President Pavel Appoints Three New Judges To Constitutional Court

President Pavel appointed the judges yesterday at Prague Castle. Photo credit: 

Prague, June 6 (CTK) – President Petr Pavel appointed three new judges to the Constitutional Court at Prague Castle yesterday. Former Supreme Administrative Court head Josef Baxa, constitutional law professor Jan Wintr, and former head of the Judges Union Daniela Zemanova became the first members of the Constitutional Court selected by Pavel after his inauguration in March. The candidates were approved by the Senate last week.

The three newcomers to the 15-member team of constitutional judges fill the seats left by Jaroslav Fenyk, Jan Filip and Milada Tomkova, whose 10-year mandate ended on 3 May. Vladimir Sladecek’s term also expired on Sunday, though the president has not yet announced a candidate for the post.

“I assume that we will submit the documents for consideration to the Senate in the coming days,” presidential spokeswoman Marketa Rehakova told reporters.

Baxa has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency of the Constitutional Court, after Pavel Rychetsky’s term expires on 6 August.

Pavel has neither confirmed nor denied this.

Judge Ludvik David’s term will also expire in August. The Presidential Office expects to hand over the documents for their successors to the Senate in June. “The president has not yet decided on all the names, there is more or less clarity on the first candidate,” Rehakova said.

Pavel said at the ceremony that he would not hide his satisfaction at the appointment of the first three candidates. However, he denied that it was a victory for him. “We have all won by appointing three very good people as constitutional judges,” he said.

Baxa, 63, has been a judge since 1984. He was appointed president of the Supreme Administrative Court when it was established in 2003, and remained in the post until September 2018. He still remains a member of that court. He participated in the founding of the Faculty of Law at the University of West Bohemia in Plzen, and in 1998, he became first deputy justice minister, remaining in post until 2002. He participated in the preparation of a major amendment to the Criminal Code and in the creation of a new framework for administrative justice. In his public speeches, Baxa focuses on critical analysis of the functioning of the judiciary and possible reforms.

Wintr, 44, studied history and political science at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University. He holds doctorates in both law and political science. In 2019, he became secretary of the Chamber of Deputies’ standing committee on the Czech constitution. He was also a member of the government’s legislative council and the committee on the rights of LGBTI+ people under the Human Rights Council. He was a member of the CTK council from 2012 to 2017, which he chaired from 2014 to 2015. He is the author of several books on Czech parliamentary culture and the principles of Czech constitutional law.

Zemanova, 51, has been a judge since 2001, and until recently served as deputy head of the regional court for the Liberec branch. Before that, she worked at the Supreme Administrative Court and then at the Prague Municipal Court. She was the head of the Judges’ Union from 2014 to 2020, focusing in particular on the training and selection of judges, the conditions of service and selection of officials, and issues related to the state administration of courts. She received a medal for her contribution to the judiciary from the Union of Czech Lawyers. Professionally, she focuses on care for minors and the protection of minors in court proceedings. She has long been involved in issues of judicial ethics.

“A judge of the Constitutional Court takes office by taking the oath of office in the hands of the Czech President,” said Vlastimil Gottinger, secretary general of the Constitutional Court. “However, the assignment of new judges to a particular panel and the assignment of new cases will be decided by the full Constitutional Court. There is no doubt, however, that all three judges are well prepared for their new role and that they and the other judges will be vigilant in protecting constitutionalism and human rights for the next ten years.” 

The court currently has a vacancy in the fourth panel with Radovan Suchanek and Josef Fiala. Vojtech Simicek, who recently became vice-president of the court, is serving as a “temporary acting judge” in the third panel with Jiri Zemanek and Ludvik David. The second vice-chair post is still vacant.

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