22 déc. 2012

Realist views in dissenting opinions of Lithuanian justices on the impeachment of President Paksas, 8/2012


The purpose of this blog is not only making advertising for my private legal practice, but also a development of a critical scholarship empirically analyzing judicial reasoning (that I call judicial shamanism). Therefore, it is sometimes interesting to take look at how the critical legal scholarship develops in dissenting opinions of Lithuanian justices, for instance, in the impeachment case of Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas.

The story could be summarized as follows. Twice former Prime Minister Paksas got 55 % of votes and became a President of Lithuania in 2003. On 31/03/2004 the Constitutional Court found him guilty of corruption, disclosure of State secret, and abusing his office for the benefit of a friend. He was impeached, but then stood for election, and it became obvious he would be re-elected. Therefore, on 25/05/2004 the Constitutional Court interpreted that “the Spirit of the Constitution” forbids him to stand for parliamentary and presidential election for life, and then the lifelong prohibition was extended even to the office of Prime Minister or Minister. On 06/01/2011 we partially won the case: the European Court of Human Rights found that the lifelong prohibition to stand for parliamentary elections was breaching the right to free elections. On 22/03/2012 the Lithuanian Parliament amended the Law on Parliamentary Elections, and allowed the impeached President to stand. However on 05/09/2012 the Constitutional Court declared that amendment unconstitutional, since the execution of the ECtHR judgment would alter the "value system of the Lithuanian Constitution" in a too extreme manner. In June 2011 we started an action against Lithuania before the UN Human Rights Committee, and it is currently pending.

As with politicians, you may never be sure what the judges think when they get alone. Nonetheless, from time to time dissenting opinions make a contribution to the development of critical legal scholarship.

I really smiled when I saw that justice Egidijus Šileikis, PhD, and justice Gediminas Mesonis, PhD, attempt to calm down the majority of justices in their dissenting opinions (respectively § 2.7 and § 7.1). They try to convince the colleagues that executing the Strasbourg judgment will not deny the supremacy of the Lithuanian Constitutional Court. However the majority of justices are not that naïve.

Justice Šileikis pointed out that the Constitutional Court had amended its case law on application of the ECtHR judgments. Previously those judgments were considered as a binding source for Lithuania, but in the Paksas case the Constitutional Court decided to re-establish its independence. Justice Sileikis qualifies this decision as “case Although”, since the case law amendment was introduced with the word “although” (§ 3.9). Dr Šileikis also uses the concept of “magic words” from the heritage of legal realism in order to express his critical approach (§ 3.2).

Justice Šileikis describes the refusal of the Constitutional Court to apply the Strasbourg judgment as “excessive ambition vis-à-vis the European Court of Human Rights and excessive activism vis-à-vis the Lithuanian Parliament” (§ 2.1).

In general, I do not like the concept of “activism”, since it is difficult to define it in operational term. I remember the course of constitutional law that I had many years ago. Prof Egidijus Kuris, President of the Lithuanian Constitutional Court, explains that “activism” and “passivism” have certain positive and negative aspects. As far as the Lithuanian Constitutional Court is concerned, it stands “in between”. This is a bullshit that has no practical meaning.

Therefore, I prefer using the conception of “judicial shamanism”, since it embraces both, activism and passivism, and moves towards an empirical description of judicial practice in recognising that possibly all the spirits (principles, articles, rules, etc.) are alive, and possibly they really live in certain amulets (case law, Constitution, legal acts, etc.). However the variety of different techniques of entering into a contact with those spirits in order to see their interaction makes it impossible, in most cases, to establish an objective or in some way “reasonable” judicial practice.

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