Decision of the Constitutional Tribunal 105/2000, of 13th April, 2000, on the unconstitutionality of the 16/1994 Basic Law of the Judiciary.

Response to the appeal for unconstitutionality (431/95) brought by Members of Congress with respect to articles 8 (sections 3 and 5) and 10 (section 4) and 16 and 25 of the 16/1994 Basic Law, 8th November.

The Deputies responsible for the appeal consider that the wording of the 1994 Basic Law makes possible, as long as both procedural parts agree to use the official language of the Autonomous Community, the Judge's obligation to know this language or else to make use at his/her own expense of a translation service, as long as the law does not contemplate the ex-officio possibility for the judge himself to order its translation, as it could be done in the preceding wording of the provision. According to the appelants, the challenged provision compels the Judges and Magistrates to know the official languages of the Autonomous Communities if they want to occupy any post of the judicial bodies sited in them, which infringes, on the one hand, article 3 of the Spanish Constitution by converting into an obligation what is merely a right; and, on the other hand, article 117.1 of the Constitution, since it goes against the judicial independence by favouring the Judiciary process for becoming autonomous, being it a state power; and, finally, article 149.1.5 of the Constitution, since it restricts the State's exclusive competence on Justice Administration.

The Tribunal's ruling rejects the appeal for unconstituonality. It nonetheless sets out that, in linguistic matters,
a) Article 8.3 of the Basic Law 16/1994 is not unconstitutional following its interpretation as "if the holder of the jurisdictional body does not understand a written document in a co-official language other than Spanish in the Autonomous Community in which the body is sited, its holder not only has the faculty to order its translation, but he/she must also be obliged to do it in order to fulfil its own function. Being this enforced by the direct effectiveness of the fundamantal rights, established in the Constitution, there is no need for any law to explicitly authorize this.
b) The other appealed articles are neither unconstitutional since they do not affect the Judiciary independence, nor they allow the Autonomies to exceed their powers in Justice Administration related matters.