On Monday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the infamous 2017 changes to the Aliens Act, which effectively allowed the government to wholesale deny asylum under certain conditions (say, a mass migration wave, to give an example at random), were unconstitutional and struck them down in an 8-1 decision. Normally, this would be quite a bombshell on its own. And yet, somehow, it wasn’t.
Both readers will remember that the topic was so controversial back then that it drove a big fucking wedge between PM Miro Cerar and Speaker Milan Brglez, both SMC top dogs at the time and that Cerar eventually threw Brglez out of the party. Still, the latter must be feeling smug these past few days.
The decision, such as it was, aslo rekindled the good old hatemongering, culture war and threats. Case in point the tweet by the editor of Demokracija (Orban-owned SDS party rag), copying the Brexit playbook and basically declaring the eight justices the enemies of the people.
But all of this was overshadowed by justice Klemen Jaklič unloading on justice Matej Accetto in a dissenting opinion and (most likely intentionally) blowing a gaping hole in the already shaky reputation of the Constitutional Court.
Jaklič basically called Accetto an SMC stooge, that he has a continuing conflict of interest because he allegedly co-wrote the SMC election platform and yet refuses to recuse himself, and that he is doing this party’s bidding in the court. He also accused his fellow justices of tailoring their reasoning to achieve a desired result and all but denounced the court as a sham.
For the record, and given that Accetto’s ties to the SMC have, in fact, raised more than a few eyebrows, it should be noted that Rajko Knez, the Court’s president and one of the eight other justices, went on the record stating that Accetto’s potential conflicts of interests and consequent issues of recusal were discussed on several occasions and that the majority of justices never saw a reason to exclude Accetto (apparently, Justices cannot recuse themselves, as per Court’s rules and regulations). Knez went on to state that at no time did Accetto deceive his fellow justices.
Which is a rather unusual position for a sitting Justice to be in. I mean, if the court is a sham, are his opinions shambolic as well? OK, so some would argue that they indeed are, but that is beside the point right now.
What is not beside the point is the fact that this is coming from a person who once described leader of the SDS Janez Janša as the greatest living Slovenian, partook in the demonstrations outside the Ljubljana courthouse decrying the supposedly unfair trial The Glorious Leader was getting, and yet did not think of recusing himself when the court decided on matters pertaining to Janša’s legal situation.
Pot calling kettle black much?
Yes. But no so fast.
You see, Jaklič and Accetto began their respective tenures at the Constitutional court at the same time. In fact, their appointment was part of a larger horse-trading deal between SMC and SDS where – among other appointments – SDS agreed to support Accetto if SMC agreed to support Jaklič.
The deal stank back then and it stinks today. It’s just that the lid finally fell off.
So, what gives, other than an occasional Shakespearean parable?
On the one hand, it could be some midlife-crisis dick measuring contest. That Jaklič has an ego the size of Texas is obvious. Then again, rumors have it that Accetto is a royal pain in the ass as well. And the fact that they were both each other’s ticket to the seat in the Constitutional Court is probably something neither of them wants to think a lot about.
On the other hand, however, it could be that Jaklič is still butthurt over the fact that his 2015 application for the European Court of Human Rights was not endorsed by the parliament, thinks the Constitutional Court is not worthy of his presence, and that he finally lost his shit.
The irony of the entire situation being, of course, that Justice Accetto, accused of being a party stooge at the court, ruled against a law passed by the SMC-led government, while Justice Jaklič, supposedly decrying the SMC connection in fact ruled in favour of the law.
But be that as it may, it doesn’t really matter if Jaklič is grinding an axe or just being an arrogant prick.
The Constitutional Court, by definition, is the last guardian of any sort of semblance of the rule of law in Muddy Hollows. In practice, it is far from perfect and has handed down dubious decisions before. But lately, there has been a surprisingly consistent streak of rulings against government overreach, wrongful convictions and clearing up the mess that all the halfhearted and botched attempts at various reforms by varied governments have left.
The Court is, more or less, doing its job. Dislike it as we might. What Jaklič is doing, however, is undermining the authority of the court and its position within the system of checks and balances.
The Constitutional Court does not have the means with which to enforce its rulings. That is done by the other two branches of power and there have been more than enough cases where rulings of the court have either been ignored or slow-walked.
In fact, as of this writing, the political right – which Jaklič usually supports in his rulings – is positively livid at the fact that the ruling on financing state-ordained part of the curriculum in private schools still hasn’t been enacted by the parliament.
But pray fucking tell, why should anyone, not just the parliament, take seriously the rulings of a monkey circus Jaklič is making out of this court?
Because at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter whether Accetto worked with the SMC. Nor does it really matter if Jaklič was shouting for Janša to get released. After all, this court has had a justice who was once a president of a party (former communists, no less) and yet is considered an authority on constitutional law.
At the end of the day what matters is that the Justices do their job and protect the court. And while Jaklič is most likely doing the former, he is by no means doing the latter, no matter how much he may think he is.