Speaking at the Day of Cities and Municipalities, Villy Lopman explained the rights of local governments when appealing directly to the Supreme Court
At the Day of Cities and Municipalities held last week, Villy Lopman, partner at RASK, spoke about the rights of local governments to appeal directly to the Supreme Court to resolve disputes arising with the state. So far, this possibility has been used to clarify 23 issues, while several problems are still waiting to be solved.
“If a norm restricts
the autonomy and self-organisation of a local government, then the local
government has the right to appeal directly to the Supreme Court,” Villy
explained in his presentation.
A local government seeking to appeal to the Supreme Court must submit an application that is supported by a majority of the municipal council members, who must also approve the final application text. For example, last year, Põlva Municipal Council submitted a request to the Supreme Court to declare the provisions of the Planning Act that concern the preservation of cultural heritage of local importance to be unconstitutional.
For local governments, the value of applying to the Supreme Court lies in the reasonable time it takes for the court to resolve matters. “As a rule, it takes about five months for a conforming application to receive a final decision,” said Villy. Needless to say, the Supreme Court will not satisfy every application, but the process should not be viewed as simply a win-or-lose situation. “The main purpose of approaching the Supreme Court should be to achieve clarity on an issue that in some way hinders the local government’s daily activities.”
Lopman predicts that given the current financial situation of the state and local governments, it may become necessary for local governments to seek Supreme Court review in matters such as the government’s formula for financing local governments. “The current legal system lacks laws and a system that would clearly define the responsibilities of the local government and the money needed to fulfil them. This, in turn, can affect several important areas, from planning to the closing of rural schools,” Lopman said.
The Day of Cities and Municipalities is an annual event in Tallinn bringing together representatives of Estonian cities and municipalities. The main organiser of the event is the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities.