Organization - Procedures - Constitutional Complaint

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Constitutional Complaint

Anyone who feels that his or her fundamental rights have been infringed by the public authorities may lodge a constitutional complaint. It may be directed against a measure of an administrative body, against the verdict of a court or against a law.

A constitutional complaint requires admission for decision. It must be admitted for decision if it is of fundamental constitutional importance, if the claimed infringement of fundamental rights is of special severity or if the complainant would suffer particularly severe detriment from failure to decide the issue. The Federal Constitutional Court itself has to decide whether the prerequisites for admission are met before deciding the constitutional complaint.

As a general rule, a constitutional complaint is admissible only after the complainant has resorted unsuccessfully to the otherwise competent courts. Various filing deadlines must be complied with. The constitutional complaint must be submitted in writing and state reasons. There is no obligation to be represented by a lawyer. The proceeding is free of charge. In cases of abuse a fee of up to 2,600 may be levied.

The Federal Constitutional Court only reviews compliance with the fundamental rights. Judgment of other points of law and the finding of facts are for the other courts only. As long as no fundamental right has been infringed, the Federal Constitutional Court is bound by their decisions.

Between 1951 and 2005, 157,233 applications were lodged with the Federal Constitutional Court. Of these, 151,424 were constitutional complaints. The great majority were not admitted for decision. Only 3,699 constitutional complaints were successful, or 2.5%. Despite this low figure, the constitutional complaint is an important extraordinary legal remedy. A favourable decision can have repercussions that reach far beyond the individual case.