Hungary’s Changing Administrative Justice


Hungary’s system of administrative justice is undergoing far reaching changes. Since the change of system, its organisational structure has been problematic due to the lack of a financial, organisational and staff background for the (supposedly) “optimal solution”, i.e. for an organisationally independent branch of administrative courts with several layers. Urged by the Constitutional Court, there was a lack of time as well. Recently, at least the lowest layer of administrative justice was taken out of the hierarchy of the ordinary courts. However, it was not made independent, but was combinded with the pre-existing labour courts. These new “Administrative and Labour Courts” do not form a special branch of courts but function as a sort of decentralised units of the so called törvényszék, i.e. of the second lowest layer of the ordinary courts. Such mixed – one is tempted to say halfway house – solutions can be found in other countries as well, e.g. in Slovenia and Croatia where independent administrative courts of first instance are topped by ordinary courts in the second instance, or, the other way round, in the Czech Republic where the first instance administrative justice is in the hands of ordinary courts that are supervised in second instance by an independent Supreme Administrative Court. Mixed systems give rise to various questions: Can in such a framework a special career as an “administrative judge” and a special administrative judicial ethos evolve? How does a mixed structure work under administrative aspects? How do appeals work in a mixed structure?

The second big problem is the legal base of the procedure in administrative court cases. As a typical trait of socialist legal systems, the (few) court procedures that might be termed “administrative” were dealt with on the basis of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC). In socialist times, exceptions to this trait were few. Today, Hungary and Slovakia are the only states in the region where this socialist heredety still exists; in all the other states from the Baltic republics to the Balkans administrative court cases are handled on the basis of an administrative court procedure code. In Hungary, the CPC as the procedural basis of administrative court cases poses numerous serious problems. Since the change of system, civil procedure has been based on the equality and the autonomy of the parties. These two basic features of the civil procedure are alien elements in an administrative court procedure with its parties that are not equal but in a relationship of subordination, and which, for reasons of the rule of law, does not primarily aim at putting the parties’ will at work but much rather at making the law prevail. This procedural situation, too, gives rise to many legal questions. How do the courts handle the inadequate procedural law? Which problems does the application of a systematically alien procedural law cause to the plaintiff, to the defendant and to the court? The codification of new CPC is underway in Hungary: Will the law of administrative court procedures be separated from the law of civil procedure, or will the present situation be continued in the lex ferenda?

The method of the research is not limited to the scrutiny of the relevant primary and secondary literature. Apart from the research of literature, interviews shall be conducted with administrative justices, with advocates (as the users of the administrative courts), with representatives of the public administration (as the organ scrutinized by the administrative courts), with political and other decision-makers and with representatives of legal science.

The results of the research shall be published in Hungarian as a working paper. Apart from this, they will form the basis for a publication in German language as well: Küpper Herbert: „Verwaltungsgerichtsbarkeit in Ungarn“ [Administrative Justice in Hungary], in: Bogdandy, Armin von / Huber, Peter (eds.): Ius Publicum Europaeum, vol.VIII.: Verwaltungsgerichtsbarkeit in Europa [Administrative Justice in Europe]. Its publication is scheduled for 2016.

The results of the project are available to download through the link below: 

Herbert Küpper: Magyarország átalakuló közigazgatási bíráskodása [Hungary's Changing Administrative Justice]. MTA Law Working Papers 2014/59.