A question that often surfaces when the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) is about to rule on issues of major importance is: what influence can the Court’s configuration generally have on this decision?
The Constitutional Court consists of nine judges, and the decisions are taken with a majority of at least five votes. Countless times, especially in sensitive situations in which CCR had to arbiter conflicts between branches of government or had sensitive dossiers on its table, accusations were levied that the judges’ votes allegedly reflected the political camp that promoted them at the CCR.
No political party or political force holds the majority of votes needed, according to a News.ro analysis. PSD has three judges, including the CCR President, PNL has two judges, UDMR has one judge, President Klaus Iohannis has one judge too, while two Court judges were appointed during ex-President Traian Basescu’s term.
CCR judges have not ruled on legal conflicts of a constitutional nature between state institutions recently, such conflicts being rather subjected to interpretation from the angle of legislation and not of the law itself.
Social Democrats managed to appoint no fewer than three judges at the Constitutional Court in recent years. Thus, CCR President Valer Dorneanu is a former Social Democrat MP, appointed by the Lower Chamber in 2013. Another judge appointed by the PSD majority is Maya Teodoroiu, voted by the Senate in 2015, after CCR judge Toni Grebla resigned following a corruption scandal. The third judge appointed with PSD backing is Marian Enache, former FSN, PDSR and PSD MP, appointed by the Lower Chamber in 2016.
Following the renewal of the Constitutional Court, in the summer of 2016, the Liberals lost one of the three judges they had appointed previously. Thus, the two remaining CCR judges backed by PNL are Stefan Minea, constitutional law professor at the Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, appointed by PDL in 2010, and Mona Pivniceru, former Justice Minister in the USL Government, appointed in 2013.
UDMR has kept its seat at the Constitutional Court, a seat that Valentin-Zoltan Puskas vacated in 2016, after his mandate ended. In return for helping the Social Democrats appoint Marian Enache, the Magyars received PSD’s votes to appoint Attila Varga as CCR judge.
President Klaus Iohannis appointed his first Constitutional Court judge in the summer of 2016 – Livia Stanciu, former High Court of Cassation and Justice President.
Two of the current CCR judges were appointed during ex-President Traian Basescu’s term in office: Petre Lazaroiu, appointed in 2010, and Daniel Morar, former DNA Chief Prosecutor, appointed in 2013.
CCR on GEO No 13/2017: There is no legal conflict of constitutional nature between state powers
The Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) established on Wednesday that there is no legal conflict of a constitutional nature between state powers following the adoption of the government emergency ordinance for the modification of the Criminal Codes.
CCR President Valer Dorneanu announced at the end of the Wednesday meeting that it was found that there is no conflict neither between the judicial authority and the Government, nor between Parliament and the Government.
“In respect to the nature of the conflict between Parliament and Government it has been said that in this case the Government assumed a legislating power not stated in the Constitution and exaggerated in using the emergency ordinance. It is true that, according to the separation of powers principle, Parliament is the one having the legislating sovereignty and the competence to issue primary organic laws. The Government usually hasn’t such a competence. Exceptionally, however, even under the Constitution (…), the Government can be delegated by the legislature to issue simple or emergency ordinances. (…) In this respect, there is not conflict, because the Government has acted legally within its competence area of issuing ordinances,” the CCR head said.
Previously, he had pointed out that the repeal of GEO No 13/2017 could not stop the ongoing constitutional process.
“Several times, the Constitutional Court has pronounced even in respect to some conflicts notified by the former Ponta Government. Dropping or repealing a normative act cannot stop us from its constitutional process. Therefore, the GEO 13 abrogation has no relevance. This abrogation can have consequences tomorrow, when we judge the ordinance constitutionality,” Dorneanu maintained.
The CCR President underscored that not any conflict between authorities meets the condition of a legal conflict of a constitutional nature, but only when a side or the sides assume powers, duties, competencies in the activity area of the other authority or when an authority declines its competence, doesn’t exercise its role, according to its duties, or refuses to fulfill its role.
The Constitutional Court of Romania has discussed the requests of President Klaus Iohannis and Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) head Mariana Ghena, on finding a conflict between state powers following the adoption of the government emergency ordinance for the modification of the Criminal Codes.