Available in Russian
Author: Olga Kryazhkova
Keywords: number of judges of constitutional courts; Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation; composition of the Constitutional Court; procedure for appointing constitutional judges; constitutional reform of 2020
The article concerns the practice of changing the number of judges of constitutional courts. It seeks to establish whether the reduction of the number of judges of the Russian Constitutional Court from 19 to 11 judges during the 2020 constitutional reform was a unique event and to understand the motives for this decision. The analysis systematizes information about the regulation of the number of judges of constitutional courts throughout the world; identifies the dynamics of regulation; and analyzes the arguments for changing the number of judges of the Russian Constitutional Court in 2020 and critically evaluates them. The article mainly uses two research methods: comparative law and legal history. Using the first method, the experience of regulating the number of judges of 67 constitutional courts which are members of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice was studied. The second method made it possible to trace how the number of judges of the Russian Constitutional Court was established and changed from 1991 to 2020. In more than 2/3 of the states, the number of judges of constitutional courts remained the same as it was originally, while in a little less than 1/3 of the states it has changed over time, in some cases increasing, in others decreasing. Russia belongs to the third and smallest group of states, in which the number of judges changed in both directions (as in Hungary, Egypt, Turkey, and Ukraine). The number of judges is usually set by the constitution but this does not guarantee that the number remains constant. Only two out of twenty states with a changing number of judges of constitutional courts established this by law (Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan). There are typical (recurring) and exclusive (characteristic only for one state) variations in the number of judges of constitutional courts in the world. In the latter category most often such courts consist of 9 judges. A legal history analysis shows that the initial number of judges of the Russian Constitutional Court (15 judges) was typical, was established consciously, but was not preserved, for objective and subjective reasons which emerged during a period of political transformations. An increase in the number of judges when the Constitution of 1993 was adopted was an alternative to completely replacing the composition of the Court and to changing the organizational model of constitutional control. Reduction of the number of judges of the Court in 2020 was publicly justified by various arguments which are more or less vulnerable to criticism. Particularly subject to criticism is the argument that the Court has always functioned without the full number of judges. From 1995 to 2015 it had a constitutionally established number of judges. This was ensured by, among other things, a rule allowing continuation of the performance of his duties by a judge who has reached the mandatory age limit until a new judge has been appointed. In 2014 this rule was revoked, creating favorable conditions for inaction by the authorities in replenishing the Court from 2015 to 2019 and leading to a reduction of the number of judges in 2020.
About the author: Olga Kryazhkova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Russian State University of Justice, Moscow, Russia.
Citation: Kryazhkova O. (2022) Dinamika chislennosti konstitutsionnykh sudov: mirovaya praktika i rossiyskiy opyt [Changing the number of judges of constitutional courts: world practice and Russian experience]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnnoe obozrenie, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 37–68. (In Russian).
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