Organization of the Court
The Constitution defines the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic as an independent judicial body for the protection of constitutionality. The Constitutional Court is autonomous and is not part of the system of general courts.
The Court consists of thirteen judges appointed for twelve years. Candidates for judges must undergo a public hearing in the presence of the Constitutional Committee of the Parliament, representatives of the President of the Republic, as well as other actors. The judges are elected by the Parliament by a three-fifths majority of all members. If the Parliament fails to reach the required majority for a second time, all subsequent votes require only the majority of all MPs.
Following previous cases where the Parliament was unable to elect candidates for a long period or where the President refused to appoint judges, the Constitution has been amended so that a judge remains in office after the end of their term until a new judge is sworn in. A new provision was also included in the Constitution according to which the office of a judge of the Constitutional Court expires on the last day of the month in which the judge reaches the age of 72 years. After the constitutional amendment of 2001, the possibility for one person to be a judge of the Constitutional Court twice was abolished.
The President, who, together with the Vice-President, is appointed by the President of the Republic from among the judges for their entire term of office, leads the Constitutional Court. The Plenum of the Constitutional Court is composed of all thirteen judges. In addition, they form four senates. The President is a member of one of the senates according to the work schedule. As he has mainly representational and managerial duties, he is assigned fewer cases than are the other judges.
The Constitutional Court’s main mission is to review the constitutional and international compatibility of legislation and of regulations adopted by the Executive. Such review may be initiated by political or institutional actors (most commonly the President of the Republic, a group of at least 30 MPs, the Prosecutor General) or a question of constitutionality may arise in judicial proceedings regarding a particular case (whether criminal, civil or administrative). The Court also reviews the regularity of electoral and referendum procedures and decides on the constitutional admissibility of referendum initiatives. All these types of cases must be decided by the Plenum.
Throughout the years the Court has also been vested with various other powers, most of which are rarely, if ever, used. However, the vast majority of the Constitutional Court’s workload consists of individual constitutional complaints. The full constitutional complaint was introduced by a major constitutional amendment in 2001, when the number of judges was also increased from the original ten to the current thirteen. These cases are divided among the four panels, each consisting of three judges.
The Constitutional Court may only commence proceedings if a relevant actor files a motion to that effect. In addition to the Constitution, a separate Law on the Constitutional Court and its Rules of Procedure regulate proceedings before the Constitutional Court. The Plenum can deliberate and deliver decisions if at least seven judges are present at the session. The approval of a majority of all judges is required for the decision to be taken. If this majority is not achieved, the motion is rejected. Plenary meetings are generally closed to the public. In some cases, public plenary sessions can be held in the presence of the parties and their legal representatives, even the media and the public. However, voting is always confidential.
Decisions are usually not announced publicly. They are delivered to the parties. However, in matters known to the media, for example if it concerns the conformity of a law or the review of a referendum, after the plenary session, the decision is announced publicly with the participation of the media, together with a short reasoning. These announcements are also broadcast live on Facebook.
A judge of the Constitutional Court cannot be criminally prosecuted for making decisions while performing their duties, even after the termination of their office. The consent of the Plenum is required to take a judge of the Constitutional Court into custody. A judge of the Constitutional Court can be subject to disciplinary proceedings - this is performed by the Plenum based on a motion submitted by the President of the Court. The President of the Court can be also subject to disciplinary proceedings after the motion by the President of the Republic or at least 1/3 of the MPs. The Plenum will review the motion to see if it is justified. If the Plenum finds that it is well-founded, it will elect a three-member disciplinary panel, who will carry out the proceedings.