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History of the Court

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It was in the First Spanish Republic (1873) when a draft federal constitution which provided for the first time control of constitutionality of laws, initially by the Senate, and successively, by the Supreme Court (which adjudicated incidentally and with only inter partes effects) . This draft was not finally passed (including the creation of a Supreme Court in the American style, which not only adjudicated on conflicts between the Federation and the States, but also had authority to suspend the effects of the law which deemed contrary to the Constitution).

In the last days of Primo de Rivera dictatorship (1929) a draft Constitution which contained a "complaint of unconstitutionality of laws" attributed to the Council of the Kingdom was also forseen. This was again never approved. However, after the fall of this regime in the Second Republic (1931), another preliminary draft of Constitution attributed to a "Court of Constitutional Justice” a concentrated control of laws. This could be activated , either at the request of judicial bodies (concrete control), or by direct challenge by authorized subjects (abstract control). This Court, apart from control validity of laws assumed the protection of fundamental rights ("amparo"), conflicts between the state and the autonomous regions, the criminal responsibility of senior State officials and the validity of the minutes of deputies and senators. The subsequent "Project" of 1931 Constitution, however, would call this body "Court of Constitutional Guarantees", supressing the power to check the validity of the acts of deputies and senators, and turning it into a mere advisory body (non-binding) on the constitutionality of laws. Constitution of December 9, 1931 (developed by the Organic Law of June 14, 1933) created thus the "Court of Constitutional Guarantees" and attributed, following the Austrian model, control of the constitutionality of laws (through constitutional complaint that could be lodged even individual citizens in a sort of popular action in defense of the Constitution, and consultation on constitutionality of laws by courts), the amparo appeal on individual guarantees, conflict resolution between the Republic and the autonomous regions, the examination and approval of the powers of the commissioners who together with Parliament elect the President of the Republic, as well as control of the criminal responsibility of the Head of State, the President of Council and the Ministers, the President and Judges of the Supreme Court and the Public Prosecutor of the Republic.

Its work was brief, as the military uprising of July 1936 (start of the Spanish Civil War) provoked that members resigned (on 20 August) by the Government accepting some resignations. From there it worked temporarily until in 1939 when was transferred to Barcelona where it finished its days.

It was Title IX of the Spanish Constitution of 27 December 1978 which created a "Constitutional Court" whose operational setting was done by the Organic Law 2/1979, of October 3, on the Constitutional Court, and nowadays functions as the ultimate guarantor both of fundamental rights and public freedoms, and of the supremacy of the Constitution.


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