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The Illiberal Abuse of Constitutional Courts in Europe

  • Pablo Castillo-Ortiz

Abstract

Legal constitutionalism – Political constitutionalism – Emergence of illiberal constitutionalism as a tertium genus – Examination of constitutional courts under three illiberal governments: Poland, Hungary, and Turkey – Illiberal governments’ strategies to seize control of constitutional courts – Illiberal governments’ aim to secure leverage over constitutional judges and restrict the powers of review of the court – Constitutional courts under illiberal rule invert the traditional functions that were assigned to them under the original Kelsenian approach – Instead of a check on power, illiberal constitutional courts become a device to circumvent constitutional constraints and concentrate power in the hands of the ruling actors.

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Pablo Castillo-Ortiz, Lecturer in Law, University of Sheffield – The School of Law. This paper was presented at the Workshop ‘The Liberal Order in Crisis’ at the Europa-Universität Viadrina. I want to thank all the participants, and specially Cas Mudde, who participated as discussant, for their feedback on the paper. I also want to thank Wojciech Sadurski, Graham Gee, Maria Haimerl, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this article. All mistakes and omissions are the sole responsibility of the author.

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1 Pech, L. and Lane Scheppele, K., ‘Illiberalism Within: Rule of Law Backsliding in the EU’, 19 CYELS (2017) p. 3 at p. 10.

2 Note that Landau refers to this phenomenon as ‘abusive constitutionalism’: Landau, D., ‘Abusive Constitutionalism’, 47 UC Davies Law Review (2013) p. 189 at p. 191.

3 Fontana, D., ‘Unbundling Populism’, 65 UCLA Law Review (2018) p. 1482 at p. 1486.

4 C. Mudde, ‘Are Populists Friends or Foes of Constitutionalism?’, The Foundation for Law, Justice and Society Policy Brief (2013) at p. 3; Mudde, C., ‘The Populist Zeitgeist’, 39 Government and Opposition (2004) p. 541 at p. 543.

5 Pappas, T., ‘Populist Democracies: Post-Authoritarian Greece and Post-Communist Hungary’, 49 Government and Opposition (2014) p. 1 at p. 4.

6 Mudde (2013), supra n. 4, p. 3.

7 See Moustafa, T., ‘Law and Courts in Authoritarian Regimes’, 20 Annual Review of Law and Social Science (2014) p. 281 .

8 Shapiro, M., Courts: A Comparative and Political Analysis (University of Chicago Press 1981) ; Peerenboom, R., China’s Long March Toward Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2002) .

9 Barros, R., Constitutionalism and Dictatorship: Pinochet, the Junta, and the 1980 Constitution (Cambridge University Press 2002) ; Stepan, A., The Military in Politics: Changing Patterns in Brazil (Princeton University Press 1971) .

10 Moustafa, supra n. 7.

11 Landau, supra n. 2; Mudde (2013), supra n. 4; Thio, L.-A., ‘Constitutionalism in Illiberal Polities’, in M. Rosenfeld and A. Sajó (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press 2012) p. 133 .

12 Bugarič, B. and Ginsburg, T., ‘The Assault on Post-Communist Courts’, 27 The Journal of Democracy (2016) p. 69 .

13 Pech and Lane Scheppele, supra n. 1; Closa, C. and Kochenov, D. (eds.), Reinforcing the Rule of Law Oversight in the European Union (Cambridge University Press 2016) ; Kelemen, D., ‘Europe’s Other Democratic Deficit: National Authoritarianism in Europe’s Democratic Union’, 52 Government and Opposition (2017) p. 211 .

14 Kelsen, H., ‘Judicial Review of Legislation: A Comparative Study of the Austrian and the American Constitution’, 4 The Journal of Politics (1942) p. 183 ; Stone Sweet, A., ‘The Politics of Constitutional Review in France and Europe’, 5 I-Con (2007) p. 69 .

15 See Landau, supra n. 2.

16 A. Czarnota, ‘The Constitutional Tribunal’, Verfassungsblog, 3 June 2017, <www.verfassungsblog.de/the-constitutional-tribunal/>, visited 15 January 2019.

17 See, on this argument, the case of Venezuela, A.R. Brewer-Carías, ‘El juez constitucional al servicio del autoritarismo y la ilegítima mutación de la constitución: el caso de la sala constitucional del Tribunal Supremo de Venezuela (1999-2009)’, 180 Revista de Administración Pública (2009) p. 387. For Poland, see W. Sadurski, ‘How Democracy Dies (in Poland): A Case Study of Anti-Constitutional Populist Backsliding’, Sydney Law School Legal Studies Research Paper (2018) 18/01.

18 See Bugarič, B., ‘A Crisis of Constitutional Democracy in Post-Communist Europe: “Lands in-between” Democracy and Authoritarianism’, 13 I-Con (2015) p. 219 at p. 230.

19 Stone Sweet, supra n. 14, p. 74.

20 Stone Sweet, supra n. 14, p. 74-75.

21 See Kelsen, supra n. 14.

22 Kelsen, H., The Pure Theory of Law (The Lawbook Exchange 2009 [1967]) .

23 Kelsen, supra n. 14, at p. 185-186.

24 Kelsen, H., ‘Who ought to be the guardian of the constitution? Kelsen’s reply to Schmitt’, in L. Vinx (ed.), The Guardian of the Constitution. Hans Kelsen and Carl Schmitt on the Limits of Constitutional Law (Cambridge University Press 2015 [1931]) p. 174 at p. 175.

25 Kelsen, supra n. 24, p. 202.

26 Bugarič and Ginsburg, supra n. 12, p. 72.

27 Stone Sweet, A., ‘Why Europe Rejected American Judicial Review: And Why It May Not Matter’, 101 Michigan Law Review (2003) p. 2744 at p. 2767-2768. See also Stone Sweet, A., ‘Constitutional Courts and Parliamentary Democracy’, 25 West European Politics (2002) p. 77 at p. 81-82.

28 Ferreres Comella, V., Constitutional Courts and Democratic Values (Yale University Press 2009) .

29 Griffith, J.A.G., ‘The Political Constitution’, 42 Modern Law Review (1979) p. 1 .

30 See Griffith, supra n. 29, p. 15.

31 Griffith, supra n. 29, p. 16.

32 Griffith, supra n. 29, p. 17.

33 Griffith, supra n. 29, p. 18.

34 Thornhill, C., ‘The Mutation of International Law in Contemporary Constitutions: Thinking Sociologically about Political Constitutionalism’, 79 Modern Law Review (2016) p. 208 at p. 210.

35 Bellamy, R., Political Constitutionalism: A Republican Defence of the Constitutionality of Democracy (Cambridge University Press 2007) .

36 Tomkins, A., ‘The Role of Courts in the Political Constitution’, 60 University of Toronto Law Review (2010) p. 1 at pp. 3-4.

37 See Waldron, J., ‘The Core of the Case against Judicial Review’, 115 The Yale Law Journal (2006) p. 1346 .

38 Tushnet, M., Taking the Constitution Away from the Courts (Princeton University Press 1999) .

39 Gardbaum, S., ‘The Case for the New Commonwealth Model of Constitutionalism’, 14 GLJ (2013) p. 2229 .

40 Bugarič, supra n. 18, p. 230.

41 Tushnet, M., ‘Authoritarian Constitutionalism’, 100 Cornell Law Review (2015) p. 391 at p. 434.

42 Bugarič and Ginsburg, supra n. 12, p. 73; Landau, supra n. 2, p. 208-209.

43 Bugarič, supra n. 18, p. 226.

44 Landau, supra n. 2, p. 208.

45 Bugarič and Ginsburg, supra n. 12.

46 Szente, Z., ‘The Political Orientation of the Members of the Hungarian Constitutional Court Between 2010 and 2014’, 1 Constitutional Studies (2016) p. 123 at p. 146.

47 Bugarič and Ginsburg, supra n. 12, p. 73. See also Koncewicz, T.T., ‘Of institutions, democracy, constitutional self-deference and the rule of law: The judgments of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal in Cases K 34/15, K 35/15 and beyond’, 53 Common Market Law Review (2016) p. 1753 at p. 1755; Sadurski, supra n. 17, p. 19-21.

48 Koncewicz, supra n. 47, p. 1754.

49 Bugarič and Ginsburg, supra n. 12, p. 73.

50 Bugarič and Ginsburg, supra n. 12, p. 74.

51 Bugarič and Ginsburg, supra n. 12, p. 74.

52 Olcay, T., ‘Firing Bench-mates: The Human Rights and Rule of Law Implications of the Turkish Constitutional Court’s Dismissal of Its Two Members. Decision of 4 August 2016, E.2016/6 (Miscellaneous file), K.2016/12’, 13 EuConst (2017) p. 568 .

53 Olcay, supra n. 52, p. 580.

54 M. Haimerl, ‘The Turkish Constitutional Court under the Amended Turkish Constitution’, Verfassungsblog, 27 January 2017, <www.verfassungsblog.de/the-turkish-constitutional-court-under-the-amended-turkish-constitution/>, visited 15 January 2019.

55 Haimerl, supra n. 54.

56 See for instance B Çalı, ‘Will Legalism be the End of Constitutionalism in Turkey?’, Vergassungsblog, 22 January 2018, <www.verfassungsblog.de/will-legalism-be-the-end-of-constitutionalism-in-turkey/>, visited 15 January 2019.

57 Haimerl, supra n. 54; A. Acar, ‘The Hamartia of the Constitutional Court of Turkey: Part II’, International Journal of Constitutional Law Blog, 4 April 2017, <www.iconnectblog.com/2017/04/the-hamartia-of-the-constitutional-court-of-turkey-part-ii/#_edn1>, visited 15 January 2019.

58 See Acar, supra n. 57.

59 Haimerl, supra n. 54.

60 Fomina, J. and Kucharczyk, J., ‘Populism and Protest in Poland’, 27 The Journal of Democracy (2016) p. 58 at p. 62.

61 For the full range of reforms imposed on the court, see the exhaustive analysis by Sadurski, supra n. 17, p. 25 ff.

62 W. Sadurski, ‘Judicial “Reform” in Poland: The President’s Bills are Unconstitutional are as the Ones he Vetoed’, Verfassungsblog, 29 November 2017, <www.verfassungsblog.de/judicial-reform-in-poland-the-presidents-bills-are-as-unconstitutional-as-the-ones-he-vetoed/>, visited 15 January 2019.

63 Kelsen, supra n. 24, p. 175.

64 Bugarič, supra n. 18, p. 225.

65 Kelsen, supra n. 14, p. 187.

66 Kelsen, supra n. 14, p. 188.

67 H. Kelsen, ‘Kelsen on the nature and development of constitutional adjudication’, in Vinx, supra n. 24, p. 22 at p. 48.

68 See, for the case of Venezuela, Brewer-Carías, supra n. 17. For Poland, see Sadurski, supra n. 17, p. 13-14.

69 Kelsen, supra n. 24, p. 174.

70 Czarnota, supra n. 16.

71 Czarnota, supra n. 16.

72 Czarnota, supra n. 16.

73 Czarnota, supra n. 16.

74 Czarnota, supra n. 16.

75 Czarnota, supra n. 16.

76 Czarnota, supra n. 16.

77 Czarnota, supra n. 16.

78 Gee, G. and Webber, G.C.N., ‘What is a Political Constitution’, 30 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (2010) p. 273 at p. 281.

79 Gee and Webber, supra n. 78, at p. 284.

80 Gee and Webber, supra n. 78, at p. 283-284.

81 Griffith, supra n. 29, p. 42.

82 Tushnet, supra n. 41, at p. 434.

83 Tushnet, supra n. 41, at p. 434.

84 Tushnet, supra n. 41, at p. 434.

85 Pech and Lane Scheppele, supra n. 1, p. 8.

86 Pech and Lane Scheppele, supra n. 1, p. 21.

87 Fomina and Kucharczyk, supra n. 60, p. 63.

88 Pech and Lane Scheppele, supra n. 1, p. 19.

89 Freedom in the World – Freedom House, <www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/turkey>, visited 14 December 2018.

90 Griffith, supra n. 29.

91 Ramos Romeu, F., ‘The Establishment of Constitutional Courts: A Study of 128 Democratic Constitutions’, 2 Review of Law and Economics (2006) p. 103 ; Stone Sweet (2003), supra n. 27.

92 See Moustafa supra n. 7, p. 286.

93 Sartori, G., ‘Constitutionalism: A Preliminary Discussion’, 56 The American Political Science Review (1962) p. 853 at p. 855.

94 Mudde (2013), supra n. 4, p. 3. Mudde (2004), supra n. 4, p. 4.

95 See B.E. Oder, ‘Populism and the Turkish Constitutional Court: the Game Broker, the Populist and the Popular’, Verfassungsblog, 2 May 2017, <www.verfassungsblog.de/populism-and-the-turkish-constitutional-court-the-game-broker-the-populist-and-the-popular/>, visited 15 January 2019.

96 As evidenced, in the case of Hungary, by Szente, supra n. 46.

97 Moustafa, supra n. 7, p. 286-287.

98 Brewer-Carías, supra n. 17.

99 Sadurski, supra n. 17.

100 Sadurski, supra n. 62.

101 Sadurski, supra n. 62.

102 See Brewer-Carías, supra n. 17.

103 Castillo Ortiz, P.J., ‘The Political De-Determination of Legal Rules and the Contested Meaning of the “No-Bailout” Clause’, 26 Social & Legal Studies (2017) p. 249 .

104 See Brewer-Carías, supra n. 17.

105 D. Kyritsis, Where Our Protection Lies. Separation of Powers and Constitutional Review (Oxford University Press 2017) p. 53.

106 Rosenfeld, M., ‘Is Global Constitutionalism Meaningful or Desirable?’, 25 European Journal of International Law (2014) p. 177 at p. 197.

107 Waldron, supra n. 37.

108 Bugarič and Ginsburg, supra n. 12, at pp. 70-71; Bugarič, supra n. 18, p. 220.

* Pablo Castillo-Ortiz, Lecturer in Law, University of Sheffield – The School of Law. This paper was presented at the Workshop ‘The Liberal Order in Crisis’ at the Europa-Universität Viadrina. I want to thank all the participants, and specially Cas Mudde, who participated as discussant, for their feedback on the paper. I also want to thank Wojciech Sadurski, Graham Gee, Maria Haimerl, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this article. All mistakes and omissions are the sole responsibility of the author.

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