No. 16




Fifteen years of judicial constitutional review in Estonia

Already in the process of drafting the first constitution of the Republic of Estonia in the Constituent Assembly´s constitutional committee, aspects related to supervision of constitutionality were discussed at length.

But then, just as the idea of judicial supervision of constitutionality had been debated a number of times and the idea had reached a stage of maturity where it could be implemented, the opportunity to realize the idea was lost for half a century. The restoration of independence became the milestone from which we can start reckoning the era of judicial constitutional review in Estonia, as Article 149 of the Constitution adopted by referendum on 29 June 1992 states that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the state, and that it also the court of constitutional review. The first session of the Constitutional Review Chamber of the Supreme Court took place on 22 June 1993, where it deliberated on the President of the Republic´s proposal to declare the National Coat of Arms Act unconstitutional. Twelve such applications have been submitted to the Supreme Court from the office of President; and 20 from the Chancellor of Justice. These challenges dominated the first six years, contributing to the development of abstract regulatory supervision in Estonia. They also allowed the boundaries of the competence of constitutional institutions to be precisely determined and served as a good lesson for courts of the lower instances, which from 1999 on would become the predominant bodies seeking legal acts to be declared unconstitutional. Although the assessments of foreign experts regarding the early period of constitutional supervision practice have been fairly critical, the Supreme Court has had a great capacity for learning and has been able to increasingly focus on the central issues of constitutional supervision that have come before it.

Full article in Estonian