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Background

I have watched an interview with an economic analyst arguing that Romania is in a strange situation ("conflict of interest") because the Constitutional Court members are able to decide about their salaries and benefit (no checks about it).

This article confirms this idea (translated from Romanian):

After the MPs adopted the law that drastically cuts the service pensions that reach fabulous amounts, even 15,000 euros per month, the People's Advocate and the Supreme Court challenged the normative act at the Constitutional Court. The decision is now in the hands of RCC judges, who, of course, also receive special pensions.

Research

This Venice Commission document seems to suggest that not touching judges' salaries is generally prohibited in most countries, except under very special conditions:

The Constitutional Courts or other institutions implementing the constitutional supervision, have established that in a situation when a state experiences financial difficulties, the judges salaries must be especially protected against excessive and adverse fluctuations (Poland)

Similar statements were expressed by Constitutional Court or similar institutions from other countries such as Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia.

While the Romanian analyst argued about the conflict of interest of setting your own budgetary salary and benefits, this does not seem to be supported by practices in other countries.

I am wondering if any European country legislative body has ever managed to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of judges on the Constitutional Court (or similar body)?

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Yes - in Ireland, as a result of the financial crash of 2008, the Constitution was amended through a referendum to alter Article 35.5. Previously, the article prevented a judge's salary from being reduced during their term in office. This was altered in late 2011, and now reads:

  1. The remuneration of judges shall not be reduced during their continuance in office save in accordance with this section.
  2. The remuneration of judges is subject to the imposition of taxes, levies or other charges that are imposed by law on persons generally or persons belonging to a particular class.
  3. Where, before or after the enactment of this section, reductions have been or are made by law to the remuneration of persons belonging to classes of persons whose remuneration is paid out of public money and such law states that those reductions are in the public interest, provision may also be made by law to make proportionate reductions to the remuneration of judges.

Subsequently, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Bill 2011 was passed by the Oireachtas. This bill significantly reduced the salaries of judges appointed prior to the bill coming into force at the beginning of 2012 - down from €295,916 a year to €238,327 a year for the Chief Justice, and €208,145 a year down from €257,872 a year for ordinary judges on the Supreme Court.

Most recently, the salaries were changed as a result of a statutory instrument enacted at the end of 2020; Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 (Judicial Remuneration) (Section 46(9A)) Order 2020, which tops the Chief Justice salary back up to €266,295 after two years of service, and €232,060 for ordinary judges on the Supreme Court.

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  • ordinary judges on the Supreme Court I am confident that the judges involved do not in any way consider themselves "ordinary". :-)
    – StephenG
    Jun 29 at 22:36
  • @StephenG Given that the ordinary full-time salary in Ireland was nearly €49,000 a year ago, that €232,060/year for ordinary judges on the Supreme Court does not qualify as "ordinary". Jun 30 at 7:03
  • @DavidHammen Did you maybe missed the smiley in my comment ? Note that the Supreme Court is Ireland's highest court and would be considered the pinacle of a judicial career here. Judges in Ireland do themselves have a "ranking" system (if you want to think of it that way) which you can (if utterly bored) read about on this page from the Association of Judge of Ireland. The "lowest" level of judge would be District Court judges and salaries there are a "lowly" 117k to 130k.
    – StephenG
    Jun 30 at 11:47

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