Constitutional Tribunal

Constitutional Tribunal
   The Constitutional Tribunal was established under Title IX of the constitution of 1978 and formally legislated into existence the following year. It is charged with upholding and interpreting the constitution, giving the tribunal an authority which effectively places it above the three classic powers of the state: executive, legislature and judiciary. There is no right of appeal against the tribunal's decisions, and its powers extend over the entire national territory. Any law—whether passed by parliament or an autonomous commu-nity—or executive measure may be declared unconstitutional.
   Based in Madrid, the tribunal is composed of twelve members, all of whom must have at least fifteen years" legal experience. They may be nominated either by parliament, the government in power, or the CGPJ (Consejo General del Poder Judicial—General Council of the Judiciary) which is responsible for regulating the judicial system. Members of the Constititional Tribunal serve nine-year terms, with a third of the membership being renewed every three years. While in office, they are debarred both from other public posts and from professional and commercial activity. On various occasions since 1979, the Constitutional Tribunal has been accused of excessive centralism. For example, in 1989, the Catalan politician Jordi Pujol claimed the tribunal was seeking to reduce the powers available to the seventeen autonomous communities. Although this charge was vigorously denied by the tribunal, suspicion of undue influence continued. Many observers believe that the tribunal was routinely exposed to political pressure during the socialist PSOE's long period in office between 1982 and 1996. The problems of regionalist resentment and the suspicion of political involvement which faced the tribunal in the early 1980s were undoubtedly compounded by an excessive workload. In 1988 alone, 2,268 cases were referred for deliberation and, by the early 1990s, an average of two and a half years was taken to hear a case. A growing agreement at both national and regional level that cases should, where possible, be resolved without recourse to the tribunal has, however, led to a reduction in this previously unmanageable workload.
   See also: legal system
   Further reading
   - Heywood, P. (1995) The Government and Politics of Spain, London: Macmillan (pp. 105–9 give a more detailed account of the Constitutional Tribunal and its workings, as part of a general discussion of the legal system).
   PAUL HEYWOOD

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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