About the Court

Competences of the Constitutional Court

[Source: Staats­gerichtshof des Fürstentums Liechten­stein (eds.), 75 Jahre Staats­gerichtshof des Fürstentums Liechten­stein, Vaduz 2000]

The Constitu­tional Court can be viewed as the “crown of the 1921 constitu­tion’s crea­tion”, given that it was the first European constitu­tional court which had been equipped with comprehensive competences to examine the constitu­tionality of laws, decrees and rulings by the Supreme Court.

From the perspective of interna­tional comparison, the Constitu­tional Court stood rather unpreceded for quite some time. It was only in 1951, when the German Constitu­tional Court was established a quarter of a century later, that another state organ with similar func­tions was created [Wolfram Höfling, Liechten­steinische Politi­sche Schriften Nr. 20: Die Liechten­steinische Grund­rechtsord­nung].

The Constitu­tional Court is composed of its president and four addi­tional members, as well as their substitutes. All of them work on an ad-junc­tional base. The so-called “judge selec­tion committee” (Article 96 of the Constitu­tion of the Principality of Liechten­stein) sug­gests a number of renowned individuals to the Diet which then selects the judges therefrom. The committee is presided by the Prince of Liechten­stein. The Prince can appoint as many members of the committee as the Diet, yet the Diet’s members are distributed equally among the parlia­ments’ frac­tions (one member per frac­tion). The Govern­ment delegates its Mini­ster of Justice to the committee.

Upon selec­tion by the Diet, the candidates will be appointed as judges by the Prince. In its func­tion as a constitu­tional court, the Constitu­tional Court guards the involved authorities’ compliance with the constitu­tionally granted rights.

Following Liechten­stein’s accession to the European Conven­tion on Human Rights in 1982, as well as to the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1995, the Constitu­tional Court gained addi­tional competences to issue verdicts on the compliance with the Human Rights Conven­tion and EEA provisions.

Addi­tionally, the Constitu­tional Court is responsible to check the legislator’s performance by means of judicial review. Thereby, laws and decrees which are regarded as non-constitu­tional can be annulled. Any such judicial review can be applied in cases in which the Constitu­tional Court should issue a verdict on the grounds of the respective norm. Courts can submit proposals of laws and decrees for review if these laws or decrees are used during pendent proceedings. The Govern­ment and the municipalities can issue proposals on judicial reviews detached of concrete proceedings. Thereby, the municipalities can also propose to review a distinct decree. Moreo­ver, a review of a decree can be initiated by a minimum of 100 citizens who are allowed to vote.

Finally, any natural person as well as corporate bodies, who claim viola­tions of their constitu­tionally granted rights or viola­tions of the rights provided by the European Conven­tion on Human Rights, can appeal aga­inst a certain norm if the latter had become relevant for their particular situa­tion without any court proceeding or other actions by state authorities.

Further, the Constitu­tional Court may decide upon disputes over areas of authorities between admini­strative and judicial authorities, as well as upon impeach­ment proceedings and electoral disputes.

The far-reaching competences of the Constitu­tional Court endow the latter with considerable leverage among the constitu­tionally granted state bodies. Especially, the competence of judicial review walks the balancing act between necessary correc­tion and undue political paternaliza­tion of democratically elected legislators. Even if the Constitu­tional Court does eventually issue verdicts of judicial review, the general approach is an approach of restraint.