Members of the Constitutional Court: Overview
The Constitutional Court is composed of fourteen constitutional judges: a president, a vice-president, and twelve further members. In addition, there are six substitute members, who are called upon if one of the regular members is absent due to illness or bias. Members and substitute members are appointed by the Federal President. The Federal Government has the right to nominate the president and vice-president. Furthermore, the government nominates six constitutional judges and three substitute members. The remaining six members and three substitute members are nominated partly by the National Council and partly by the Federal Council. Although, as is the case with other constitutional judges worldwide, their appointment is, not least, a political decision, the judges are completely independent in the exercise of their office and not bound by any party affiliation.
All members and substitute members of the Constitutional Court have to be qualified for the position by a degree in law and long-standing professional experience in this field. The members represent various professions (judges, university professors, civil servants at federal and provincial level, lawyers) and come from various Austrian provinces and socio-political backgrounds. Judges, lawyers, and university professors continue to exercise their professions and, thus, contribute their specific experience to the work of the Coourt. Civil servants in the public administration have to be granted leave, as they would otherwise be bound to follow instructions from higher levels in the administrative hierarchy, which would be incompatible with the exercise of their judicial function.
The mandate of a constitutional judge ends at the end of the year in which he or she reaches the age of seventy. Earlier removal from office is only possible by decision of the Court itself.
In terms of protocol, the position of the president of the Constitutional Court is equivalent to that of a federal minister, while the vice-president is equivalent to an undersecretary of state. The hierarchy among the other members and substitute members is determined by seniority.