The maximum permissible hours of work to be specified for common court judges. SK 11/11
The challenged provision is consistent with the Constitution.
At the hearing on 7 May 2013 at 1 p.m., the Constitutional Tribunal considered a constitutional complaint, submitted by Mr Tomasz C., which concerned specifying the maximum permissible hours of work for common court judges.
The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated that Article 83 of the Act of 27 July 2001 - the Law on the Organisational Structure of Common Courts (hereinafter: the Act on the Organisational Structure of Common Courts) was consistent with Article 66 in conjunction with Article 24 of the Constitution as well as was not inconsistent with Article 30 and Article 47 in conjunction with Article 71(1) of the Constitution. As to the remainder, the Tribunal discontinued the proceedings on the grounds that issuing a judgment was inadmissible.
The constitutional complaint challenged the provision of the Act on the Organisational Structure of Common Courts pursuant to which “the hours of work for judges are determined by their workload”, insofar as that provision did not set the maximum permissible hours of work for common court judges, did not precisely specify situations where the said maximum might be exceeded, and it ruled out the right to compensation in the form of additional remuneration or an equivalent period of time off work for the work performed outside the maximum permissible hours of work.
When ruling the challenged provision to be consistent with Article 66 in conjunction with Article 24 of the Constitution, the Tribunal stressed that the legislator enjoyed freedom as regards specifying a working hour system for a specific occupational group, and the Constitution did not determine the hours of work or deal with the issue of compensation for overtime.
The working hour system that applies to judges constitutes a separate system that has been developed historically and that arises from the special character of work performed by judges and the way such work is organised. As an essential element of the service relationship of judges, the said system guarantees the independence of the judiciary, its ability to independently administer justice and, as a result, to exercise of the constitutional right to a fair trial. This directly arises from Article 178 of the Constitution, which relates the guarantee of judges’ independence (paragraph 1) to the provision of appropriate conditions for work and the granting of remuneration which is consistent with the dignity of their office and the scope of their duties (paragraph 2). This renders it difficult to fit judges’ duties within a strict limit of set hours of work, with all the consequences thereof (inter alia a strict time sheet, etc.). However, constitutional regulations which guarantee the right to holiday provide for a constitutional interpretation of the norm concerning the hours of work for judges.
The working hour system that applies to judges is also fully consistent with rules concerning remuneration. One may speak of overtime only when a person performing work (service) is bound by specified hours of work. Since, in the case of judges, the hours of work are determined by judges’ workload, the binding rules concerning remuneration for judges are based on objective premisses, namely judges’ particular positions within the hierarchy of the judicial system, the length of service as well as their specific duties as judges. The said solution raises no constitutional reservations. The lack of correlation between the amount of remuneration and the number of cases, efficiency, the manner of adjudicating or professional achievements of any kind should be regarded as a solution that emphasises respect for the office of judge and guarantees the independence thereof.
Given that the complainant took into account neither the constitutional bases of the legal status of judges nor the special character of their service, linked directly with the obligation to ensure that the office of judge is granted independence, the Tribunal deemed that the presumption of the constitutionality of Article 83 of the Act on the Organisational Structure of Common Courts had not been overturned effectively. However, the Tribunal stressed that ruling the challenged provision to be consistent with the Constitution was not tantamount to expressing approval for burdening judges with an excessive caseload and additional duties related thereto. The possibility of arriving at different interpretations of the essential elements of the service relationship of judges reveals a need for assigning that relationship, in a consistent and complete way, with all the attributes of a public-law relationship.
The hearing was presided over by Judge Piotr Tuleja, and the Judge Rapporteur was Judge Maria Gintowt-Jankowicz.
The judgment is final and its operative part shall be published in the Journal of Laws.