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Content updated: 17-09-2020 10:19

The legal acts relating to the release of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court of Lithuania from her duties are unconstitutional and contrary to the Law on Courts

02-09-2020

By its ruling adopted today, the Constitutional Court has recognised that Article 1 of the decree (No 1K-164) of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 on the submission to the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania that it releases the justice of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, Sigita Rudėnaitė, from her duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court and that it appoints her as the President of that court is in conflict with Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution, the provision of Item 11 of Article 84 thereof that, in cases provided for by law, the President of the Republic submits that the Seimas release judges from their duties, Paragraph 4 of Article 111 thereof, Item 4 of Article 115 thereof, the constitutional principles of the independence of judges and courts, a state under the rule of law, and responsible governance, as well as with Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 81 and Item 4 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts.

By means of the same ruling, the Constitutional Court has recognised that the resolution (No XIII-2848) of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 on the release of the justice of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, Sigita Rudėnaitė, from her duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court is in conflict with Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5, Paragraph 4 of Article 111, Paragraph 2 of Article 112, and Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution, the constitutional principles of the independence of judges and courts, the separation of powers, a state under the rule of law, and responsible governance, as well as with Paragraph 4 of Article 79, Paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 81, and Item 4 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts.

The petitioner, the Seimas in corpore, has applied to the Constitutional Court with a petition requesting an assessment of the compliance of Article 1 of the decree (No 1K-164) of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 on the submission to the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania that it releases the justice of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, Sigita Rudėnaitė, from her duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court and that it appoints her as the President of that court (hereinafter referred to as the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019) and of the resolution (No XIII-2848) of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 on the release of the justice of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, Sigita Rudėnaitė, from her duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court (hereinafter referred to as the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020) with the Constitution and the Law on Courts. A group of members of the Seimas and the Vilnius Regional Court have also applied to the Constitutional Court concerning the constitutionality and lawfulness of the same resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020. The Constitutional Court considered all these petitions upon having joined them into a single constitutional justice case.

The provisions of the Constitution and the official constitutional doctrine

The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law is especially broad and comprises a wide range of various interrelated imperatives. In addition, this principle implies the hierarchy of legal acts in which the Constitution takes an exclusive – highest – position, and the requirements for law-making subjects that legal norms must be formulated precisely and must not contain any ambiguities. The constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law is related to other constitutional principles such as the separation of powers, responsible governance, and the independence of judges and courts.

 The Constitutional Court has held that the constitutional principle of the separation of powers means that legislative power, executive power, and judicial power must be separated and sufficiently independent; there must be a balance among them. The judiciary, being independent, may not be dependent on the other branches of power also because of the fact that it is the only branch of power formed on a professional, but not a political basis, and only while being autonomous and independent of the other branches of power, the judiciary may implement its function, which is the administration of justice. The procedure for the appointment and release of judges must not violate the independence of the judiciary and the balance, established in the Constitution, among state powers.

Under the Constitution, among others, Paragraphs 2 and 3 (under which the scope of power is limited by the Constitution and state institutions serve the people) of Article 5 thereof, and the constitutional principles of responsible governance and a state under the rule of law, in implementing their functions, institutions that exercise state power must not exceed the powers conferred on them by the Constitution and laws; when exercising those powers, the said institutions must adopt lawful and reasonable legal acts. The Constitutional Court noted from the aspect relevant to this constitutional justice case that the President of the Republic and the Seimas must properly implement the powers conferred on them by the Constitution and laws when appointing the justices of the Supreme Court and releasing them from duties. In exercising those powers, they must adopt lawful and reasonable legal acts. This is one of the essential guarantees of the independence of judges, which is consolidated in the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that the independence of judges and courts is not an objective in itself; it is one of the essential principles of a democratic state under the rule of law and a necessary condition of the protection of human rights and freedoms. The independence of judges and courts is not a privilege, but one of the most important duties of judges and courts, stemming from the right (guaranteed by the Constitution) of every person, who believes that his/her rights or freedoms have been violated, to have an impartial arbiter of a dispute who would, under the Constitution and laws, settle a legal dispute on the merits.

The independence and impartiality of judges and courts are ensured by consolidating, in the Constitution and laws, the independence of the system of courts from the legislative and the executive powers, by consolidating the procedural independence of judges, the organisational autonomy and self-government of courts, the status of judges, the inviolability of the person of a judge, the immunities of judges, the inviolability of the term of powers of judges, the social (material) guarantees of judges, and by consolidating the prohibition against any interference with the activity of judges or courts by state institutions, members of the Seimas, other officials, political parties, political and public organisations, as well as citizens.

In this constitutional justice case, the essential guarantee of the independence of judges is the guarantee of the inviolability of the term of their powers. Only an independent court, i.e. only such a court whose judges are guaranteed the inviolability of the term of their powers, may be regarded as a court that administers justice in the manner required by the Constitution. The guarantee of the inviolability of the term of powers of a judge is also important because of the fact that a judge, whatever political forces are in power, must remain independent and must not adapt to the possible change of political forces. The term of powers of a judge must not depend on any future free-discretion decisions adopted by such state power institutions that have appointed him/her as a judge. Upon having established the term of powers (term of office) of the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court, a duty arises for the Seimas to respect the term of powers (term of office) established by means of a law, as, under the Constitution, also each member of the Seimas, in performing the functions and exercising the powers established to him/her by the Constitution, is bound by the Constitution and laws. Thus, neither the Seimas, nor the members of the Seimas can ignore not only the Constitution, but also the legal regulation (consolidated in the law) that determines the term of powers (term of office) of the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court. This also applies to the Seimas when deciding on the release of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court of Lithuania from duties.   

Item 11 of Article 84 of the Constitution provides that the President of the Republic, among others, proposes candidates for the posts of the justices of the Supreme Court for consideration by the Seimas and, on the appointment of all the justices of the Supreme Court, proposes the candidate from among them for the post of the President of the Supreme Court to be appointed by the Seimas; in cases provided for by law, the President of the Republic also submits that the Seimas release judges from their duties. This is the prerogative of the President of the Republic.

Item 11 of Article 84 of the Constitution is related to Item 10 of Article 67 of the Constitution, under which the Seimas appoints the justices and President of, among others, the Supreme Court, as well as to Paragraph 2 of Article 112 of the Constitution, under which the justices of the Supreme Court, as well as its President chosen from among them, are appointed and released by the Seimas upon submission by the President of the Republic. The powers of the President of the Republic, which are consolidated in Item 11 of Article 84 of the Constitution, as well as the powers of the Seimas, which are enshrined in Paragraph 2 of Article 112 of the Constitution, should be interpreted in the context of Paragraph 4 of Article 111 of the Constitution, under which the formation and competence of courts is established by the Law on Courts of the Republic of Lithuania.

When interpreting these provisions of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court has noted that the Constitution establishes such a procedure of the appointment and release of the judges and presidents of courts of general jurisdiction of various levels where such judges and presidents of courts are appointed and released by the institutions of other branches of state power – executive power and legislative power; thus, they are appointed and released, respectively, by the President of the Republic and the Seimas, i.e. institutions that are formed on a political basis; in order to appoint or release a justice or the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Republic must propose that the Seimas appoint or release such a person, while the final decision on the appointment of the said person as a justice or the President of the Supreme Court or his/her release from duties is adopted by the Seimas. According to the Constitution, the fact that the President of the Republic, when proposing candidates for the posts of the justices of the Supreme Court to the Seimas, also when proposing a candidate for the post of the President of the Supreme Court and, in cases specified by law, submitting to the Seimas judges to be dismissed, simultaneously submits to the Seimas respective draft legal acts does not deny the duty of the Seimas, after due consideration of the said draft legal acts, to adopt relevant lawful and reasonable legal acts.

Under Item 11 of Article 84 of the Constitution read in conjunction with Paragraph 4 of Article 111 thereof, the President of the Republic has the power to submit to the Seimas a candidate not only for the post the President of the Supreme Court, but also candidates for the posts of the chairpersons of that court’s divisions established by the Law on Courts. The President of the Republic also has the power to propose that the Seimas release from their duties the chairpersons of that court’s divisions established by the Law on Courts on the grounds laid down in the Constitution and in the provisions of the Law on Courts that do not contradict it. In addition, according to Paragraph 2 of Article 112 of the Constitution read in conjunction with Paragraph 4 of Article 111 thereof, the Seimas has the power, on the proposal of the President of the Republic, to appoint not only the President of the Supreme Court from among the justices of the Supreme Court, but also the chairpersons of that court’s divisions established by the Law on Courts; also, the Seimas has the power, on the proposal of the President of the Republic, to release from their duties the chairpersons of that court’s divisions established by the Law on Courts on the grounds laid down in the Constitution and in the provisions of the Law on Courts that do not contradict it.

Another guarantee (which is essential in this constitutional justice case and which also secures the inviolability of the term of powers of judges) of the independence of judges is the establishment in the Constitution of the final list of grounds for the release of judges from their duties (cessation of powers). The grounds for releasing judges from duties are established in Article 115 of the Constitution, under which judges are released from their duties according to the procedure established by law in the following cases: (1) of their own will; (2) upon the expiry of the term of powers, or upon reaching the pensionable age established by law; (3) due to their state of health; (4) upon election to another office, or upon transfer, with their consent, to another place of work; (5) when their conduct discredits the name of judges; (6) upon the entry into effect of court judgments convicting them. Under Article 116 of the Constitution, according to the procedure for impeachment proceedings, the President and justices of the Supreme Court, as well as the President and judges of the Court of Appeal, may be removed from office by the Seimas for a gross violation of the Constitution or a breach of the oath, or when they are found to have committed a crime.

A guarantee of judges’ independence (which is consolidated in the Constitution) is reflected in the phrase of Article 115 of the Constitution “The judges … shall be released from their duties according to the procedure established by law”. In interpreting the said phrase, the Constitutional Court held that the procedure, laid down in the Law on Courts, for releasing judges from their duties must be observed by all entities that have the powers, under the Constitution and the Law on Courts, to decide on releasing judges from their duties or, in the manner prescribed by the Law on Courts, have the power to participate in deciding on issues of releasing judges from their duties.

The grounds for releasing judges from their duties (the cessation of powers) established in Articles 115 and 116 of the Constitution should be applied also when releasing judges from the duties of the president of a court (or the chairperson of a division of the court). By adopting a relevant individual act of the application of law, judges may be released (without releasing them from the position of a judge) from the duties of the president of a court, of the chairperson of a court’s division, or from any other administrative duties in a relevant court, among others, on the grounds laid down in Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution (after appointing them to another position either in the same or another court).

The ground for releasing judges from their duties – “upon election to another office, or upon transfer, with their consent, to another place of work” – as established in Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution, is relevant in this constitutional justice case. This phrase also covers cases where a judge is released from his/her duties after being appointed to another position in the same court (such as his/her release from the duties of the chairperson of a division of the court following his/her appointment as the president of the court). The phrase found in Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution gives rise to the requirement that a judge is released from his/her duties only upon the occurrence of the legal fact – his/her election, including his/her appointment, to another position (among other things, in the same court). In other words, according to Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution, the election (appointment) of a judge to another position or transfer, with his/her consent, to another job is a necessary condition under which a decision may be made to release the judge from his/her duties.

The Constitutional Court stressed that the President of the Republic, when proposing that the Seimas release a judge from his/her duties on the grounds laid down in Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution, and the Seimas, when releasing, on the proposal of the President of the Republic, the judge from his/her duties on these grounds, must make sure that the judge is actually elected/appointed to another position. A different interpretation of Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution would be incompatible with the independence of judges, which is entrenched in the Constitution, as it would create the preconditions for releasing a judge from his/her duties before the expiry of his/her term of office and in the absence of other grounds established in the Constitution or the Law on Courts.

The Constitutional Court has noted that a special institution of judges, provided for in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution, which advises the President of the Republic on the appointment, promotion, transfer of judges, or their release from duties (the Judicial Council), is an important element of the self-government of the judiciary. The said institution counterbalances the President of the Republic as an entity of the executive branch in the formation of the corps of judges. The impossibility, which stems from the Constitution, to release a judge from his/her duties without the advice of a special institution of judges, which is specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution and is provided for by law, is a very important guarantee of the independence of judges and courts and is one of the means that helps judges of all courts with no exception to protect themselves from the interference of state power and governance institutions, members of the Seimas, as well as other officials, political parties, political and public organisations, and other persons with the activities of judges or courts.

The Constitutional Court noted from the aspect relevant to this constitutional justice case that, in the event the President of the Republic applies to a special institution of judges (the Judicial Council), specified in Paragraph 5 of Article 112 of the Constitution, so that it would advise him/her on proposing that the Seimas release the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court from his/her duties on the basis provided for in Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution, the Judicial Council must, among other things, make sure that the legal fact specified in Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution has occurred, i.e. that the judge has been appointed to another position. In the absence of such a legal fact, the Judicial Council should not advise the President of the Republic on proposing that the Seimas release the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court from his/her duties on the grounds provided for in Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution.

The assessment of the compliance of Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 with the Constitution and the Law on Courts

Interpreting Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019, the Constitutional Court noted that it formulated the proposal that the Seimas adopt, by means of a single decision, two interrelated decisions – to release a justice of the Supreme Court from the position of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court and to appoint that justice of the Supreme Court as the President of that court, i.e. it was proposed that the Seimas take both decisions together as a single decision. By its resolution of 21 April 2020, the Seimas took into account only part of the proposal formulated in Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019, i.e. the Seimas adopted only one of the two decisions proposed for joint adoption – dismissed the justice of the Supreme Court, Sigita Rudėnaitė, from the position of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court, but did not appoint her as the President of that court.

The Constitutional Court noted that the fact that Article 1 of the Decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 proposed that the Seimas take two interrelated decisions – releasing a justice of the Supreme Court from the duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court and appointing her as the President of the same court – created the preconditions for the Seimas to decide on the joint adoption of both decisions, including the release of the justice from the duties of Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court, but without appointing her as the President of that court. It should be stressed that, in the absence of the President of the Republic’s proposal that, among other things, the said justice be released from the position of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court, the Seimas would not have had the opportunity to take such a decision before her appointment as the President of the Supreme Court.

Therefore, Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 created the preconditions for the Seimas to release the justice from the duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court in the absence of the legal basis established in Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 81 and Item 4 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts – the legal fact that the justice has been appointed to another position, namely to the position of the President of the Supreme Court. Taking this into account, the Constitutional Court held that Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 is contrary to Paragraph 1 of Article 81 and Item 4 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts.

Having stated this, the Constitutional Court also had to state that Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 disregarded the requirement, arising from Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution, that the President of the Republic, when submitting to the Seimas a judge to be released from his/her duties, must make sure that the judge has indeed been appointed to another position, as well as the requirement, arising from Item 11 of Article 84 of the Constitution read in conjunction with Paragraph 4 of Article 111 thereof, that the President of the Republic must propose that the Seimas, in accordance with the procedure established in the Law on Courts, release from duties, on the grounds established in the Constitution and in the provisions of the Law on Courts that do not contradict it, the chairpersons of the Supreme Court’s divisions established by the Law on Courts.

Consequently, despite the fact that, by means of Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019, the constitutional powers of the President of the Republic and his/her powers concretised in the Law on Courts were implemented, the implementation of those powers did not comply with the requirements, arising from Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of responsible governance and a state under the rule of law, that the President of the Republic must properly implement the powers conferred on him/her by the Constitution and laws in appointing to and releasing from duties justices of the Supreme Court and, in implementing these powers, adopt lawful and reasonable legal acts. At the same time, the Constitutional Court held that Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 also disregarded judges’ independence guarantees that are enshrined in the Constitution.

In the light of the foregoing, it was concluded that Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 contradicts Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution, the provision of Item 11 of Article 84 thereof that, in cases provided for by law, the President of the Republic submits that the Seimas release judges from their duties, Paragraph 4 of Article 111, Item 4 of Article 115 thereof, the constitutional principles of the independence of judges and courts, a state under the rule of law, and responsible governance.

The Constitutional Court also noted that the flaw in the submission to the Seimas, formulated in the impugned Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019, was due, among other things, to the fact that the Judicial Council, by giving advice to the President of the Republic in accordance with the formulation of the request submitted by the President of the Republic, had failed to fulfil its constitutional obligation to make sure that the legal fact referred to in Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution had occurred, namely that the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court had been appointed as the President of that court. If the Judicial Council had fulfilled that obligation, the decree of the President of the Republic might have been not flawed from the point of view of the Constitution.

The assessment of the compliance of the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 with the Constitution and the Law on Courts

Interpreting the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020, the Constitutional Court noted that, by means of that resolution, the Seimas had implemented only that part of its powers specified in the preamble of the said resolution that was related to the release of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court from her duties (Paragraph 2 of Article 112 of the Constitution), i.e. it had not implemented the powers, enshrined in Item 10 of Article 67 and Paragraph 2 of Article 112 of the Constitution, to appoint the President of the Supreme Court on the proposal of the President of the Republic. By the said resolution, the Seimas took into account only part of the proposal formulated in Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019, i.e. the Seimas adopted only one of the two decisions proposed for joint adoption – released the justice of the Supreme Court, Sigita Rudėnaitė, from the duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court, but did not appoint her as the President of that court. The resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 thus distorted the will of the President of the Republic, expressed in the proposal to the Seimas formulated in Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019. In addition, by the impugned resolution of the Seimas, Sigita Rudėnaitė was released from her duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court before the expiry of the term of office in this position.

Similarly as in the case of the assessment of the compliance of the impugned decree of the President of the Republic with the Law on Courts, the Constitutional Court noted that, by its resolution of 21 April 2020, the Seimas had released the justice from the position of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court in the absence of the legal basis established in Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 81 and Item 4 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts – the legal fact that the justice has been appointed to another position, namely to the position of the President of the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court also noted that the justice had been released from these duties regardless of the term of powers (term of office) (established in Paragraph 4 of Article 79 of the Law on Courts) of the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court, thus, in the absence of the grounds laid down in Item 1 of Paragraph 1 of Article 81 of the Law on Courts or any other grounds for the release from the duties of the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court. Consequently, the procedure, laid down in Paragraph 3 of Article 81 of the Law on Courts, for releasing the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court from his/her duties, which can only be applied in order to release the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court from his/her duties on the grounds established in Paragraph 1 of Article 81 of that law, was also disregarded.

Taking this into account, the Constitutional Court stated that the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 is contrary to Paragraph 4 of Article 79, Paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 81, and Item 4 of Paragraph 1 of Article 90 of the Law on Courts.

Further assessing the constitutionality of the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020, similarly as in the case of the impugned decree of the President of the Republic, the Constitutional Court had to hold that the said resolution of the Seimas disregarded the requirement, arising from Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution, that, in releasing a judge from his/her duties, the Seimas must make sure that the judge is actually appointed to another position or is transferred, with his/her consent, to another job. It should be noted that such a constitutional duty of the Seimas cannot be denied by the fact that, as stated in this ruling of the Constitutional Court, Article 1 of the decree of the President of the Republic of 16 December 2019 also disregarded the same requirement arising from Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution. It should be stressed that, notwithstanding a possible imperfection of the proposal by the President of the Republic to the Seimas, the final decision on the appointment of a justice of the Supreme Court or release him/her from his/her duties is taken by the Seimas.

In addition, the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 disregarded the requirement, arising from Paragraph 2 of Article 112 of the Constitution read in conjunction with Paragraph 4 of Article 111 of thereof, that the Seimas must release from their duties the chairpersons of the Supreme Court’s divisions established by the Law on Courts on the grounds laid down in the Constitution and in the provisions of the Law on Courts that do not contradict it, nor did it pay regard to the guarantee (implied by the constitutional principle of the independence of judges and courts) of the inviolability of the term of powers of judges. At the same time, the Constitutional Court held that the impugned resolution of the Seimas disregarded the requirement, arising from the constitutional principle of the separation of powers, not to violate the independence of the judiciary and the balance of state powers.

Consequently, despite the fact that, by means of the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020, the constitutional powers of the Seimas which are specified in the preamble of this resolution and which are linked with the release from the duties of the chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court were implemented, it must be held that the implementation of those powers did not comply with the requirements, arising from Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of responsible governance and a state under the rule of law, that the Seimas must properly implement the powers conferred on it by the Constitution and laws in appointing to and releasing from duties justices of the Supreme Court and, in implementing these powers, adopt lawful and reasonable legal acts.

In the light of the above, the Constitutional Court drew the conclusion that the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 is contrary to Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5, Paragraph 4 of Article 111, Paragraph 2 of Article 112, and Item 4 of Article 115 of the Constitution, as well as to the constitutional principles of the independence of judges and courts, the separation of powers, a state under the rule of law, and responsible governance.

On the legal consequences of declaring the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 contrary to the Constitution

Under Paragraph 1 of Article 107 of the Constitution, a law (or part thereof) of the Republic of Lithuania or another act (or part thereof) of the Seimas, an act (or part thereof) of the President of the Republic, or an act (or part thereof) of the Government may not be applied from the day of the official publication of the decision of the Constitutional Court that the act in question (or part thereof) is in conflict with the Constitution.

By this ruling of the Constitutional Court, the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 was declared unconstitutional and contrary to the Law on Courts. That resolution of the Seimas, by which the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court, Sigita Rudėnaitė, was released from those duties, is an individual act of application of law.

Thus, after the official publication of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 will be removed from the Lithuanian legal system. In view of this, the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court, Sigita Rudėnaitė, cannot be considered released from those duties. Consequently, as from the day of the official publication (entry into force) of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, Sigita Rudėnaitė, a justice of the Supreme Court, will hold the position of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court.

When interpreting Paragraph 1 of Article 107 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court has disclosed the content (which arises from the said paragraph) of the presumption of the constitutionality of legal acts and of the constitutionality of the consequences as a result of the application of legal acts: the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 107 of the Constitution, whereby a legal act may not be applied from the day of the official publication of the decision of the Constitutional Court that the act in question is in conflict with the Constitution, means that, as long as the Constitutional Court has not adopted the decision that a certain legal act is in conflict with the Constitution, it is presumed that such a legal act is in compliance with the Constitution and that the legal consequences that have appeared on the basis of the act in question are lawful. The Constitutional Court has held that the general rule, consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 107 of the Constitution, that the legal force of decisions of the Constitutional Court is prospective is not absolute: the provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 102 and Paragraph 2 of Article 107 of the Constitution, interpreted in the context of the fundamental constitutional values consolidated in Articles 1 and 18 of the Constitution and in the context of the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution and the constitutional imperative of the rule of law, give rise to the power of the Constitutional Court as an institution administering constitutional justice and guaranteeing constitutional legality and the supremacy of the Constitution in the legal system, upon establishing in a constitutional justice case that an impugned legal act is not only in conflict with the Constitution, but also denies in essence the fundamental constitutional values – the independence of the State of Lithuania, democracy, and the republic, or the innate nature of human rights and freedoms – to declare the consequences of the application of such a legal act anti-constitutional. However, although legal acts contrary to the Constitution violate the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution and other constitutional values, and although they may also encroach on the elements of democracy entrenched in the Constitution, the statement that a law or another legal act is contrary to the Constitution does not automatically mean a violation of Article 1 of the Constitution that the State of Lithuania is democratic. The Constitutional Court must assess in every individual case whether a legal regulation declared contrary to the Constitution denies the provision of Article 1 of the Constitution, under which the State of Lithuania is democratic.

Assessing this, the Constitutional Court noted that, by means of its resolution of 21 April 2020, the Seimas released the justice not from the duties of a justice of the Supreme Court, but from the duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of that court, which, according to the legal regulation laid down in the Law on Courts, are (administrative) judicial duties of a court official and provide additional procedural rights and duties established in laws, as well as administrative powers laid down in laws and other legal acts. In this context, it should be mentioned that Paragraph 2 of Article 105 of the Law on Courts regulates a situation in which there is no chairperson of a division of the Supreme Court, whereas Paragraph 1 of that article deals with a situation in which there is no President of the Supreme Court.

Taking this into account, the Constitutional Court held that there are no grounds for stating that the resolution of 21 April 2020 of the Seimas had disrupted the administration of justice and, in particular, the fulfilment of the functions of the Supreme Court. The resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 does not deny in essence the fundamental constitutional values, among other things, democracy and the inherent nature of human rights and freedoms; thus, there is no legal basis to declare all the consequences of the application of the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 anti-constitutional. Consequently, as such, the fact that, by this ruling of the Constitutional Court, the resolution of the Seimas of 21 April 2020 was declared to be in conflict with the Constitution and the Law on Courts, does not constitute a basis to contest the decisions made by the justices of the Supreme Court who temporarily served as the President of the Supreme Court or the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court while Sigita Rudėnaitė was not the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court.

As held by the Constitutional Court, Paragraph 2 of Article 30 of the Constitution gives rise to the right of a person to demand compensation for damage caused by illegal actions, and the state has a duty to compensate material and moral damage caused by illegal actions of its institutions. Such a constitutional duty of the state must be interpreted as including its obligation to compensate material and/or moral damage caused to the person in question when she was unlawfully released from the duties of the Chairperson of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court.