The Constitutional Court of Austria
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The Constitutional Court of Austria

Foreword

The Constitution is the set of fundamental principles regulating the organization of the state, the actions of its entities and the basic rights of the citizens vis-à-vis the state. Austria is a democratic state under the rule of law. It is based on the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution, which means that any action taken by the state – legislation, jurisdiction and public administration, including government – must be based on and be in accordance with the Constitution.

For the supremacy of the Constitution to be more than a purely theoretical notion and to be effective in practice, the democratic constitutional state needs institutions guaranteeing this supremacy. The most important of these institutions is the Constitutional Court. It is the “guardian of the Constitution”.

The primary function of the Constitutional Court is to review laws for their constitutionality and to repeal them, should they prove to be unconstitutional. This is the very core of constitutional jurisdiction. Pursuant to the Austrian Federal Constitution, this task is exclusively reserved to a specialized court, i.e. the Constitutional Court. This type of constitutional jurisdiction is a concept of Austrian origin. Essentially, it is based on the ideas of the Vienna School of Legal Theory, the most important proponents of which were Hans Kelsen and Adolf Julius Merkl. Therefore, reference is often made to the “Austrian” or “Kelsen” model of constitutional jurisdiction, in contrast to the “American” model, under which every court has the right to review the constitutionality of a law and, in the event of its unconstitutionality, not to apply it. Moreover, the Constitutional Court is the most important guarantor of the individual citizen’s basic rights vis-à-vis the state.

This website is intended to convey a clearer picture of the Austrian Constitutional Court and its jurisdiction, its structural and organizational set-up, its mode of operation and its members. It is based on a recent publication titled: The Constitutional Court (PDF).


Professor Dr. Gerhart Holzinger
President of the Constitutional Court