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On the interpretation of a ruling of the Constitutional Court

Case No. 27/94

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF
THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

D E C I S I O N

On the construction of Item 1.2 of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 22 December 1994

30 December 1994, Vilnius

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed from the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Algirdas Gailiūnas, Kęstutis Lapinskas, Zigmas Levickis, Vladas Pavilonis, Pranas Vytautas Rasimavičius, Stasys Stačiokas, Teodora Staugaitienė, and Juozas Žilys

The court reporter—Rolanda Stimbirytė

Vidmantas Žiemelis, a member of the Seimas, acting as the representative of a group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner

Pranciškus Vitkevičius, a member of the Seimas, acting as the representative of the Seimas, the party concerned

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, in the public court hearing examined the petition submitted by the Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania requesting the construction of Item 1.2 of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 22 December 1994

The Constitutional Court

has established:

The Speaker of the Seimas requests the construction of whether the provision “‘the powers of the judges of this Court shall be terminated’ contradicts Item 2 of Article 115 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of the Constitutional Court Ruling “On the compliance of Article 2 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Establishment of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, and Regional Courts, on the Determination of the Territories of Activity for Regional and Local Courts, also the Reformation of the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 15 June 1994 and the procedure for its adoption with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of 22 December 1994 implies that “not only Supreme Court judges shall retain their powers (unless they are appointed, at their own will, to another office, or retire), but also present heads of the Supreme Court shall preserve their posts, i.e. the duties of the Chairperson and deputy Chairpersons of the Supreme Court, after 1 January 1995.”

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

In the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 22 December 1994 it is stated that the Seimas, taking into consideration the distribution of competence of the former Supreme Court among the new Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and regional courts as well as the essential change of procedural functions of the Supreme Court, could establish another than earlier number of the Supreme Court judges. However, termination of judges’ powers was possible only pursuant to the principles prescribed by Article 115 of the Constitution. Therefore, the concept of said Law “the present Supreme Court shall be liquidated” was construed by the Constitutional Court not as the abolishment of the supreme legal institution but as a certain conditional way of the implementation of court reform. Besides, the Constitutional Court did not deny the possibility of applying this concept with regard to the internal organisational structure of the Supreme Court.

Article 115 of the Constitution as well as other articles and the above-mentioned Constitutional Court Ruling are concerned with the guarantees for the judge’s independence and not with the status of the heads of the Supreme Court. Therefore, the Constitutional Court, while deciding if the provision “the powers of the judges of this Court shall be terminated” of the first paragraph of Article 2 of the Law “On the Establishment of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, and Regional Courts, on the Determination of the Territories of Activity for Regional and Local Courts, also the Reformation of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania” of 15 June 1994 is in compliance with the Constitution, evaluated only the lawfulness of the termination of judges’ powers.

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court emphasises that the Constitution prescribes another than earlier was procedure for the formation of the Supreme Court. Earlier, the Supreme Council first appointed the Chairperson of the Supreme Court and only after that—its judges; thus, according to the second paragraph of Article 112 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court judges shall be appointed first, and the Chairperson of the Supreme Court shall be chosen from among them. Consequently, in the process of court reform, the Seimas can realise the competence provided by Article 112 of the Constitution to appoint the Chairperson of the Supreme Court from among the Supreme Court judges.

Conforming to Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania adopts the following

decision:

To construe the provision of Item 1.2 of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 22 December 1994 as meaning that this provision is applicable only to the Supreme Court judges but not to the Chairperson or deputy Chairpersons of that Court.

Justices of the Constitutional Court:

 Algirdas Gailiūnas                           Kęstutis Lapinskas                           Zigmas Levickis

 Vladas Pavilonis                              Pranas Vytautas Rasimavičius         Stasys Stačiokas

 Teodora Staugaitienė                       Juozas Žilys