rough political balance" on the court.[7] Historically, university professors made up most of the members of the court, but today the majority of the court are practicing attorneys or other highly-qualified lawyers from different fields.[7]

To be eligible for appointment, a prospective judge must have ten years of legal expedience. A member of the court cannot serve simultaneously as a member of parliament or government official in either the federal government or a state (Bundesland) government, or as an employee or functionary of a political party.[7]

The judges of the Constitutional Court serve for life but judges must retire at the end of the year in which they turn 70 years old.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz (B-VG) (Federal Constitutional Law), art. 1, sec. 1.
  2. ^ Better Regulation in Europe Better Regulation in Europe: Austria 2010. OECD Publishing. 2010. p. 61. ISBN 9789264094772. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "History of the Constitutional Court". Constitutional Court of Austria. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  4. ^ Manfred Stelzer, The Constitution of the Republic of Austria: A Contextual Analysis (Hart Publishing, 2011), p. 197.
  5. ^ Andreas Th. Müller, "An Austrian Ménage à Trois: The Convention, the Charter and the Constitution " in The UK and European Human Rights: A Strained Relationship? (eds. Katja S. Ziegler, Elizabeth Wicks & Loveday Hodson: Bloomsbury, 2015), p. 318 & n.115.
  6. ^ Daniela Thurnherr, "The Reception Process in Austria and Switzerland" in A Europe of Rights: The Impact of the ECHR on National Legal Systems (eds. Helen Keller & Alec Stone Sweet: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 371.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Nigel Foster, Austrian Legal System and Laws (Cavendish Publishing: 2003), pp. 38-39.

External links[edit]