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Comparison between the United States, United Kingdom and Romanian Constitutions and Legal System



Comparison between the

United States, United Kingdom and Romanian

Constitutions and Legal System

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Regardless of some minor differences the fundamental law in all the three states is The Constitution. The United States has a written constitution which was made up in 1787 which sets out the main Principals of Government. The Constitution has been amended 26 times from its creation, and the first ten amendments are known as “the Bill of Rights” – basic rights such as the freedom of speech, religion or the press, citizens’ rights and fundamental duties, etc. Also every State has its own written constitution which basically consists of the same amendments as the federal one.

Romania also has a written constitution, the first dating from 1866, and modified after that in 1923, 1938, 1948, the communist constitutions in 1952, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1972, and the new constitution in 1991 which was amended in 2003. The structure of our constitution differs from the one of the United States because it hasn’t got ten fundamental articles, but all 156 articles share equal importance and have been changed during the ages.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has no written constitution. The two main branches of the English constitution are: (A) the legislative power which is the power of making, altering or repealing the laws; and (B) the executive power which belongs to the Parliament. On the other hand, the constitution consists of elements such as: status that is laws made by the Parliament, important court cases and established practices.

While the British constitution consists of two branches, as shown above, and the Queen as the Head of State who represents the people (but the real power lies in the Parliament), the United States and Romanian constitutions consists of three fundamental state powers: the Executive Power, the Legislative Power and the Judicial Power. zy392g4532byyz

In the United States the three powers are represented, in order with above, by: the President, the Congress, the system of Courts. In Romania the Executive Power is held by the President and the Government which is lead by the Prime Minister, the Legislative Power is held by the Parliament and the Judicial Power is represented thru the Courts.

In the United Kingdom the Parliament is the most important part of the state power. A full duration of it is seven years. No bill can become law until it has been sanctioned or “read” three times by both houses and has finally received the royal assent, which practically never refused any measures that have passed both Houses of Parliament. The parliament consists of two houses: the House of Commoners (the Lower House) which is made up of 650 members, who each represent a constituency; and the House of Lords (the Upper Court) which consists of around 1200 members. Only the Queen can provoque, prorogue or dissolve the Parliament. The members of the House of Commoners win their seats in the Parliament by a majority vote. The leader of the party which has the most seats in the house of Commoners becomes Prime Minister. He than chooses the members of his cabinet, called the ministers. General elections are held every five years although the Prime Minister may call one earlier.

The United States Congress is made up of two houses: the Senate to which each state elects two senators for a period of six years; the House of Representatives where each state elects a certain number of representatives in direct proportion with the population in that state. They are elected for a term of three years. Bills can’t become law unless they have been passed by 2/3 majority of each house, and if there are passed by both houses. But in case a bill doesn’t pass thru both houses the President can veto it.

In Romania the Parliament consists also of two houses, named exactly as in the United States. The senators and representatives are elected thru universal, direct, equal, secret and freely spoken vote. A difference from America’s Congress is that the nr of senators and representatives are set by a special type of organic law called Election Law. The President can also dissolve the parliament, only after consulting the Speakers of the two Houses and the leaders of the main political parties in the Parliament. But he can only do this if the Parliament hasn’t given its “Trust Vote” for the naming of the Government in 60 days from the first time it was called and also after rejecting two calls for a naming.

We can only speak of a President in US’s and Romanian cases. The big difference between the two countries in this matter are, first of all in the United States the president has real political power; second matter is that in Romania the presidential term is five years, while in the States it’s only four years. And third difference is that the United States Presidential Candidates are chosen by the political parties either through Primaries or Caucuses. One major difference between America and us is the election of the Vice-President.

The Romanian President names the Prime Minister and the Government, but only after a Parliaments “Trust Vote”. In the United States the President names his Cabinet with the approval of the Senate only. The members of the Cabinet are the President’s advisors and they help him in carrying out his policies and duties. Their term is usually a full four years. They are responsible to the President for their official acts and the Congress has no power to remove them.

The United States President can be judged whether he has, or not, acted constitutionally by the Supreme Court. If the Federal Judges consider that the president’s behaviour was indeed unconstitutional he may be impeached (that is accusing him of a crime against the state). In Romania the parliament in a general reunion of the two Houses can decide, with at least 2/3 of the votes, to place the president under the accusation of high treason. The final decision lies with the High Court of Justice.

A unique feature in the Romanian Legal System represents the Constitutional Court. Its main functions are to say whether or not a law confirms with the Constitution, whether international agreements are from the Romanian Constitution point of view constitutional, whether the Parliament’s acts are according to the Constitution, it watches over the Presidential elections and confirms the result, decides whether a political party is or not constitutional, etc. The Constitutional Court is made up of nine judges, three named by the president, three by the House of Representatives and three by the Senate, all for a term of nine years. They chose from among them a Chairman for a term of three years.

In the United States the Supreme Court has the power to judge a law passed by the Congress or the President and decide whether it is according to the Constitution. In other words it interprets and repeals a good many laws passed by the Congress or the President by declaring them unconstitutionally.

The United States system of Governing is a centralized one. Any of the 50 states in the Union may very well be an independent state as far as the internal affairs are concerned. The National Government has no right to intervene in the internal affaire of one state. A crime which is not marked as a “national” one will be judged according to the law of the state in which it had been committed. The Federal Government has in charge only the matters that concern all the states. For example: the postal service, immigration, the army, the navy, the collection of customs, the creation and release of coins and paper money into circulation, other territories or dependences which are not yet organized as states therefore not yet admitted in the Union, etc.

This separation between powers is found only in America because only this country is a federation. Therefore there are 100 Federal Courts through out the country but final authority rests in the Supreme Court. It includes a Chef Justice and eight Associate Justices. As we’ve mentioned they are all appointed by the President, for life, and confirmed by the Senate. Under the Constitution the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and councils and in cases were another state is party, in one word all those cases which concern the Federation as a whole. In all other cases coming within the Supreme Court jurisdiction is only appellate. In one word the main function of the Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution not modify it. The Supreme Court is made up of lawyers who have long and successful experience before they were appointed to the Court. Not all of them were judges or layers in private life, but also senator, attorney general, teacher in a law school or even administrator of agency acting like a court.

Besides the Supreme Court and State Courts there are also Courts of Appeal and District Courts. State judges hold office for ten years and they are usually elected or confirmed in office by elections. The Courts of Appeal are organized as to relive the Supreme Court of the pressure of the Appellate Cases. In general these courts act as the final appeal court for litigations not involving constitutional questions. The supreme Court considers in most cases that the decision of the Courts of Appeal are clear and well grounded, therefore there is no need go deeper into the questions further. The District Courts have about 200 District judges all over the country. They deal with criminal and civil cases in the states. The District Court is the only Federal Court where trials are held with a jury and witnesses.

There are two types of lawyers in the United States are: one is the attorney and the other is the counsel. The attorneys are license to practice only in certain state. In order to appear in a case in another state they have to sustain another exam.

Excepting minor cases the defendant is entitled to be trialed by a jury. Usually all the jury has to decide is whether the defendant is guilty or not. Most of the civil cases are heard by a jury all across America, but the number of the jury members or the way they are named differs from state to state. The people who make up Jury represent a fair cross-selection of society. Both the defence and prosecution are allowed to reject a certain number of jury candidates for reasons established by the state law.

In Britain the division between criminal and civil law reflects in the court system. The judges in the House of Lords are known as “Law Lords”. Here are the courts in Great Britain:

  1. Court of Justice of the European Community;

  2. The House of Lords;

  3. The Courts of Appeal, Criminal Division;

  4. The Crown Court;

  5. The Magistrates Court;

  6. The Courts of Appeal, Civil Division;

  7. The High Court;

  8. The Country Courts.

The conservationism of the English lawyers is shown by their strict division into solicitors and barristers. The first are allowed to deal directly with the public, but when going to the central Courts they must employ a barrister to plead. Becoming a barrister requires a higher educational standard, a degree from the Council of Legal Education and becoming a member of the Inns of Court (which are, in order, Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, The Middle Temple and The Inner Temple).

The Courts deal with civil cases such as divorces or disputes over property and all those were no crime has been committed. Less serious cases, criminal or civil, are dealt with in the Magistrates Courts were two or three magistrates (also known as “Justices of Peace”) hear the case. They do not need to have legal qualifications, a Clark advices them on the law, there main duty is to hear the case and decide, when necessary, what the punishment should be. Also they decide whether to grant bail or not, and whether the person will be remanded in custody or not. More serious crimes are heard in the Crown Courts for Criminal cases and the Country Courts for Civil cases.

The jury in England and Wales is made up of 12 ordinary people aged between 18 and 64. After hearing the evidence the jury listens to the judge’s summing and then retires to a special room to decide the verdict. When they return it will be a guilty or not guilty verdict.

Specific for our county is that all judges are named by the President, at the proposal of the Magistrates Superior Council (made up by 9 judges, 5 prosecutors and 2 law experts who have a well know professional and moral reputation but who only participate in general debates). This organizations function is as a Court who trials all judges in disciplinary cases. The naming in one office, the promotion, transfer or sanctioning one or more judges is of the Magistrates Superior Council competence. If a person is named judge he can no longer hold any other public or private office except being a teacher. All judges are named for life and the final sentience rests with the High Court of Cassation and Justice. In Romania there is no Jury Court. Witnesses and expertise are not allowed at the Supreme Court, only at the lower courts made up by First Court, High Court and The Court of Appeal. Here also one advocate can not plead unless he has at least 8 years experience or holds the title of “Doctor in Law”.

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