Advertisement

Hague Journal on the Rule of Law

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 83–110 | Cite as

The Strasbourg Court Meets Abusive Constitutionalism: Baka v. Hungary and the Rule of Law

  • David Kosař
  • Katarína Šipulová
Article

Abstract

The rise of abusive constitutionalism in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has hit the domestic judiciaries particularly hard. Viktor Orbán expanded the size of the Constitutional Court and then packed it, made sure that he can install a new president of the Constitutional Court, ousted the Supreme Court president through a constitutional amendment, disempowered the existing judicial council and created the new institution with power over ordinary judicial appointments. Jaroslav Kaczyński followed the same playbook in Poland. While most scholars have focused primarily on effects of abusive constitutionalism upon the constitutional courts, we argue that the keys to the long-term control of the judiciary are presidents of ordinary courts and judicial councils . The dismissal of the Hungarian Supreme Court President is a perfect example of this logic—by this move Orbán got rid of the most important court president in the country, the head of the Hungarian judicial council and his most vocal critic. Yet, András Baka lodged an application to the ECtHR and won. This article analyses the Grand Chamber judgment in Baka v. Hungary, its implication for the rule of law, and the limits of what the ECtHR can achieve against abusive constitutionalism. It concludes that the Grand Chamber failed on all key fronts. It overlooked the main structural problem behind Mr. Baka’s dismissal (the broad powers of court presidents in CEE), it has blurred the Convention’s understanding of the concept of the rule of law, and it failed in delivering a persuasive judgment firmly based on the existing ECtHR’s case law .

Keywords

Court presidents Judicial independence Rule of law European Court of Human Rights 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Matej Avbelj, Jernej Letnar Černič, Petra Gyongyi, Gábor Halmai, participants of the Ljubljana conference in December 2016, and members of JUSTIN for their suggestions and comments, which significantly improved the original manuscript. The research leading to this article has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant no. 678375- JUDI-ARCH-ERC-2015-STG).

References

  1. Belavusau U (2013) On age discrimination and beating dead dogs: Commission v. Hungary. CMLR 50:1145Google Scholar
  2. Bobek M (2010) The administration of courts in the Czech Republic—in search of a constitutional balance. Eur Public Law 16:251Google Scholar
  3. Bobek M, Kosař D (2014) Global Solutions, local damages: a critical study in judicial councils in Central and Eastern Europe. German Law Journal 15:1257Google Scholar
  4. Bröstl A (2003) At the crossroads on the way to an independent Slovak judiciary. In: Přibáň J, Roberts P, Young J (eds) Systems of justice in transition: Central European experiences since 1989. Ashgate, FarnhamGoogle Scholar
  5. Černič JL (2016) The European Court of Human Rights, rule of law and socio-economic rights in times of crises. Hague J Rule Law 8:227–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chronowski N, Varju M (2016) Two Eras of Hungarian constitutionalism: from the rule of law to rule by law. Hague J Rule Law 8(2):271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cormaic Mac (2016) The Supreme Court. Penguin, IrelandGoogle Scholar
  8. Craig P (1997) Formal and substantive conceptions of the rule of law: an analytical framework. Public Law 467-487Google Scholar
  9. Czarnota A (2016) Rule of law as an outcome of crisis. Central-eastern European experiences 27 years after the breakthrough. Hague J Rule Law 8(2):311–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dijkstra S (2017) The freedom of the judge to express his personal opinions and convictions under the ECHR. Utrecht Law Rev 13:1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Føllesdal A (2016) Building democracy at the Bar: the European Court of Human Rights as a gatekeeper to the European Union and Council of Europe. Transnatl Legal Theory 7(1):95–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Frankowski S (1991) The independence of the judiciary in Poland: reflections on Andrzej Rzeplinski’s Sadownictwo w Polsce Ludowej (The Judiciary in Peoples’ Poland) (1989) Ariz. J. Int’l Comp L 8:40Google Scholar
  13. Garapon A, Epineuse H (2012) Judicial independence in France. In: Seibert-Fohr (ed) Judicial independence in transition. Springer, Heidelberg, pp. 273–305Google Scholar
  14. Garlicki L (2016) Disabling the Constitutional Court in Poland. In: Szmyt A, Banaszak B (eds) Transformation of law systems in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe in 1989–2015. Gdansk University Press, Gdańsk, p 63Google Scholar
  15. Ginsburg T, Moustafa T (2008) Rule by Law. The politics of courts in authoritarian regimes. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Greer S (2006) The European convention on human rights, achievements, problems and prospects. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gyulavári T, Hős N (2013) Retirement of Hungarian judges, age discrimination and judicial independence: a tale of two courts. Ind Law J 42:289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Halmai G (2012) From the “Rule of Law Revolution” to the constitutional counter-revolution in Hungary. In: Benedek W et al (eds) European yearbook of human rights. Intersentia - NWV, Vienna, p 367Google Scholar
  19. Halmai G (2017) The early retirement age of the Hungarian judges. In: Nicola F, David B (eds) EU law stories. Contextual and critical histories of European jurisprudence. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 471–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Koncewicz T (2016) Policing separation of powers: a new role for the European Court of Human Rights? Common Market Law Review 53:1753Google Scholar
  21. Koncewicz T (2017) Of institutions, democracy, constitutional self-defence and the rule of law: the judgments of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal in Cases K 34/15, K 35/15 and beyond. In: Giezka J, Gruszecka D, Kalisz T (eds) Nowa Kodyfikacja Prawa Karnego. Wroclaw University Press, Wroclaw, p 265Google Scholar
  22. Kosař D (2012) Policing separation of powers: a new role for the European Court of Human Rights? Eur Const Law Rev 8:33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kosař D (2016) Perils of Judicial Self-Government. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Kosař D (2017) Politics of judicial independence and judicial accountability in Czechia: bargaining in the shadow of the law between court presidents and the ministry of justice. Eur Const Law Rev 13(1):96–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kosař D, Lixinski L (2015) Domestic judicial design by international human rights courts. Am J Int Law 105:713Google Scholar
  26. Kramer M (2007) Objectivity and the rule of law. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Krygier M (2016) The rule of law: pasts, presents, and two possible futures. Annu Rev Law Soc Sci 12:199–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Landau D (2013) Abusive constitutionalism. Univ Calif Davis Law Rev 47:189Google Scholar
  29. Lautenbach G (2013) The concept of the rule of law and the European Court of Human Rights. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Magone J (2010) Contemporary European politics: a comparative introduction. Routledge, Abingdon, p 456Google Scholar
  31. Mahoney P (2012) Free speech of civil servants and other public employees. Essays in Honour of Nicholas BratzaGoogle Scholar
  32. Markovits I (1996) Children of a lesser god: GDR lawyers in post-socialist Germany. Mich L Rev 94:2270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Marthoz (2012) ‘Hungary’s media law still unsatisfactory’, Committee to Protect Journalists. http://www.cpj.org/blog/2012/06/hungarys-media-law-still-unsatisfactory.php. Accessed 8 June 2012
  34. Møller J, Skaaning S (2012) Systematizing thin and thick conceptions of the rule of law. Justice System Journal 33:136–153Google Scholar
  35. Müller LF (2012) Judicial administration in transitional Eastern countries. In: Seibert-Fohr (ed) Judicial independence in transition. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 937–969Google Scholar
  36. Piana D (2010) Judicial accountabilities in new Europe: from rule of law to quality of justice. Ashgate, FarnhamGoogle Scholar
  37. Popova M (2012) Politicized justice in emerging democracies: a study of courts in Russia and Ukraine. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Přibáň J (2009) From “Which Rule of Law?” to “The Rule of Which Law?”: post-communist experiences of European legal integration. Hague J Rule Law 1:337–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Raz J (1979) The rule of law and its virtue. In: Raz J (ed) The authority of law: essays on law and morality. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Raz J (2009) The rule of law and its virtue. In: Raz J (ed) The authority of law, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  41. Rupnik J (2012) Hungary’s illiberal turn. How things went wrong. J Democr 3:134Google Scholar
  42. Scheppele KL (2012a) How to evade the constitution: the Hungarian constitutional court’s decision on judicial retirement age. 9 August 2012, Verfassungsblog (http://verfassungsblog.de/evade-constitution-case-hungarian-constitutional-courts-decision-judicial-retirement-age/). Accessed 17 May 2017
  43. Scheppele, KL (2012b) Hungary’s free media. The conscience of a liberal. New York Times, 14 March 2012. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/hungarys-free-media/
  44. Scheppele KL (2015) Understanding Hungary’s constitutional revolution. In: Von Bogdandy A, Sonnevend P (eds) Constitutional crisis in the European constitutional area. Hart Publishing, Oxford, pp 111–124Google Scholar
  45. Schwartz O, Sykiainen E (2012) Judicial independence in the Russian Federation. In: Seibert-Fohr A (ed) Judicial independence in transition. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 971–1064Google Scholar
  46. Seibert-Fohr A (2012) Judicial independence in Germany. In: Seibert-Fohr (ed) Judicial independence in transition. Springer, Heildelberg, pp 447–519Google Scholar
  47. Solomon PH (2010) Authoritarian legality and informal practices: judges, lawyers and the state in Russia and China. Communist Post-Communist Studies 43:351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Solomon PH (2012) The accountability of judges in post communist states: from bureaucratic to professional accountability. In: Seibert-Fohr (ed) Judicial independence in transition. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 909–935Google Scholar
  49. Sólyom L (1994) The Hungarian constitutional court and social change. Yale J Int’L 19:223Google Scholar
  50. Sólyom L (2003) The role of constitutional courts in the transition to democracy.Special reference to Hungary. Int Sociol 18(1):133–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sólyom L (2015) The rise and decline of constitutional culture in Hungary. In: Von Bogdandy A, Sonnevend P (eds) Constitutional crisis in the European constitutional area. Hart Publishing, Oxford, pp 5–32Google Scholar
  52. Sonnevend P, Jakab A, Csink L (2015) The constitution as an instrument of everyday party politics: the basic law of Hungary. In: Von Bogdandy A, Sonnevend P (eds) Constitutional crisis in the European constitutional area. Hart Publishing, Oxford, pp 33–110Google Scholar
  53. Taekema S (2013) The procedural rule of law: examining Waldron’s argument on dignity and agency. Annu Rev Law Ethics 21:133Google Scholar
  54. Tamanaha B (2004) On the rule of law: history, politics, theory. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tushnet M (2015) Authoritarian Constitutionalism. Cornell L Rev 100:391Google Scholar
  56. Uitz R (2015) Can you tell when an illiberal democracy is in the making? An appeal to comparative constitutional scholarship from Hungary. Int J Const Law 13:279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Uzelac A (2001) Role and Status of Judges in Croatia. In: Oberhammer P (ed) Richterbild und Rechtsreform in Mitteleuropa. Manzsche Verlags, WienGoogle Scholar
  58. Varol O (2017) Structural rights. Georgetown Law J 105:1001Google Scholar
  59. Vincze A (2015) Dismissal of the president of the Hungarian supreme court: ECtHR Judgment Baka v. Hungary. Eur Public Law 21:3Google Scholar
  60. Von Bogdandy A, Antpöhler C, Dickschen J, Hentrei S, Kottmann M, Smrkolj M (2015) A European response to domestic constitutional crisis: advancing the reverse-solange doctrine. In: Von Bogdandy A, Sonnevend P (eds) Constitutional crisis in the European constitutional area. Hart Publishing, Oxford, pp 235–256Google Scholar
  61. Wagnerová E (2003) Position of judges in the Czech Republic. In: Přibáň J, Roberts P, Young J (eds) Systems of justice in transition: Central European experiences since 1989. Ashgate, Farnham, p 163Google Scholar
  62. Waldron J (2002) Is the rule of law an essentially contested concept? Law Philos 21:137Google Scholar
  63. Waldron J (2008) The concept and the rule of law. Georgia Law Rev 43:1–61Google Scholar
  64. Waldron J (2013) Separation of powers in thought and practice. Boston College Law Rev 54:433–468Google Scholar
  65. Waldron J (2014) The rule of law and the importance of procedure. In: Fleming J (ed) Getting to the rule of law. NYU Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Judicial Studies Institute (JUSTIN), Faculty of LawMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations