Presentation

How the Constitutional Court operates

1. Jurisdictional function

         In principle, a case is heard before the Court by a bench of seven judges. Cases may also be heard by a larger (ten or twelve) or smaller (three) bench.

         Each year on 1 September (when the presidency changes), the benches of the Court are constituted. Normally the cases are heard by benches of seven judges, composed of the two presidents, who sit in all cases, and five judges who are appointed according to a complex rota system established by the special legislator. This system guarantees that each bench has at least three judges from each linguistic group and that there are always at least two former Members of Parliament and two judges with legal qualifications. In the, normal, benches of seven judges, decisions are taken by ordinary majority vote.

        The presidents may, however, decide to submit a case to the Constitutional Court in plenary session. They can decide to do so each individually whenever they deem it necessary. They are also obliged to do so when two of the seven judges who make up the (normal) bench so request. At least ten judges, and in any case as many Dutch-speaking and French-speaking judges, must be present for the Court to rule in plenary session. The presiding judge has the casting vote in the event of a tie in a ruling given by the Court in plenary session.

        In each case, according to a system determined by the special legislator, one Dutch-speaking judge and one French-speaking judge is appointed as judge-rapporteur. Together with their legal secretaries, the judges-rapporteurs are responsible for preparing the case.

        Cases which, as a result of a screening procedure, which does not apply to the organization of regional referendums, clearly do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Court or are manifestly inadmissible may be heard by a “restricted chamber”, composed of the president and the two judges-rapporteurs.

2. Administrative organization

        The Constitutional Court usually deliberates on administrative matters in full session. The special Act stipulates which administrative matters the Court must in any case rule on in full session. The administrative meetings are led by the presiding judge.

        The Constitutional Court has its own staff. The organizational hierarchy and the linguistic framework are determined by the Court, with due regard for linguistic parity at each level, and approved by Royal Decree. The Court appoints and dismisses the members of its staff.

        The Court may delegate all or part of the power to determine the duties and responsibilities, reasons for non-attendance, replacements, absences, leave and holiday arrangements of the administrative staff to a staff committee, composed of the two presidents and two judges from each linguistic group, appointed by the Court for a renewable term of four years.

         The operating budget of the Constitutional Court is fixed each year as an allocation in the Act establishing the general expenditures budget of the Nation.


Last updated : August 1,2014.