Embracing the unembraceable: facts at issue in Russian and American constitutional litigation

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Author: Aldar Chirninov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2017-3-91-112

Keywords: законодательные факты; конституционно-судебная аргументация; относимость доказательств; политика права; предмет доказывания; фактические обстоятельства


A fairly stable idea has prevailed in Russian constitutional scholarship that, while deciding only questions of law, the Constitutional Court of Russia is not to undertake any fact-finding. Legal scholars who based their research on these methodologically inaccurate positions have expectedly failed to shed light on the true role that facts play in the constitutional decision-making process. This article is an attempt to make changes to this methodology and consider constitutional fact-finding from a lawmaking perspective. Indeed, constitutional review organs tend to find facts not for the purpose of applying pre-existing legal rules to them, but rather for the purpose of evaluating factual premises that the challenged legal rules are based on. In this sense, established facts create a context in constitutional litigation, thereby making it possible to efficiently exercise substantive judicial review of legislative actions. Building on these observations, this article provides a taxonomy to describe what kind of facts are to be proven in constitutional cases. With references to the case law of the Russian Constitutional Court and the United States Supreme Court, the author demonstrates that, when the courts determine the constitutionality of laws, avoiding fact-finding and thus ignoring crucially important empirical evidence and relevant legislative (social) facts often results in unjust and incomplete judgments. To maintain their legitimacy, constitutional review organs should take into account extra-legal factors and deliver decisions that correlate with social reality. Having explored what makes specific facts relevant, the author concludes that, due to the structural features of constitutional principles, organs exercising judicial review of legislative actions have become a central actor empowered to decide what facts are at issue in particular cases.

About the author: Aldar Chirninov – Ph.D. Сandidate at Ural State Law University, Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Citation: Chirninov A. (2017) Nel’zya obyat’ neobyatnoe: predmet dokazyvaniya v konstitutsionnom sudebnom protsesse (na primere Rossii i SShA) [Embracing the unembraceable: facts at issue in Russian and American constitutional litigation]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, no.3, pp.91–112. (In Russian).


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