President to take legislation to Supreme Court with law office counsel

President Kersti Kaljulaid.
President Kersti Kaljulaid. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Office of the President commissioned a legal analysis of the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act, amendments to which President Kersti Kaljulaid rejected earlier this year, from the law firm Sorainen in order to take the legislation to the Supreme Court.

"The Office of the President is our client," Sorainen Senior Associate Illimar Pärnamägi told ERR on Wednesday.

"We can't exactly prepare these things for the president," he explained. "Legal counsel was sought in connection with this, which we also provided."

He was unable to comment on what would follow, however, adding that no agreements have been concluded in connection with this.

Pärnamägi noted that formally, the law firm has the opportunity to represent the president in the Supreme Court, but he did not believe that the president as the head of state would request this service of them.

ERR unsuccessfully attempted to reach Director of the Office of the President Tiit Riisalo as well as Public Relations Adviser to the President Taavi Linnamäe. Kaljulaid does not currently have a legal adviser on staff at the Office of the President.

Kaljulaid and the Riigikogu will dispute in the Supreme Court whether the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act, which will expand the surveillance capabilities of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), is unconstitutional.

The previous Riigikogu passed the amended legislation on Feb. 20. Kaljulaid, however, rejected the legislation, sending it back to the Riigikogu. The new Riigikogu to be elected in March passed the legislation unchanged on May 29, after which Kaljulaid announced on June 14 that she would take the law to the Supreme Court.

Maruste: President needs a legal adviser

Proclaiming or rejecting legislation passed by the Riigikogu is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the president and involves no other Constitutional institution. The president also has the right to veto legislation by not proclaiming it and instead sending it back to the Riigikogu anew.

Commenting on the use by the president of the services of a law firm, former Supreme Court chie justice Rait Maruste said that in exceptional cases, the president may seek counsel from outside of the Office of the President, but generally speaking, that is not the way things should work.

"The President of the Republic is responsible for one constitutional, which is the proclamation of laws, and this is her constitutional duty," Maruste said. "In order to be able to reasonably do so, she should possess an adequate legal advisory system, as in assistants with a mastery of constitutional law, who read proposals and remarks regarding new legislation and assess whether bills are constitutional or not. This can be done in ann orderly fashion only by means of her own legal services."

The Office of the President has lacked a legal adviser since last fall. Public Relations Adviser to the President Taavi Linnamäe told ERR earlier this month that there is no need for one, as the president has the necessary legal competencies.

Maruste, however, believes that the Office of the President should possess a certain degree of constitutional continuity. "Presidents come and go, but some people in this apparatus should be well versed in constitutional practices, rights and freedoms, international agreements, etc.," he said.

"This is a function which, based on the Constitution, must be fulfilled," the former chief justice continued. "The president has advisers on climate affairs and other affairs — she can have those. But she must have a legal adviser, as it is the president's constitutional duty to review the constitutionality and consistency with other laws of legislation that has been passed but not yet entered into force."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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