Sunday, November 28, 2010

Questions constitutionnelles

Imagine if ex-Presidents were automatic members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
If, that is:
John Adams had been on the Court that decided Marbury v. Madison, or
George W. Bush were sitting now, while the Court continues to resolve cases involving post-9/11 policies?
Even ad hoc recusal might seem insufficient to relieve the Court of an unwelcome appearance of potential partiality.
Yet that is the situation in France.
As of right, former Presidents -- today, Valéry Giscard D'Estaing and Jacques Chirac -- serve on the Conseil constitutionnel. Serving along with them are 2 women and 7 additional men, each of whom owes nomination, to a 9-year term, to France's President or to a president of a house of parliament.
Le Monde's just raised questions about that arrangement, suggesting that it may be "obsolete." The Paris-based newspaper also is questioning the absence of any requirement that Conseil members satisfy some standard of judicial competence.
A couple developments have prompted these new questions about the 52-year-old institution:
►1 ex officio member, ex-Président Chirac, remains dogged by a range of legal problems (and see here), some of which were present even during his executive tenure.
► The Conseil is a "constitutional court" now more than ever. As IntLawGrrl Naomi Norberg then posted, it just acquired a judicial review power approaching that which its U.S. counterpart claimed in Marbury: consideration of a citizen's after-the-fact claim of constitutional violation. Since the change took effect in March, the Conseil's constitutional docket has mushroomed. Among the 1st uses of its new power, as Naomi also posted, was a September decision invalidating reforms pushed by the current Président, Nicolas Sarkozy, and enacted, of course, by the parliament.
Time will tell if Le Monde's questions gain traction.

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