Brief history

The First Czechoslovak Republic and Communist Regime (1918-1989)

The history of constitutional justice in Slovakia has its beginnings in the 20th century. In 1918, the Czechoslovak Republic was established and subsequently the Constitutional Court was founded according to the Constitutional Charter of 1920. The first constitutional judges assumed their offices in November 1921. However, after the end of the first ten-year term of office (1931), the Constitutional Court remained partly vacant and did not carry out any activities. The second term lasted from May 1938 to May 1939. After the socio-political change, it no longer received any petitions and thus effectively stopped functioning. With the abolition of the Constitutional Charter, the Constitutional Court ceased to exist. Thus, the constitutional judiciary in Slovakia ceased to exist, and although it was formally restored at the end of the 1960s, it was not until the political and constitutional changes after 1989 that it was actually re-established.

The Constitutional Court of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (1991 – 1992)

In February 1991, the Constitutional Court of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic was established. This court was based in Brno and consisted of seven judges elected for twelve years. It did not begin its work until February 1992 and thus functioned for less than a year.

The Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic

The first term of office of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic (1993-2000)

The Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic was established by the Constitution of 1 September 1992. With the appointment of the Constitutional Court judges in January 1993 and the appointment of its President and Vice-President in March 1993, the Constitutional Court was successfully founded. The first meeting of the plenary was held on 17 March 1993.

The first judges of the Court were: Milan Čič (President), a renowned scholar in the field of criminal law; Ján Klučka, a generally recognized expert in international law; Štefan Ogurčák (Vice-President), an expert in civil procedural law; Anna Danielčáková and Viera Mrázová, two female judges who were familiar with legislative procedures; Ján Drgonec, the youngest Doctor of Science among lawyers, as well as Miloš Seemann and Július Černák, legal practitioners.

Judicial advisors have been working at the Constitutional Court from the very beginning. Their professional contribution to the proper exercise of the powers of the Court has been unquestionable, as it has appropriately framed the preparation and decision-making of cases in both Senates and in the Plenum.

In 1997, the Constitutional Court became a full member of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts. It has been a regular and active participant to this Conference and has taken a valuable place in promoting the ideas of constitutional justice in Europe and in the world.

During this period, Constitutional Court judge Ján Klučka became a member of the Venice Commission. The knowledge gained from the Commission´s activities enriched the Constitutional Court´s performance in the following periods (later, Constitutional Court judges Ján Mazák, Ivetta Macejková, Jana Baricová and Peter Molnár would come to serve as members of the Venice Commission).

The seat of the Constitutional Court has been Košice from the beginning. The Constitutional Court was first located in the Csáky-Dessewffy Palace. Later, however, it ceased to meet the needs of the Constitutional Court and new premises had to be found.

The second term of office (2000-2007)

At the end of November 1999, the President of the Slovak Republic appointed nine new judges of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic (one judge assumed his office in 1997), the President and Vice-President of the Constitutional Court. The new term of office started on 22 January 2000. Of the ten judges, three were re-appointed from the first term, and two had previously served at the court as judicial advisers.

Due to the expansion of the powers of the Constitutional Court (mostly the introduction of the constitutional complaint, as we know it today) and the anticipated increase in its agenda, the number of constitutional judges was increased from ten to thirteen. Three new judges were appointed in July 2002. This change made it possible to redistribute the work among four Senates and thus make the Court´s work more efficient. The original seat in the Palace was no longer sufficient for the needs of the Constitutional Court. In 2006, the Court moved into the restored buildings of former barracks on Hlavná Street in Košice.

The Plenum of the Court was complete only until April 2004, when two judges became members of the European Courts. Although the process of filling the two vacancies started with their departure, the offices stayed vacant even by the end of the second term in 2007 due to a lack of candidates elected by the National Council.

At the end of September 2006, Judge and President Ján Mazák resigned from his office due to his appointment as Advocate General of the ECJ.

During this period, the Court developed rich foreign relations and had numerous bilateral visits (i. e. Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, Slovenia, Romania, Hungary), especially with the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic.

The third term of office (2007-2019)

In addition to increasing the number of judges at the Constitutional Court, the 2001 amendment to the Constitution abolished the possibility of reappointing judges.

On 16 February 2007, nine new judges took their oath and, together with four other judges still in office from the previous term, the Constitutional Court began its third term of office with thirteen judges.

During this period, the Court had to again deal with vacant positions of judges. The absence of three judges between 2014 and 2017and the ever-increasing number of filings have resulted in a slowdown in the Court´s proceedings. In addition, due to the lack of a legally required majority, the Constitutional Court had to reject a number of submissions on procedural grounds without ruling on their merits. Nevertheless, the Court adopted many high-quality decisions with major impact on society.

Although the most important activity of the Constitutional Court was, of course, its decision-making activity, it started many new traditions. During this period, for example, the Constitutional Court joined the World Conference on Constitutional Justice. In order to inform the public about the activities of the Constitutional Court, an annual publication on the protection of constitutionality was launched, which later became a Yearbook. In 2012, the Court, in cooperation with the Faculty of Law of the University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik in Košice, established the traditional conference called “Constitutional Days” held in September, which is annually attended by leading experts from the domestic and foreign legal community.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court organized the first “Open Doors Day”, thus subscribing to the idea of bringing the judiciary closer to the citizens, with the aim to be more transparent about the status, powers and decision-making activities of the Court.

At the end of their term of office, the judges participated in the drafting of a new law on the Constitutional Court (no. 314/2018), which replaced the original 1993 law.

The fourth and current term of office (since 2019)

The current Plenum, despite only being in office since 2019, has faced many challenges and has ruled on a number of important issues. In addition to the difficulties in appointing new judges, which caused the Court to be incomplete for several months right from the start, the judges have found themselves in numerous situations that were being decided for the first time. The work of the fourth Plenum has also been marked by changes in the field of procedural law. Although the new Law on the Constitutional Court is in many respects based on the text of the previous one, it also contains a number of new procedures and institutes that had to be implemented in practice.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought an almost feverish adoption of new regulations to protect public health. This was a new agenda that had not yet been addressed by the Constitutional Court. All this was affected by the partial unpreparedness of the legislation for such situations, its inconsistency and the short time limits within which the Court had to rule.

Particularly difficult was the ruling on the Prosecutor General´s requests for consent to take into custody several judges of general courts charged with corruption. At the time, the old constitutional provision was still in place which required the Constitutional Court to preventively review any request for pre-trial detention of any judge and ascertain that it does not constitute arbitrary interference with judicial independence, whereupon the competent criminal court would decide again whether criminal procedure rules for taking the judge into pre-trial detention are met. However, this preventive review originally aimed at protecting judicial independence has since been abolished and currently it is only criminal courts that decide on pre-trial detention.

On several occasions, the fourth Plenum has also ruled on the admissibility of a referendum. An attempt to achieve the dissolution of parliament and early elections by a referendum took place in 2021 and was subject to review by the Constitutional Court, which declared such a referendum question inadmissible. The situation was similar in 2022, but this time the initiators of the referendum tried to force the government to resign.

Another new element was the creation of the Supreme Administrative Court, to which the competence to decide on local and regional self-government elections was transferred, which had previously been exercised by the Constitutional Court.

For more information on judges, case law and foreign relations, please see the other pages on this website.

Create date: 2.8.2023 Last modified: 2.8.2023