Judgment Pl. ÚS 28/13 – the Constitutional Court on salaries of judges

21 August 2014

When deciding on a case concerning a salary of a judge, the Brno Municipal Court came to the conclusion that a statute which should have been applied in this case was unconstitutional. Therefore it submitted a petition proposing the annulment of the statute to the Constitutional Court. Firstly, the Municipal Court found the legal regulation of calculating judges’ salaries unconstitutional because it violated the principle of independence of judges. Secondly, the Municipal Court found discrepancies in the process of adoption of the said legislation. Thirdly, the Municipal Court argued that the legislation was retroactive because it became effective two weeks before it was even published.

The Constitutional Court annulled the contested legislation with effect to 31 December 2013. In its view, an interference with the regulation of judges’ salaries must not be a result of the legislature’s arbitrariness. It must follow the principle of proportionality and it must be justified by exceptional circumstances, e.g. properly proved burdensome financial situation of the state. Even if this condition is satisfied, differences between judiciary, legislature, executive and namely the state administration must be taken into account. In order to restrict salaries of judges, the legislature should additionally obtain a relevant opinion of the representatives of judiciary.

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court found the process of adoption of the contested legislation to be unconstitutional. It also agreed with the Municipal Court regarding the issue of the legislation’s retroactivity. But it noted that immediate derogation of the legislation would lead to an even more serious interference with the independence of judges because it would lead to absence of legal basis for judges’ salaries in the first month of effect of the contested legislation. Last but not least, the Constitutional Court specified that the findings of this judgment may be applicable only in future. It was not possible to compensate for the difference in salaries retrospectively because it would lead to an unforeseeable encroachment on the state budget and a rising tension between the society and judges.