30 September 2013

Lower federal courts

Whereas relevant constitutions usually write in details about a peak of the judicial system, existence of courts of lower degrees is often only briefly mentioned and all rules administering their function are pushed aside into ordinary laws. I do not want to expand on function of lower federal courts into the same details as about the Supreme Court in the proposal of the European federal constitution, yet the constitutional text should in my opinion determine at least the most elemental frame rules for the lower federal courts.

The principal judicial activity should take place at courts of the lowest degree, in other words at courts of first instance. Just at the first reference to them I face a question how the courts of first instance should be called (although it is not the most important thing). This degree of the judicial system is called district courts in the United States, which is a fitting name. I am however not inclined to rash copying, so I simply chose an appellation “federal courts of first degree”. Analogically, I gave the title of “federal courts of second degree” to the second level of the judicial system with appellate function (called courts of appeals in the United States).

As for a number of courts of the first and second degree, I cannot say anything concrete. Territorial extent of districts of respective courts and so also a number of inhabitants coming under jurisdiction of the respective court may be different and a total number of courts will depend on it. It is no other way but to leave it to an independent law.

I want also to leave rules about function of federal court of first and second degree to a different law but I regard as necessary that the constitution mentions their basic internal structure.  Because the federal courts of first degree should, according to my suggestion, deal with all affairs resulting from federal law it is necessary to reserve specialized judges or departments for certain spheres of affairs at each court. According to the competencies of the federation as suggested by me earlier, four departments at each federal court of first and second degree seem the most appropriate to me: a) commercial, b) civil and criminal, c) labour and social, d) administrative. Existence of some departments is understandable, a few words are necessary at some of them. There is not necessary to explain the commercial department for cases proceeding from commercial law as well as administrative department for matters of administrative law resulting from function of federal authorities. The labour and social department can awaken some questions, it is however based on that I left the labour law on federal level in the section about powers of the European federation and I determined co-operation of the federation and the member states in matters of health service and old age security in the social sphere ibidem. The most strange may seem why I assigned the civil and criminal department to every federal court. Who goes through powers of the federation that I described earlier finds out that matters coming under the civil and criminal law are not listed among competencies of the federation (that is they remain in competence of the member states). Yet there are some circumstances that force to use these spheres of law also on the federal level. As for criminal law, it is necessary to take criminal acts against authorities of the federation, property of the federation, currency of the federation and the like into account; after all, it is appropriate to remark that there is a federal criminal court in the Swiss federation. As far as civil law is concerned, some branches of it belonging under the power of the federation according to my suggestion are elements of it, namely it is a part of public law – civil procedure law (regulating actions at federal courts) and a part of private law – copyright law (other parts of intellectual property law would join commercial law and commercial departments of federal courts would apply them). There is unimportant to enumerate here other branches of law which can be applied in connection with powers of the European federation because they come under the Supreme Court of the federation in the first instance in my suggestion.

A thing of a number of judges assigned to individual departments and a number of judges adjudicating one thing naturally follows. It is usual that single judge decrees at courts of first instance which follows that every department of a federal court should have at least one judge. A federal court of the first degree so has to have at least four judges. It is however usual that judges decree in collegia (panels etc.) at appellate courts. If a number of three judges is wholly sufficient in one collegium, then every federal court of second degree would have at least twelve judges. A way of decision-making is in my suggestion this: through single judges at the courts of first degree, through collegia with three judges and with majority of two votes at the courts of second degree.

I did not mention a significant question yet who should appoint judges of federal courts of first and second degree. I entrusted appointment (election) to the Assembly of the Union (federal parliament) as in the case of the Supreme Court. Because the Assembly of the Union has two chambers in my suggestion, each of these chambers will vote judges of other level of the judicial system. Distribution of election between them is relatively simple – it can be assumed that a number of judges in the first degree will be greater due greater number of courts of this level in the judicial system than a number of appellate judges; therefore election of greater number of judges should be entrusted to greater of both chambers of the European federal parliament, namely the House of People and election of appellate judges thus remains at the House of States. Minimal requirements for judges is related to election of them. Unlike judges of the Supreme Court, lower age and shorter practice in federal law should suffice to judges of lower federal courts – namely a minimal age of 35 years and eight years of practice in Union's law.

Writing about the Supreme Court of the Union I did not mention delimitation of judge's mandate and his rights and duties. I believe that the same rules should be valid for all federal judges of the European Union regardless court level, so I write about them only now.

On principle, I took over the respective provisions concerning deputies of the Assembly of Union and members of the Council of Chancellors as I had them described earlier also for judges of federal courts making some smaller amendments or supplements required by substance of the thing. One provision was added by me in provisions about rights and duties which says that a judge is obliged to refrain from action that could debase his dignity or arouse doubts about impartiality of decision of the court of what he is a member. I modified also an oath of judges to a hearing: “I, … (name of a person), solemnly pledge now to protect inviolability of rights of the people of the European Union arising from nature of the man and from laws of the Union in compliance with my conscience and to fulfill the spirit of the constitution of the Union.” I hope that it is evident that nature of the man is meant natural law. Then, I gave condemnation for a deliberate criminal offence, not only imprisonment as in the case of deputies of the federal parliament or members of the Council of Chancellors as one of conditions for termination of a judge's mandate.