Recent judgments

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 Judgment No. 206 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President - Giancarlo CORAGGIO, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court considered a referral order from the Ordinary Court of Catania questioning, during proceedings between the company known as Ediservice srl and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and others, the constitutionality of Article 44(1) of Decree-Law no. 112 of 25 June 2008 (Urgent provisions on economic development, simplification, competitiveness, stabilisation of the public finances and tax equalisation), converted with amendments into Law no. 133 of 6 August 2008, Article 2(62) of Law no. 191 of 23 December 2009, on "Provisions for the preparation of the annual and multi-annual budget of the State (2010 Budget Law)", and Article 2(1) of Decree-Law no. 63 of 18 May 2012, (Urgent provisions regarding the reorganisation of government funding to publishing companies, and the sale of daily and periodical printed matter and institutional advertising), converted with amendments into Law no. 103 of 16 July 2012. In the case before the Court, a publishing company received half of the government funding to which it was allegedly entitled for financial year 2013, and the Ordinary Court of Catania challenged the law on government funding for publishers before the Constitutional Court with regard to the wording "and taking into account the total amounts allocated for the publishing sector in the national budget that constitute a maximum limit of expenditure" in Article 2(62) of Law no. 191 of 23 December 2009 on "Provisions for the preparation of the annual and multi-annual budget of the State (2010 Budget Law)", and Article 2(1) of Decree-Law no. 63 of 18 May 2012. In the absence of specific constitutional discipline on the matter, the Court pointed out that constitutional case law has always considered the law regarding information to fall within the scope of the protection of the constitutional freedom of expression of thought, and, in respect of the founding principles of the form of State outlined in the Constitution, the Italian form of democracy must therefore be based on free public opinion informed by information presented through a plurality of sources, considering the central value of pluralism in a democratic system. The Judge Rapporteur states that the Court has upheld the protection of pluralism on several occasions, in reference to broadcasting and advertising, referring also to the bearing of freedom of information on the freedom of the expression of thought. However, he also points out that the constitutional importance of the freedom of expression of thought does not mean ? as the referring court suggests ? that there exists a general subjective right of publishing companies to receive government funding. What funding they may receive is subject to budgetary requirements that may vary from year to year, and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers provides for the autonomous management of expenditure within the limits of the resources available as entered among the specific basic budgetary terms of the forecast expenses of the Ministry of the Treasury, Budget and Economic Planning. The Court thus recognises that there is a fundamental incoherence in a system where the Government is assigned the task of quantifying the funding to allocate for financing to publishers without also establishing clear and objective criteria for it to follow. Nevertheless, the Court acknowledges that it can neither replace nor supplement the legislation in question, as the necessity to resolve this shortcoming does not impose a constitutionally mandatory solution. For this reason, the Court ruled the question inadmissible.

 Judgment No. 173 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Mario Rosario Morelli, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court considered a referral order from the National Bar Council, contesting a legal provision that prohibited candidates from seeking election for a third consecutive term as council members of district bar associations. The referring Council argued that the provision constituted an unreasonable restriction of the right of candidacy and the right to vote, that it impinged upon the autonomy of bar associations as non-financial entities of an associational nature, and that it overstepped the bounds of reasonableness for retroactive provisions. The Court rejected these arguments and held the questions to be unfounded. The Court pointed out that limiting re-election was a principle that applied to many public positions, including for the leadership of many other professional associations, and found its purposes (turnover and alternation to prevent the crystallization of power within the association) to be legitimate and equality-driven. The Court also found that bar associations performed important public functions, as their mandatory membership structure suggests, and held that, therefore, they are bound to comply with the constitutional requirements of impartiality and efficiency. The prohibition on third consecutive terms, it held, was in line with these requirements. Finally, the Court held that the provision's reference to past events or situations as a criterion for its application (that is, terms served prior to the provision's entry into force counted toward the total of two consecutive terms that triggered the prohibition on immediate candidacy), did not make it truly retroactive in scope. Therefore, it did not need to be justified at the level of retroactivity.

 Judgment No. 160 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Daria de PRETIS, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court considered a referral order from the Regional Administrative Court ( of Lazio questioning, during proceedings between sports manager Luigi Dimitri and the Italian National Olympic Committee ( and others, the constitutionality of Article 2(1)(b) and ( of Decree law no. 220 of 19 August 2003 Urgent provisions on sports justice converted with amendments into Law no. 280 of 17 October 2003. Dimitri had applied to the TAR for annulment of a three year suspension issued against him by a sports tribunal with exclusive power to decide on matters pertaining to sports sanctions, also claiming compensation. The TAR raised a question of constitutionality regarding Article 2 of Decree law no. 220 of 2003, referring, furthermore, to the Constitutional Court's previous interpretation of this provision in its Judgment no. 49 of 2011. While this judgment reaffirmed the possibility of seeking compensation for damages in such cases before administrative courts, i t did not allow for the possibility of extending judicial protection to the annulment of disciplinary measures issued by tribunals with jurisdiction in the sports justice system. The referring court also noted elements of unconstitutionality in Article 2 of Decree law no. 220 of 2003, alleging conflict with Articles 103 and 113 of the Constitution, as well as with Article 24 of the Constitution read in conjunction with them. The Constitutional Court, however, found these points unfounded, clarify ing that, as stated in its 2011 judgment, the right to seek compensation for damages is sufficient to safeguard the legitimate interests and individual rights of claimants, and the impossibility of seeking the annulment of a sanction issued by a body with exclusive jurisdiction is in fact the outcome of a not unreasonable balancing exercise carried out by the legislator between the constitutional principle of full and effective judicial protection and the protection afforded to the autonomy of the sports ju stice system, which is amply protected in Articles 2 and 18 of the Constitution. On this matter, the Court added that the sports justice system is autonomous and has its own unique characteristics that, like any legal system, has its own organization and r egulations, so when it comes into contact with the State legal system, this contact must be regulated in the light of the autonomy of the sports justice system and the constitutional provisions from which it springs, at the same time ensuring the right to a defence and the principle of full and effective judicial protection enshrined in Articles 24, 103 and 113 of the Constitution. The Court affirms that the protection of legitimate interests under Articles 103 and 113 does not imply the necessity for a mec hanism to annul sanctions issued by the public administration, and indeed, the remedy of compensation alone is not unknown to the Italian legal system, provided that it is in accordance with the principle of reasonableness. Finally, the Court finds that t h e need for forms of temporary protection in relation to claims brought before a court can be adequately met thanks to the atypical and broad ranging precautionary measures available. The Court therefore dismisses all the points raised by the referring cour t as groundless.

 Judgment No. 159 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Silvana SCIARRA, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court heard a referral order concerning legislation providing for the deferred payment, by instalments, of end-of-service allowances for public sector employees on the grounds - inter alia - that it breached the principle of equality (equivalent rules not being applicable to private sector employees). The Court rejected the questions, holding that the rules were proportional and adequate, and moreover struck a reasonable balance between the various constitutional interests in play, having regard to the fact that the legislator was required to make a discretionary assessment that took account also of public finance considerations. However, the Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of "legislation requiring the deferred payment by instalment of end-of-service allowances also in situations in which the age or contribution history limits have been met or involving compulsory retirement as a result of reaching the maximum length of service", and invited parliament to take action to rectify the shortcomings within the legislation.

 Judgment No. 141 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Franco MODUGNO, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court heard a referral order from the Court of Appeal of Bari questioning the constitutionality of a number of provisions of Law No. 75 of 20 February 1958, specifically those making recruitment and aiding and abetting of prostitution criminal offences in circumstances where prostitution itself was not generally criminalised. Both provisions were challenged on the basis that they potentially contrasted with freedom of sexual self-determination protected under Article 2 of the Constitution, infringed freedom of private-sector economic initiative under Article 41 of the Constitution and conflicted with the principle that a crime must necessarily be offensive, deducible from Articles 13, 25(2) and 27 of the Constitution. As regards solely the offence of aiding and abetting, it was surmised that the provision could well infringe the principles of legal certainty and precision in criminal matters in accordance with what can be deduced from Article 25(2) of the Constitution. Also raised, again as regards just aiding and abetting, was a potential disparity of treatment in violation of the principle of equality enshrined in Article 3 of the Constitution. The Court ruled that the challenged provisions were constitutional, comforted also by a review of how the issue has been addressed in other European countries.

 Judgment No. 117 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Francesco VIGANO', Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court heard a referral order from the Supreme Court of Cassation questioning the constitutionality of domestic legislation that did not recognise an accused's right to silence in proceedings that, although formally administrative in nature, entail the imposition of sanctions of a substantially punitive nature. The Court was of the view that the legislation could well violate Articles 24(2) and 111(2) of the Constitution, but a finding of unconstitutionality risked creating a conflict with EU law, since the legislation in question stemmed from obligations incumbent on Italy under, initially, Directive 2003/6/EC and, subsequently, Regulation (EU) No. 596/2014. The Court was however also of the opinion that the EU secondary law in question was ambiguous, and, under a certain interpretation, could even be incompatible with Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Therefore, the Court decided that before ruling on the question of constitutionality, it was necessary to request clarification from the CJEU on the exact interpretation and, possibly, also the very validity of the EU secondary law at issue. To that end, two questions were referred to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. The first question was whether the EU secondary law at issue must be interpreted as enabling Member States not to punish those who refuse to answer questions from a competent authority if that could reveal their liability for wrongdoing punished with administrative sanctions of a punitive nature. In the event of an affirmative answer to that first question, striking down the domestic legislation would not conflict with EU law. In the event of a negative answer to the first question, the second question was whether the provisions of the EU secondary law at issue were compatible with Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union insofar as those secondary law provisions would require sanctions to be imposed on persons who refuse to answer questions from a competent authority that could reveal their liability for wrongdoing punished with administrative sanctions of a punitive nature. The proceedings before the Court were stayed pending the outcome of the request for a preliminary ruling.

 Judgment No. 112 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Francesco VIGANO', Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court heard a referral order from the Court of Cassation concerning legislation providing for the mandatory confiscation not only of the profits of certain financial market offences but also of the "product" of the offence (i.e. the means or assets used in order to commit it), as an automatic corollary of the imposition of an administrative fine. The referring court argued that the confiscation of the "product" was out of proportion with the harm caused by the offence, and also excessively encroached upon the rights of ownership of the perpetrator of the offence. Despite a previous ruling in which the Constitutional Court had invited the legislator to amend the legislation in question, the amendment subsequently enacted had not substantively altered the rule in question. The Court ruled the legislation unconstitutional, holding that it did not comply with the constitutional requirements that sentences must be aimed at re-education and must be tailored to the individual circumstances of the case. Considering that the legislation already provided elsewhere for fines, which were moreover already severe, the additional penalty of confiscation resulted in excessive punishment, and was thus unconstitutional, and incompatible with both the ECHR and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

 Judgment No. 99 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Marta Cartabia, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court considered a referral order from the First Criminal Division of the Court of Cassation questioning the constitutionality of Article 47-ter(1-ter) of Law no. 354 of 26 July 1975 (Norms regulating the penitentiary system and the enforcement of measures involving deprivation and limitation of liberty - [hereafter "Prison Law"]), in the part in which it does not provide for the application of "derogating" house arrest even in the event of serious mental illness supervening during enforcement of the sentence. The Court first rejected the objection of inadmissibility advanced by the President of the Council of Ministers based on the alleged lack of a sole measure able to remedy the defects of constitutionality raised by the referring court, affirming that it is consolidated case law that in the event of the infringement of constitutional rights, the lack of a sole measure to bring the law into line with the constitution cannot be an obstacle to examining the question of constitutionality from the point of view of the merits. Thus, according to the Constitutional Court, the absence of any alternative to imprisonment for those who develop serious mental illness rather than a physical one while in detention creates a lack of effective protection of the fundamental right to health. When combined with the inevitable suffering arising from deprivation of liberty, this lack of an alternative manner of implementing a sentence handed down before the illness developed can be considered tantamount to an additional and inhumane punishment liable to further damage the health of the detainee. The Court therefore accepted the question raised together with the "remedy" identified by the Court of Cassation, namely the application of the alternative measure of "humanitarian" or "derogating" house arrest, (Article 47-ter, (1-ter), of the Prison Law), which is able to satisfy all the interests and values at stake, reaffirming the responsibility of courts to assess on a case-by-case basis whether a detainee suffering from supervening serious mental illness can serve his or her sentence in prison or needs to be treated in secure accommodation elsewhere, all the while balancing the right of the detainee to humane treatment and health care with the safety requirements of the community at large.

 Judgment No. 40 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President - Marta CARTABIA, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court considered a referral order challenging a criminal law provision concerning serious drug offenses. The referring Court alleged that the gap between the maximum allowable punishment for minor offenses (four years incarceration) and the minimum allowable punishment for serious offenses (eight years) was too large, and suggested that the provision should make six years the minimum for serious offenses. The Court agreed, and struck down the provision, in the part in which it provided for a minimum punishment of eight, rather than six, years. The Court first reviewed its own authority to hear the case, rejecting one of the claims of the referring Court, which took issue with a previous decision of the Court, in what the Court deemed an unconstitutional attempt to appeal a previous Constitutional Court decision. The Court also rejected the referring Court's underlying assumption that the Constitutional Court may not pronounce on criminal matters with potentially negative effects, as well as State Counsel's objection that the criminal law is reserved to the exclusive action of the legislator, and reaffirmed its authority to strike down unconstitutional criminal provisions where they are patently unreasonable and disproportionate. It also pointed out that it may take action not only where there is one, constitutionally mandated solution to an unconstitutional measure of punishment, but also where the overall criminal system provides punishments in analogous situations that permit the Court to insert a punishment that is consistent with the legislator's overall punishment scheme. The Court then traced the history of the gap in the two sentencing ranges, which had resulted from a complex layering of judicial and legislative action in the area of drug regulation. The Court also revisited the many occasions it has had to examine this same, and related, provisions and pointed out that its urgent requests for legislative action to remedy this sentencing discrepancy had gone unheeded. Citing the seriousness of the fundamental rights involved, the fact that disproportionate punishments undermine the constitutionally mandated rehabilitative purpose of criminal punishment, and the fact that a great deal of conduct falls into a grey area on the borderline between serious and minor offenses (rendering the four-year gap between the minimum punishment for one and the maximum punishment for the other manifestly unreasonable and open to causing undue influence on finders of fact in criminal proceedings as well as resulting in unjust sentencing), the Court refused to allow the provision to remain in force any longer. As for the referring Court's suggestion of six years as an appropriate substitute provision for the minimum punishment for serious crimes, the Court found that this was consistent with the legislator's overall scheme and traceable in pre-existing legislation, and took care to specify that, as a non-mandatory solution, the legislator remained free to alter the six-year provision.

 Judgment No. 38 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Nicolo' Zanon, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court heard a referral order challenging a provision of an ordinary law that required courts to obtain advance authorization from a parliamentarian's House of membership in order to use records related to communications as evidence in legal proceedings against that MP. The referring court alleged that the advance authorization requirement, already in place for transcripts and recordings of intercepted communications, equated information "external" to communications with the contents of the communications themselves, unlawfully expanding the scope of the constitutionally established parliamentary prerogative according to which parliamentarians are granted protection in the form of an exception to the principle of equal treatment before the courts. The Court held that the question was unfounded. It pointed to previous case law stating that the advance authorization requirement reflects the purpose of an investigatory action (the purpose of obtaining information relating to a parliamentarian's communications), as evidenced by, for example, the fact that special protection is not limited to intercepting communications on devices belonging to MPs, but also extends to devices belonging to third parties in frequent contact with them, and even to places frequently visited by them. Moreover, the Court disagreed with the claim that there is an ontological, or natural, difference between the contents of communications and the data about them found in external records (like the date, duration, participants, and location of a communication). The Court said that this "external" data are, in fact, communication evidence. Therefore, it rightly falls under the constitutional guarantee that protects the freedom and autonomy of the functioning of Parliament (and, only as a secondary and indirect matter, protects the individual members of Parliament), a conclusion supported by the case law of the Supreme Court of Cassation. Thus, Court held that it is legitimate to extend the constitutional protection of parliamentary communications to investigatory acts able to have a direct impact on said communications, and obtaining telephone records, which can reveal highly invasive information, falls into this category.

 Judgment No. 24 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Francesco VIGANO', Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court heard referral orders from various courts concerning the application of certain personal preventive measures and the in rem preventive measures of seizure and confiscation to (a) "any person who may be presumed, on the basis of factual findings, to be habitually involved in unlawful dealings" and (b) "any person who, owing to his or her conduct and lifestyle, may be presumed, on the basis of factual findings, to earn a living, either in full or in part, from the proceeds of unlawful activities". The Court noted as a preliminary matter that "the fact that the imposition of a personal preventive measure is in any case conditional upon indications that suggest prior involvement in criminal activity by the individual does not mean that the measures concerned have the status of sanctions or punitive measures". Referring also to the case law of the ECtHR (in particular the de Tommaso case), the Court declared unconstitutional the provision allowing for the first type of personal and in rem preventive measures (letter (a) above). However, it declined to make a similar ruling to measures issued on the basis of letter (b) above. Whilst the legislation was sufficiently precise in relation to letter (b), the wording of letter (a) was inherently imprecise (in particular as regards the terms "unlawful dealings" and "habitually") in a manner that could not be rectified through judicial interpretation.

 Judgment No. 20 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Nicolo' Zanon, Author of the Judgment
In this case, the Court considered a referral order from an administrative tribunal challenging a provision of a transparency law that imposed a duty to publish fiscal data concerning income, assets, and involvement and shares in companies concerning all managers working for the public administrations, irrespective of their position, and extending to their spouses and relatives up to the second degree. The Court affirmed the admissibility of the questions and its own authority to rule, with erga omnes effect, on cases that raise questions of compatibility with both the Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (except where it makes a reference for a preliminary ruling for questions of the interpretation or invalidity of European law). In such cases, the Court specified that its ruling will be based on internal constitutional provisions and European law if applicable, according to whichever system is most appropriate to the specific case. It also stressed the importance of its constitutional interpretation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the CFR, which allow it to be interpreted in harmony with national tradition, without prejudice to ordinary courts' ability to refer matters to the ECJ. The Court pointed out that the case involved the balancing between two rights: the right to the privacy of personal data, understood as the right to control the spread of information about oneself, and the right of citizens to have free access to the data and information held by the public administrations. It observed that the digital context, which both heightens threats to personal security and increases the ability to provide access and circulate information. The Court used a proportionality test to assess the legislative choice expressed in the challenged provision, pointing out that European law also embraces the principle of proportionality in this context. Examining the evolution of the duty to publish, the Court noted the passage from "accessibility" of information, a regime under which interested parties could request information, to "availability," where information is published, for example online, for the general population. It also noted the legitimate purpose of the provision, which was to grant widespread public oversight on the use of public funds and carrying out of public functions, as an anti-corruption measure. It found that the provision partly failed the test of proportionality in the part in which it placed the duty to publish the full range of data (which formerly applied only to political positions accountable to voters) on all public managers without distinction. The Court found that the indiscriminate application of duties to publish such an extensive quantity of data, which could, depending on the position in question, be irrelevant for the purpose of granting oversight relating to public functions and the use of public funds, was inherently unreasonable, both because it created a confusing and unmanageable quantity of data that private citizens did not have the tools to navigate (failing to meet the requirement that lowering the protection of one right should result in an increase in the protection of another), and because it invited curious digging into the private lives of managers and their families rather than facilitating the correct informing of the public. Nor did the measure meet the requirement of being the least restrictive option. Finally, the provision's application to all managers without distinction was held to be unconstitutional. As a temporary solution, the Court pointed to a classification of managers carried out by the legislator in a provision of a different law.

 Judgment No. 17 of 2019
Giorgio LATTANZI, President, Marta Cartabia, Author of the Judgment
In this case, a group of senators objected to the usage of a procedural mechanism in the Senate whereby the government amended draft budgetary legislation by a block amendment, and also associated its approval with a confidence vote, thereby preventing amendments from being tabled. The Court noted that members of Parliament could theoretically have standing to initiate a jurisdictional dispute, although this matter turned upon the specific circumstances of each case. This is because standing lies only with bodies with the power "to state the definitive position of the respective branch of state", and members of Parliament have a right under Constitutional law to state "an intention that is in itself definitive and conclusive". However, due to the broad margin of appreciation in the application of parliamentary rules, the Court's power of review must be limited to cases in which violations are evidently identifiable already within a summary consideration. The Court held that, on the facts, this exacting test was not met in this case, although reserved the right to review particularly manifest violations of the rights of parliamentarians in future.

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