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On the dismissal of a judge of a regional court

Case No. 16/05

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

RULING

ON THE COMPLIANCE OF PARAGRAPH 4 (WORDING OF 24 JANUARY 2002) OF ARTICLE 47 (WORDING OF 3 APRIL 2003) OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON COURTS WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA, ON THE COMPLIANCE OF THE DECREE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA (NO. 140) “ON RELEASING A JUDGE OF A REGIONAL COURT FROM OFFICE” OF 1 JULY 2004 WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA, WITH PARAGRAPHS 1 AND 2 OF ARTICLE 83 (WORDING OF 24 JANUARY 2002), PARAGRAPHS 1 AND 6 OF ARTICLE 84 (WORDING OF 24 JANUARY 2002), PARAGRAPH 2 OF ARTICLE 86 (WORDING OF 24 JANUARY 2002), ITEM 5 OF PARAGRAPH 1 AND PARAGRAPH 6 OF ARTICLE 90 (WORDING OF 24 JANUARY 2002), AND ON THE DISMISSAL OF THE PART OF THE CASE SUBSEQUENT TO THE PETITION OF THE COURT OF APPEAL OF LITHUANIA, THE PETITIONER, REQUESTING AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE COMPLIANCE OF THE DECREE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA (NO. 140) “ON RELEASING A JUDGE OF A REGIONAL COURT FROM OFFICE” OF 1 JULY 2004 WITH PARAGRAPH 7 (WORDING OF 24 JANUARY 2002) OF ARTICLE 90 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON COURTS

 

17 December 2007

Vilnius

 

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Armanas Abramavičius, Toma Birmontienė, Egidijus Kūris, Kęstutis Lapinskas, Zenonas Namavičius, Ramutė Ruškytė, Vytautas Sinkevičius, Stasys Stačiokas, and Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

Česlovas Atkočaitis and Darius Vilimas, advisers on legal issues to the President of the Republic of the Republic of Lithuania, acting as the representatives of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, the party concerned

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Article 1 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, on 10 December 2007, in its public hearing, considered case No. 16/05 subsequent to the petition of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether the Decree of the President of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 1 July 2004 is not in conflict with the “principles of a state under the rule of law” which, according to the petitioner, are consolidated in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, with the principle of the equality of all persons before the law, state institutions and officials, which is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 29 of the Constitution, with Article 115 thereof to the extent that it is prescribed that judges of courts of the Republic of Lithuania shall be released from office according to the procedure established by law, with the procedure of the disciplinary liability and release of judges from office, which, according to the petitioner, is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 83, Articles 83, 84, 86, Item 5 of Paragraph 1, Paragraphs 6 and 7 of Article 90 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Courts.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

The Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, considered a civil case. By its ruling, the said court suspended the consideration of the case and applied to the Constitutional Court with the petition requesting an investigation into whether the Decree of the President of the Republic (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 1 July 2004 (hereinafter also referred to as the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic) is not in conflict with the “principles of a state under the rule of law” which, according to the petitioner, are consolidated in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, with the principle of the equality of all persons before the law, state institutions and officials consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 29 of the Constitution, with Article 115 thereof to the extent that it is prescribed that judges of courts of the Republic of Lithuania shall be released from office according to the procedure established by law, with the procedure of the disciplinary liability and release of judges from office, which, according to the petitioner, is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 83, Articles 83, 84, 86, Item 5 of Paragraph 1, Paragraphs 6 and 7 of Article 90, of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Courts.

II

The Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, grounds its petition on the fact that pursuant to Item 11 of Article 84 of the Constitution, the President of the Republic shall release judges and presidents of lower level courts—regional and district courts—from office pursuant to the procedure provided for in laws; the procedure of the release of judges from office is established in the Law on Courts, whereto, according to the petitioner, Article 112 of the Constitution directs. Chapter IX of the Law on Courts establishes liability of judges and the procedure of their release and removal from office; under Paragraph 1 of Article 83 of this law, a judge shall be held liable under disciplinary procedure at the Judicial Court of Honour, which can adopt decisions established in Paragraphs 1, 2 of Article 86 of the Law on Courts. By the impugned decree of the President of the Republic, G. Baziulis, a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court, was released from office due to his conduct discrediting the name of judges according to Item 5 of Article 115 of the Constitution, although the disciplinary case instituted against him had not yet been considered at the Judicial Court of Honour. However, in the opinion of the petitioner, the President of the Republic hardly was entitled to release this judge from office on the above grounds before a respective decision was adopted by the Judicial Court of Honour. Since, according to Paragraph 1 of Article 29 of the Constitution, all persons shall be equal before the law, the court, and other state institutions and officials, the petitioner had doubts whether by the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic an exception had not been made regarding G. Baziulis and whether there was no violation of the principles of a just civil society, a state under the rule of law and the equality of persons before the law.

III

In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court’s hearing written explanations of the representatives of the President of the Republic, the party concerned, who were Č. Atkočaitis and D. Vilimas, were received wherein it is stated that the impugned decree of the President of the Republic is not in conflict with the Constitution and the Law on Courts. The position of the representatives of the President is grounded on the following arguments.

1. Under Paragraph 2 of Article 77 of the Constitution, the President of the Republic shall perform everything with which he is charged by the Constitution and laws. Article 122 of the Constitution and Article 90 of the Law on Courts consolidate the right of the President of the Republic to release judges from office. Article 115 of the Constitution and the Law on Courts provide for the grounds of releasing judges from office, inter alia, when the conduct of a judge discredits the name of judges. Impeccable reputation (Article 52 of the Law on Courts) is an essential requirement for a judge persisting over the entire period of his authorisations. Upon transpiring that the conduct of a judge discredited the name of judges, the constitutional obligation emerges for the President of the Republic to apply for the advice to the Council of Courts regarding the release of such a judge from office, and release him from office upon the receipt of such advice.

The exceptional powers of the President of the Republic to appoint judges and presidents of regional and district courts to office, to transfer and release them from office provided for in Item 11 of Article 84 and Article 112 of the Constitution should be implemented without any reservations, and such powers are not subject to limitations by other state authorities nor the willpower of courts. The President of the Republic, by the impugned decree releasing G. Baziulis, a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court, from office made an assessment of the conduct of the judge discrediting the name of judges, but did not decide regarding the issue of guilt of G. Baziulis, which is assigned to the competence of the court by Articles 5, 109, 114 of the Constitution. While executing Article 112 of the Constitution, the President of the Republic took account of the advice given to the President of the Republic by the Council of Courts, the self-government institution of judges provided for in the Law on Courts, which assessed the conduct of G. Baziulis as discrediting the name of judges, to release G. Baziulis, a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court, from office due to his conduct discrediting the name of judges (the Resolution of the Council of Courts (No. 251) “On the Advice to the President of the Republic of Lithuania to Release a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 30 June 2004).

2. Two alternative ways of bringing a judge to liability for discrediting the name of judges are provided in Item 1 of Paragraph 2 of Article 83, Item 5 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts: a judge may be held liable under disciplinary procedure or a judge may be released from office pursuant to the procedure stipulated in Article 90 of the Law on Courts. It depends on the severity of the committed offence. On the other hand, the institution of a disciplinary case is not an obstacle to release a judge from office, if by his conduct he clearly discredited the name of judges, since release from office is not a disciplinary punishment and it should be related with the nonconformity of the person to the requirements established for a judge by law. It was established that the conduct of G. Baziulis, a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court, discredited the name of judges, therefore, it should be held that this judge was released from office according to the requirements of the Law on Courts.

IV

In the course of the preparation of the case for the judicial consideration a paper of R. Laurinavičius, the Acting Director of the National Courts Administration, was received wherein the information was enclosed on the release of judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court from office.

V

Prior to the Constitutional Court’s hearing, a witness, the dismissed judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court, was questioned. He gave testimony and explanations virtually identical to those presented in the civil case considered by the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, wherein it was decided to apply to the Constitutional Court and which was attached to the petition of this petitioner requesting an investigation into the compliance of the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic with the Constitution and with the articles (paragraphs thereof) of the Law on Courts.

VI

At the Constitutional Court’s hearing, the representatives of the President of the Republic, the party concerned, who were Č. Atkočaitis and D. Vilimas, virtually repeated the arguments set forth in their written explanations and presented additional explanations.

The witness, the dismissed judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court, gave testimony at the Constitutional Court’s hearing.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

1. On 1 July 2004, the President of the Republic issued the Decree (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office”, which establishes the following:

Article 1.

In pursuance of Item 11 of Article 84, Item 5 of Article 115 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and upon advice by the Council of Courts I hereby r e l e a s e judge Giedrius BAZIULIS of the Vilnius Regional Court from office due to his conduct discrediting the name of judges.

Article 2.

This decree shall take effect on the day of its signing.”

2. The Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, requests an investigation into whether this decree of the President of the Republic is not in conflict with the “principles of a state under the rule of law”, which, according to the petitioner, is consolidated in the Preamble to the Constitution, with the principle of the equality of all persons before the law, state institutions and officials, which is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 29 of the Constitution, with Article 115 thereof to the extent that it is prescribed that judges of courts of the Republic of Lithuania shall be released from office according to the procedure established by law, with the procedure of the disciplinary liability and release of judges from office, which, according to the petitioner, is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 83, Articles 83, 84, 86, Item 5 of Paragraph 1, Paragraphs 6 and 7 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts.

3. The Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, requests an investigation into whether the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic is not in conflict, inter alia, with the “principles of a state under the rule of law”, which, according to the petitioner, are consolidated in the Preamble to the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has more than once held in its acts that the principle of a state under the rule of law is consolidated not only in the Preamble to the Constitution, in addition, that an investigation into the compliance of legal acts (paragraphs thereof) with the striving for a just civil society and state under the rule of law proclaimed in the Preamble to the Constitution implies an investigation into the compliance thereof with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

4. It is clear from the arguments of the petition of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, that the petitioner requests an investigation into whether the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic is not in conflict with the articles (paragraphs thereof) of the Law on Courts set forth in its wording of 24 January 2002.

5. It has been mentioned that the petitioner requests an investigation into whether the impugned decree of the President of the Republic is not in conflict, inter alia, with Paragraph 7 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002).

It should be noted that Paragraph 7 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002) by the ruling of the Constitutional Court of 9 May 2006 was ruled to be in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 5, Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution, the constitutional principle of the separation of powers and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law. Therefore, an investigation into the compliance of the impugned decree of the President of the Republic with this paragraph becomes meaningless: if it were investigated, an essentially false presumption would have to be made that, ostensibly, a substatutory legal act should comply with an unconstitutional law. Such a presumption would negate the concept of the hierarchy of legal acts consolidated in the Constitution, with the Constitution at the top of it; thus, the essence of constitutional justice itself would be distorted.

Taking account of the arguments set forth, it should be held that there is no matter of investigation in this part of the constitutional justice case, thus, the part of the case regarding the compliance of the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic with Paragraph 7 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002) must be dismissed.

6. It is clear from the arguments of the petition of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, that it has doubted regarding the compliance of the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic, inter alia, with:

not entire Article 83 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, but only the provision “a judge may be held liable under disciplinary procedure: (1) for the conduct discrediting the name of judges” of Paragraph 2 of Paragraph 1 thereof;

not entire Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, but only the provision “A disciplinary case may be instituted against a judge immediately upon the emergence of at least one of the offences stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 83 of this Law” of Paragraph 1 thereof, and the provision “The instituted disciplinary case shall be referred to the Judicial Court of Honour” of Paragraph 6 thereof;

not entire Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, but only the provision “The Judicial Court of Honour by its decision may suggest to the President of the Republic <…> pursuant to the procedure stipulated by this Law <…> (2) to release the judge from office” of Paragraph 2 thereof;

not entire Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, but only the provision “A judge of the regional court <…> shall be released from office by the President of the Republic” of Paragraph 6 thereof.

7. In summary, it should be held that in this constitutional justice case the compliance of the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic with the Constitution and articles (paragraphs thereof) of the Law on Courts is impugned only in the aspect that by this decree of the President of the Republic, judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office before the consideration of the disciplinary case instituted against him at the Judicial Court of Honour and prior to adoption of the decision by the latter to propose to the President of the Republic to release that judge from office.

The Constitutional Court will investigate the compliance of the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic with the Constitution and with the Law on Courts (paragraphs thereof) only in the aspect regarding which the arguments are provided by the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner.

II

1. The following has been established in this constitutional justice case:

on 12 January 2004, a car driven by judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court hit a vehicle ahead of it; by causing this accident G. Baziulis violated Paragraph 2 of Article 127 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter also referred to as the CAVL); on the same day an administrative law violation protocol No. 3-760 was drawn up, in the section “The Offender” whereof the entry “Unemployed” was made in the row “Place of Employment”; G. Baziulis did not say that he was a judge and signed this protocol; he did not report this administrative violation to the President of the Vilnius Regional Court (pages 43, 44, volume I of civil case No. 2A-286/2005 considered by the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner; testimony of the witness G. Baziulis at the Constitutional Court’s hearing);

upon the consideration of the case of administrative law violation committed by G. Baziulis, by Resolution No. 3-760 of the Traffic Supervision Service of the public police of the Vilnius City Chief Police Commissioner’s Office of 16 January 2004, sanctioned by judge A. Tilindienė of the Second Vilnius City District Court, pursuant to Paragraph 1 of Article 301 of the CAVL, whereby, inter alia, a softer punishment may be imposed than was provided for in the sanction of a respective CAVL article, the administrative penalty imposed on G. Baziulis according to Paragraph 2 of Article 127 of the CAVL was a warning; G. Baziulis was familiarised with this resolution and signed it (pages 43, 44, volume I of civil case No. 2A-286/2005 considered by the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner);

by the Letter of the Director of the Special Investigations Service under the Republic of Lithuania Government V. Junokas (No. 4-1-1918) “On the Administrative Law Violation Committed by Giedrius Baziulis” of 20 May 2004, V. Greičius, the President of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, was informed about the administrative law violation committed by G. Baziulis; on 2 June 2004, G. Baziulis presented a written explanation to V. Milius, the President of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, in which he indicated, inter alia, that after the accident caused on 12 January 2004 he did not specify his place of employment in the explanation written at the Road Police; on 2 June 2004 V. Milius, the President of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, wrote a presentation to the Ethical and Disciplinary Commission of Judges regarding the institution of a disciplinary case against judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court; in the hearing of 9 June 2004 the Ethical and Disciplinary Commission of Judges heard judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court and, on the same day, by the Decision (No. 5) “To Institute a Disciplinary Case Against Judge Giedrius Baziulis”, decided to institute a disciplinary case against him due to his conduct discrediting the name of judges, since the conclusion had been made that G. Baziulis was aware of the fact that, according to Paragraph 4 (wording of 24 January 2002) of Article 47 (wording of 3 April 2003) of the Law on Courts, a judge may not be brought to administrative liability, however, if he commits an administrative law violation, the material is handed over to the Ethical and Disciplinary Commission of Judges, however, he knowingly did not indicate his place of employment and took no action for the purpose of implementation of the said provisions of the Law on Courts; by ordinance No. 2 of 16 June 2004, A. Sirvydis, the President of the Judicial Court of Honour, established the date of consideration of the disciplinary case instituted against judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court—14 July 2004 at 14 hrs. (pages 70, 71, 94, 95, 99, 100, 118 , volume I of civil case No. 2A-286/2005 considered by the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner);

on 25 June 2004, upon the commissioning of A. Paulauskas, the Acting President of the Republic, M. Vainiutė, the adviser on legal issues to the President of the Republic, by the Letter (No. 2D-2558) “On the Advice to the President of the Republic”, requested the Council of Courts to provide advice regarding the release of G. Baziulis from the office of a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court; a copy of this letter was sent to the National Courts Administration; on 30 June 2004, the Council of Courts at a special hearing considered this request and adopted the Decision (No. 251) “On Advice to the President of the Republic of Lithuania to Release a Judge of the Regional Court”, whereby it decided to advise that the President of the Republic release G. Baziulis from the office of a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court due to his conduct discrediting the name of judges; G. Baziulis did not take part in this hearing (pages 87, 134, volume I of civil case No. 2A-286/2005 considered by the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, letter No. 4R-444-(1.13) of 16 March 2007 of R. Laurinavičius, Acting Director of the National Courts Administration);

by the Decree of the President of the Republic (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 1 July 2004, pursuant to Item 11 of Article 84, Article 112, Item 5 of Article 115 of the Constitution and upon advising by the Council of Courts, judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office due to his conduct discrediting the name of judges.

2. By the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 9 May 2006, Paragraph 2 of Article 119 of the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002) to the extent that it was prescribed that not only judges but also other persons compose the Council of Courts, was acknowledged as conflicting with Paragraph 5 of Article 112, Paragraph 2 of Article 5 of the Constitution, with the constitutional principle of the separation of powers, and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law. In the rulings of 9 May 2006 and 21 September 2006 the Constitutional Court held that it did not mean that the decisions made by the Council of Courts composed under the articles (paragraphs thereof) of the Law on Courts valid at that time (wording of 24 January 2002 with subsequent amendments and supplements) on advising the President of the Republic regarding appointment, promotion, transfer, release of judges from office or any other decisions of such Council of Courts may be questioned on this basis only.

It has been noted that, by the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 9 May 2006, Paragraph 7 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002) was also ruled to be in conflict with the Constitution. This also does not mean that the decisions made by the Council of Courts composed under the articles (paragraphs thereof) of the Law on Courts valid at that time (wording of 24 January 2002 with subsequent amendments and supplements) for the implementation of the provisions of Article 90 of the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002) may be questioned on these grounds only.

Thus, also the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic, whereby judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office due to his conduct discrediting the name of judges, may not be questioned on the sole grounds that the advice to release this judge from office was given to the President of the Republic by the Council of Courts, which included persons other than judges.

3. It should be mentioned that, under Paragraph 2 of Article 83 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, an action discrediting the name of judges (Item 1) and an administrative law violation (Item 2) are different grounds for a judge to disciplinary liability; in itself, an administrative law violation does not mean that an action discrediting the name of judges was committed.

In this context it should be noted that administrative law violations provided for in laws are very different; not any administrative law violation (inter alia, not any violation of the road traffic rules) by itself implies that there are grounds for instituting disciplinary proceedings against a judge and treating him as having discredited the name of judges.

However, it should be noted that the conduct, which the Council of Courts recognised as the conduct discrediting the name of judges, was not the causing of the traffic accident by G. Baziulis, committing an administrative law violation, but that he was silent about his office and thus preconditioned the institution of administrative proceedings against him, although, as a judge, according to CAVL, he could not be brought to administrative liability. Such silence of G. Baziulis created the preconditions for adopting resolution No. 3-760 of 16 January 2004 by the Traffic Supervision Office of the public police of the Vilnius City Chief Police Commissioner’s Office, and for a judge to sanction the decision of an official to impose a softer punishment than it is provided for in the sanction of Paragraph 2 of Article 127 of the CAVL, i.e. to make such decisions which, under Paragraph 4 (wording of 24 January 2002) of Article 47 (wording of 3 April 2003) of the Law on Courts, could not be made (no matter how the legal regulation established under this paragraph is assessed, including the standpoint of its constitutionality).

It should be noted that these, as well as other issues related with the procedure of adopting the decision of the Council of Courts on the advising of the release of G. Baziulis from the office of a judge of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court are not raised in the petition of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania.

4. Alongside, it should be noted that the provision of Paragraph 4 (wording of 24 January 2002) of Article 47 (wording of 3 April 2003) of the Law on Courts that administrative procedure may not be instituted against a judge is not grounded constitutionally.

4.1. This provision should be construed while taking account of the other provisions of this paragraph, specifically, the provision that if a judge commits an administrative law violation, the material shall be referred to the Ethical and Disciplinary Commission of Judges, also Paragraph 1 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of this law, whereby a disciplinary case may be instituted against a judge immediately upon the emergence of at least one of the offences stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 83 of this law (but not later than within three months of the day, on which the Ethical and Disciplinary Commission of Judges entitled to institute the case found out about this offence), while under Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 83 (wording of 24 January 2002) a judge may be held liable under disciplinary procedure for committing an administrative law violation; under Paragraph 5 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts this commission shall be entitled to institute administrative cases, which, according to Paragraph 6 of this article, shall be referred to the Judicial Court of Honour, however, the latter, according to the competence established under Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, has no authorisations to hold a judge, who has committed an administrative law violation, administratively liable. Thus, such a judge evades administrative liability for his commission of the administrative law violation (also when, under Paragraph 2 of Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, by its decision the Judicial Court of Honour proposes to the President of the Republic or to the Seimas to appoint that judge as a judge of a lower level court, to release him from office or start the impeachment proceedings against that judge).

4.2. Such legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 24 January 2002) of Article 47 (wording of 3 April 2003) of the Law on Courts is not in line with Paragraph 2 of Article 114 of the Constitution, whereby a judge may not be held criminally liable, arrested or have his freedom restricted otherwise without the consent of the Seimas, or, in the period between the sessions of the Seimas, without the consent of the President of the Republic. The immunity from administrative liability of a judge, as well as a member of the Seimas and of the Government who are also officials implementing their functions of the state authority execution, is not established in the Constitution, except the cases when administrative liability is related with the restriction of the freedom of a judge; whereas the President of the Republic has the immunity explicitly consolidated in the Constitution not only from criminal, but also from administrative liability: while in office, he may neither be arrested nor held criminally or administratively liable (Paragraph 1 of Article 86 of the Constitution).

4.3. On the other hand, by the provision of Paragraph 4 (wording of 24 January 2002) of Article 47 (wording of 3 April 2003) of the Law on Courts that a judge may not be held administratively liable, an attempt is made to secure the independence of a judge consolidated in the Constitution, when he administers justice, inter alia, to implement the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 114 of the Constitution that interference by institutions of state power and governance, members of the Seimas and other officials, political parties, political and public organisations, or citizens with the activities of a judge or the court shall be prohibited and shall incur liability provided for by law. It is obvious that an ungrounded attempt to bring a judge to administrative liability in certain circumstances may actually mean an interference with his activities with an attempt to make an impact on the decisions of the judge, or revenge for decisions already made by the judge.

Thus, an obligation arises from the Constitution for the legislature to establish the procedure for bringing a judge to administrative liability, which could provide the maximum protection to the judge from unreasonable attempts to bring him to administrative liability.

Alongside, it should be noted that in securing the independence of a judge in the administration of justice, one should heed the fact that, according to the Constitution, judges have no immunity from administrative liability (with the exception of the cases when administrative liability is related with the restriction of freedom of the judge). A fair balance should be found for the purpose of implementation of the provisions of Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 114 of the Constitution.

For instance, a rule would generally comply with the Constitution (also from the de lege ferenda viewpoint) that in order to bring a judge to administrative liability a consent (permission) should be obtained from a certain institution of the judiciary (a respective court, a higher court of the respective courts system) or a self-government institution of the judiciary (the special institution of judges which is provided for in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution and which is established by law, other self-government institutions of the judiciary).

It should be emphasised that the purpose of such consent (permission) is the securing that no impact on the activities of the judge is made, which is prohibited by the Constitution (Paragraph 1 of Article 114 of the Constitution), however, it is not creation of preconditions for the judge who committed an administrative violation to evade administrative liability.

4.4. Taking account of the arguments set forth, the conclusion should be drawn that the provision of Paragraph 4 (wording of 24 January 2002) of Article 47 (wording of 3 April 2003) of the Law on Courts that a judge may not be held administratively liable is in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 114 of the Constitution.

III

On compliance of the Decree of the President of the Republic (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 1 July 2004 with Paragraph 1 of Article 83 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, the provision “a judge may be held liable under disciplinary procedure: (1) for the conduct discrediting the name of judges” of Paragraph 2 thereof, the provision “A disciplinary case may be instituted against a judge immediately upon the emergence of at least one of the offences stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 83 of this Law” of Paragraph 1 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, the provision “The instituted disciplinary case shall be referred to the Judicial Court of Honour” of Paragraph 6 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, the provision “The Judicial Court of Honour by its decision may suggest to the President of the Republic <…> pursuant to the procedure stipulated by this Law <…> (2) to release the judge from office” of Paragraph 2 of Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, Item 5 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, and the provision “A judge of the regional court <…> shall be released from office by the President of the Republic” of Paragraph 6 of the same article.

1. In deciding subsequent to the petition of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, whether the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 83 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, whereby a judge shall be held liable under disciplinary procedure at the Judicial Court of Honour, the provision “a judge may be held liable under disciplinary procedure: (1) for the conduct discrediting the name of judges” of Paragraph 2 of the same article, the provision “A disciplinary case may be instituted against a judge immediately upon the emergence of at least one of the offences stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 83 of this Law” of Paragraph 1 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002), the provision “The instituted disciplinary case shall be referred to the Judicial Court of Honour” of Paragraph 6 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002), the provision “The Judicial Court of Honour by its decision may suggest to the President of the Republic <…> pursuant to the procedure stipulated by this Law <…> (2) to release the judge from office” of Paragraph 2 of Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002), Item 5 of Paragraph 1 whereby a judge shall be released from office due to his conduct discrediting the name of judges, the provision “A judge of a regional court <…> shall be released from office by the President of the Republic” of Paragraph 6 of Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts in the aspect judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office that by this decree of the President of the Republic without consideration of the disciplinary case against him by the Judicial Court of Honour and without adoption of the decision by the latter to propose to the President of the Republic to release this judge from office, it should be noted that the Constitutional Court, while assessing the legal regulation established in the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002 with subsequent amendments and supplements) on the release of judges from office due to their conduct discrediting the name of judges, made the following statement in its ruling of 27 November 2006:

this law entrenches such overall regulation regarding the relations of the release of a judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges, under which the Judicial Court of Honour has the right, inter alia, to submit proposals for the President of the Republic to release the judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges, and the President of the Republic, after having received the advice from the special institution of judges provided for by law specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution regarding the release of the judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges, has the powers to decide whether to release the judge from office on the said grounds;

neither Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, nor other articles of this law prescribe that the President of the Republic may release a judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges only upon the proposal from the Judicial Court of Honour to the President of the Republic; neither Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, nor other articles of this law prescribe that the President of the Republic may apply to the special institution of judges provided for by law specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution regarding the release of a judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges only in the case, when there is a proposal from the Judicial Court of Honour for the President of the Republic to release the judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges;

the constitutional powers of the President of the Republic to apply to the special institution of judges provided for by law specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution for advice regarding the release of a judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges, cannot be bound by the presence or absence is a corresponding proposal of the Judicial Court of Honour to the President of the Republic; under the Constitution, no decision of the Judicial Court of Honour in a disciplinary case, wherein it was investigated whether his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges, whatever the content of such decision (inter alia, to dismiss the disciplinary case if there are no grounds for disciplinary liability; to restrict oneself to the consideration of the disciplinary case; to impose a disciplinary sanction on the judge), restricts nor let alone denies the constitutional powers of the President of the Republic to apply to the special institution of judges provided for by law specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution for advice regarding the release of the judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges;

if the said legal regulation established in the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002 with subsequent amendments and supplements) were construed as, purportedly, establishing the prohibition for the President of the Republic on applying to the special institution of judges provided for by law specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution for advice regarding the release of a judge from office until the Judicial Court of Honour (after it has considered the disciplinary case instituted against the judge) proposes the President of the Republic to release the judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges, and as establishing the prohibition for the President of the Republic on releasing the judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges if the Judicial Court of Honour (after it has considered the disciplinary case instituted against the judge) does not propose the President of the Republic to release the judge from office because of the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges, it would mean that Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002) (we construe it in relation with Article 90) of the Law on Courts establishes such legal regulation that restricts or even denies the powers of the President of the Republic, which are established in the Constitution, to release judges of local and regional courts as well as judges of the Court of Appeal from office whose conduct discredited the name of judges, and that restricts or even denies the powers of the special institution of judges provided for by law specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution to advice the President of the Republic regarding the release of the judge from office; if the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002 with subsequent amendments and supplements) established the said legal regulation—restricting or even denying the powers of the President of the Republic, which are established in the Constitution, to release judges of the local and regional courts as well as judges of the Court of Appeal from office whose conduct discredited the name of judges, and restricting or even denying the powers of the special institution of judges provided for by law specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution to advice the President of the Republic regarding the release of the judge from office—it could be regarded as being in conflict with the Constitution.

2. Having held that, according to the Law on Courts (wording of 24 January 2002 with subsequent amendments and supplements), before the release of a judge of the regional court from office due to the fact that his conduct as a judge discredited the name of judges, it is not necessary to institute a disciplinary case against this judge and it is not necessary for the Judicial Court of Honour, upon consideration of such a case, to adopt the decision to propose to the President of the Republic to release the judge from office, also that regardless of whether there is a proposal of the Judicial Court of Honour to the President of the Republic to release that judge from office or not, this does not limit nor negate the constitutional powers of the President of the Republic to apply to the special institution of judges specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution for advice regarding the release of the judge of the regional court whose conduct discredited the name of judges from office and, upon receipt of such advice, to release that judge from office, it should also be stated that it was within the powers of the President of the Republic to issue the decree whereby he released G. Baziulis from the office of a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court for his conduct discrediting the name of judges, although upon instituting the disciplinary case against this judge for his actions, the Judicial Court of Honour had not yet adopted any decision to propose to the President of the Republic to release G. Baziulis from the office of a judge of the Vilnius Regional Court.

3. Taking account of the arguments set forth, the conclusion should be drawn that the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic in the aspect that judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office by this decree of the President of the Republic without the consideration of the disciplinary case instituted against him at the Judicial Court of Honour and without adoption of the decision by the latter to propose to the President of the Republic to release this judge from office, is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 83 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, the provision “a judge may be held liable under disciplinary procedure: (1) for the conduct discrediting the name of judges” of Paragraph 2 thereof, the provision “A disciplinary case may be instituted against a judge immediately upon the emergence of at least one of the offences stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 83 of this Law” of Paragraph 1 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, the provision “The instituted disciplinary case shall be referred to the Judicial Court of Honour” of Paragraph 6 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, the provision “The Judicial Court of Honour by its decision may suggest to the President of the Republic <…> pursuant to the procedure stipulated by this Law <…> (2) to release the judge from office” of Paragraph 2 of Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, Item 5 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, and the provision “A judge of the regional court <…> shall be released from office by the President of the Republic” of Paragraph 6 of the same article.

IV

On the compliance of the Decree of the President of the Republic (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 1 July 2004 with Article 115 of the Constitution to the extent that it prescribes that judges of courts of the Republic of Lithuania shall be released from office according to the procedure established by law, with Paragraph 1 of Article 29 thereof, and with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

1. While deciding, subsequent to the petition of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, the petitioner, whether the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic is not in conflict with Article 115 of the Constitution to the extent that it prescribes that judges of courts of the Republic of Lithuania shall be released from office according to the procedure established by law, in the aspect that by this decree of the President of the Republic judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office without consideration by the Judicial Court of Honour of the disciplinary case instituted against him and without adoption of the decision by the latter to propose to the President of the Republic to release this judge from office, it should be noted that, as the Constitutional Court held in its ruling of 27 November 2006, when the requirement to establish the procedure for the release of judges from office by law entrenched in Article 115 of the Constitution is construed in the context of Paragraph 4 of Article 111 of the Constitution, under which the formation and competence of courts shall be established by the Law on Courts, this means that the procedure for the release of judges from office must be established not in any law, but namely in the Law on Courts; while establishing the procedure for the release of judges from office in the Law on Courts, the legislature, under the Constitution, has certain discretion, however, while establishing this procedure, the legislature, inter alia, may not deny or restrict the constitutional powers of the President of the Republic, the Seimas and of the special institution of judges specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution which are entrenched in the Constitution.

2. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 83 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Law on Courts, the provision “a judge may be held liable under disciplinary procedure: (1) for the conduct discrediting the name of judges” of Paragraph 2 thereof, the provision “A disciplinary case may be instituted against a judge immediately upon the emergence of at least one of the offences stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 83 of this Law” of Paragraph 1 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, the provision “The instituted disciplinary case shall be referred to the Judicial Court of Honour” of Paragraph 6 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, the provision “The Judicial Court of Honour by its decision may suggest to the President of the Republic <…> pursuant to the procedure stipulated by this Law <…> (2) to release the judge from office” of Paragraph 2 of Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, Item 5 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, and the provision “A judge of the regional court <…> shall be released from office by the President of the Republic” of Paragraph 6 of the same article.

3. Therefore, there are no legal grounds for the statement that when judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office by the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic—in the aspect that judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office by this decree of the President of the Republic without consideration of the disciplinary case instituted against him at the Judicial Court of Honour and without adopting a decision by the latter to propose to the President of the Republic to release this judge from office—the provision of Article 115 of the Constitution that judges shall be released from office according to the procedure established by law was disregarded.

4. Alongside, it should be stated that there are no legal grounds for the statement that in the specified aspect one deviated from the requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 29 of the Constitution, whereby it is prescribed that all persons are equal before the law, state institutions and officials, as well as from the requirements arising from the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

5. Taking account of the arguments set forth, the conclusion should be drawn that the 1 July 2004 decree (No. 140) of the President of the Republic in the aspect that judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office by this decree of the President of the Republic without the consideration of the disciplinary case instituted against him at the Judicial Court of Honour and without adoption of the decision by the latter to propose to the President of the Republic to release this judge from office is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 29, Article 115 of the Constitution to the extent that judges shall be released from office according to the procedure established by law, and with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

Conforming to Articles 102, 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1, 53, 54, 55, 56, 69 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania gives the following

ruling:

1. To recognise that Paragraph 4 (wording of 24 January 2002; Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2002, No. 17-649) of Article 47 (wording of 3 April 2003) of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Courts to the extent that it is prescribed that a judge may not be held administratively liable is in conflict with Paragraph 2, Article 114 of the Constitution.

2. To recognise that the Decree of the President of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 1 July 2004 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2004, No. 104-3840) 2004 in the aspect that judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office by this decree of the President of the Republic without the consideration of the disciplinary case instituted against him at the Judicial Court of Honour and without adoption of the decision by the latter to propose to the President of the Republic to release this judge from office is not in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

3. To recognise that the Decree of the President of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 1 July 2004 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2004, No. 104-3840) in the aspect that judge G. Baziulis of the Vilnius Regional Court was released from office by this decree of the President of the Republic without the consideration of the disciplinary case instituted against him at the Judicial Court of Honour and without adoption of the decision by the latter to propose to the President of the Republic to release this judge from office is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 83 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Courts, the provision “a judge may be held liable under disciplinary procedure: (1) for the conduct discrediting the name of judges” of Paragraph 2 thereof, the provision “A disciplinary case may be instituted against a judge immediately upon the emergence of at least one of the offences stipulated in Paragraph 2 of Article 83 of this Law” of Paragraph 1 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, the provision “The instituted disciplinary case shall be referred to the Judicial Court of Honour” of Paragraph 6 of Article 84 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, the provision “The Judicial Court of Honour by its decision may suggest to the President of the Republic <…> pursuant to the procedure stipulated by this Law <…> (2) to release the judge from office” of Paragraph 2 of Article 86 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, Item 5 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the same law, and the provision “A judge of the regional court <…> shall be released from office by the President of the Republic” of Paragraph 6 of the same article.

4. To dismiss the part of the case regarding the compliance of the Decree of the President of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 140) “On Releasing a Judge of a Regional Court from Office” of 1 July 2004 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2004, No. 104-3840) with Paragraph 7 of Article 90 (wording of 24 January 2002) of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Courts.

This ruling of the Constitutional Court is final and subject to no appeal.

The ruling is pronounced in the name of the Republic of Lithuania.

Justices of the Constitutional Court: Armanas Abramavičius
                                                                      Toma Birmontienė
                                                                      Egidijus Kūris
                                                                      Kęstutis Lapinskas
                                                                      Zenonas Namavičius
                                                                      Ramutė Ruškytė
                                                                      Vytautas Sinkevičius
                                                                      Stasys Stačiokas
                                                                      Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis