About the Court

Competences of the Constitutional Court

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

The Constitu­tional Court can be seen as the culmina­tion of Liechten­stein's 1921 Constitu­tion, given that it was the first European constitu­tional court to be equipped with comprehensive competences to examine the constitu­tionality of laws, decrees and rulings. Only in 1951, another state organ with similar func­tions was created in the guise of the German Constitu­tional Court.

The Constitu­tional Court consists of its president and four addi­tional judges as well as their substitutes, all of them exercising their func­tion part-time. According to Article 96 of the Constitu­tion, the joint body for the selec­tion of judges proposes suitable candidates to Parlia­ment. The body is presided by the Prince, who may appoint as many members as Parlia­ment. The latter delega­tion includes one MP for each parlia­mentary group. Upon being elected by Parlia­ment, the Prince appoints the candidates as judges.

The Constitu­tional Court decides upon complaints of individuals that their funda­mental rights have been violated. This includes constitu­tional rights, rights under the European Conven­tion on Human Rights and rights under the Agree­ment on the European Economic Area. Any natural person as well as corporate bodies may, as part of an individual constitu­tional complaint, allege that the decision of the highest ordinary court violated their funda­mental rights. As a subsidiary and excep­tional measure, complainants may direct their complaint directly aga­inst a norm if the mere exi­stence of the norm directly violates their rights.

What is more, the Constitu­tional Court is competent to assess legisla­tion by means of judicial review. Thereby, laws and decrees which are regarded as unconstitu­tional can be annulled. Out of its motion, the Constitu­tional Court may initiate judicial review proceedings as a corollary of cases in which it renders a verdict with reference to the respective norm. Courts can submit motions for reviewing laws or decrees if these are applicable in pending proceedings. Detached of concrete proceedings, the Govern­ment or a municipality may move the Constitu­tional Court to undertake a judicial review of a law. The judicial review of a decree may be initiated by a minimum of 100 citizens who are allowed to vote.

Lastly, the Constitu­tional Court decides upon conflicts of jurisdic­tion between admini­strative and judicial authorities, as well as upon impeach­ment proceedings aga­inst mini­sters and electoral disputes.

Its far-reaching competences endow the Constitu­tional Court with considerable leverage. Undertaking a judicial review in particular constitutes a balancing act between undoing legislative viola­tions of funda­mental rights and patronising democratically elected MPs. Even if the Constitu­tional Court occasionally needs to intervene, it generally exercises restraint.