The Constitutional Tribunal's scope of jurisdiction
The Constitution of 2 April 1997 recognizes four areas of the Constitutional Tribunal's jurisdiction:
1) the review of norms (both abstract and specific; a posteriori and a priori - Article 188 subparas. 1-3, Article 122 paras. 3-4, Article 133 para. 2 of the Constitution); a particular procedure for reviewing the norms is adjudicating on constitutional complaints (Article 79; Article 188 subpara. 5 of the Constitution);
2) settling disputes over authority between the central constitutional organs of State (Article 189 of the Constitution);
3) deciding on the conformity to the Constitution of the purposes or activities of political parties (Article 188 subpara. 4 of the Constitution);
4) determining whether or not there exists an impediment to the exercise of the office by the President of the Republic (Article 131 para. 1 of the Constitution).
The list of Tribunal's competences is exhaustive and its extension by the legislator in the form of a statute must be considered impermissible.
The Constitutional Tribunal is not vested with the competence to adjudicate over the "vertical" competence disputes; furthermore, such adjudication is not necessary due to the unitary structure of the State (organs of local government may initiate the proceedings before the Tribunal under the procedure of abstract review of norms). The Tribunal does not decide on the validity of elections and referenda, as it is the competence of the Supreme Court, nor on the accountability of persons holding the highest state offices, as such competence is vested in the Tribunal of State. Moreover, the Constitution of 1997 deprived the Constitutional Tribunal of the authority to establish the universally binding interpretation of statutes.
The fundamental competence of the Tribunal is undoubtedly the review of norms, i.e. adjudicating on hierarchical (vertical) conformity of normative acts of lower rank to the normative acts (legal norms) of higher rank and eliminating provisions adjudicated as unconstitutional from the system of law in force.
Polish system of norm review assigns priority to a posteriori review, which refers to such normative acts which are already enacted, are in force or are still in the vacatio legisperiod. Only exceptionally may the review of norms be of preventive nature (review conducted a priori) and the only subject entitled to initiate such review is the President of the Republic.