Status of the Court’s Justices
Under the terms of Article 222 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court is composed of thirteen Justices. Ten are appointed by the Assembly of the Republic (subject to a qualified majority equal to at least two thirds of the Members present, and at least an absolute majority of all the Members in full exercise of their office [Article 163h of the Constitution]), while the remaining three are co-opted by those ten, also subject to a qualified majority (Article 19 of the Law Governing the Constitutional Court — LTC).
At least six of the thirteen Justices must be chosen from among the judges of the other courts, while the rest must be jurists — that is to say the holders of an academic degree in
Law [Article 222(2) of the Constitution and Article 13 of the LTC].
The 4th Revision of the Constitution (embodied in Law no. 1/97 of 20 September 1997) altered the rules governing the Constitutional Court Justices’ term of office, which is now nine years and cannot be repeated [Article 222(3) of the Constitution and Article 21 of the LTC]. The President and Vice-President hold their positions for a period equal to half of the Justices’ terms (four and a half years), but can be reappointed [Article 37(1) of the LTC]. A Justice’s term of office counts from the date on which he is installed, and ends when the Justice who is appointed to replace him takes office.
Disciplinary authority over Constitutional Court Justices is in the hands of the President, with the possibility of appeal to the Court itself (Article 25 of the LTC).
Where honours, rights, categories, title (the traditional title is ‘Justice-Counsellors’), salary, benefits, and the rules governing civil and criminal liability (Articles 30 and 26 of
the LTC) are concerned, the status of Constitutional Court Justices is the same as that of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Justice. When sitting and on other official occasions, they wear a Justice’s gown and collar, and may also wear a cloak over the gown (Article 30A of the LTC).
Like those of the other courts, Constitutional Court Justices are independent and cannot be removed. They cannot leave office before the end of the term to which they are appointed,
except in the event of their death or permanent physical incapacity, resignation, acceptance of a position or practice of an act that is legally incompatible with the exercise of their functions, or for disciplinary reasons (Article 23 of the LTC); and, as with other judges, they cannot be held liable for their decisions, save only under the same terms and within the same limits as the judges of the courts of law (Articles 22 and 24 of the LTC). Justices enjoy a special immunity system, which is set out by Article 26(2) to (4) of the LTC, which expands on the rule laid down by Article 222(5) of the Constitution.
In terms of incompatibilities, the Court’s Justices may not possess functions in other bodies that exercise sovereign power or bodies that form part of the autonomous regions or local authorities, nor may they hold any other public or private position or perform any other public or private function. The sole exception is teaching or scientific research work in the legal field, which cannot be remunerated (Article 27 of the LTC).
Like the other holders of political office, Justices are obliged to submit a declaration of income at the beginning and end of their functions (Articles 1, 2 and 4 of Law no. 4/83 of 2 April 1983, as amended by Law no. 25/95 of 18 August 1995).
Nor may Constitutional Court Justices perform any functions in the governing bodies of political parties or associations or foundations with links thereto, and they are not allowed to engage in public party-political activities [Article 28(1) of the LTC]. While they are in office their membership of political parties or associations is suspended [Article 28(2) of the LTC].