Brigitte Bierlein

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Brigitte Bierlein
Chancellor of Austria
Assumed office
3 June 2019
PresidentAlexander Van der Bellen
DeputyClemens Jabloner
Preceded bySebastian Kurz
President of the Constitutional Court
In office
23 February 2018 – 3 June 2019
Nominated byKurz cabinet
Vice PresidentChristoph Grabenwarter
Preceded byGerhart Holzinger
Succeeded byVacant
Vice President of the Constitutional Court
In office
1 January 2003 – 22 February 2018
Nominated bySchüssel cabinet
PresidentKarl Korinek
Gerhart Holzinger
Preceded byKarl Korinek
Succeeded byChristoph Grabenwarter
Personal details
Born (1949-06-25) 25 June 1949 (age 69)
Vienna, Allied-occupied Austria
Political partyIndependent
Alma materUniversity of Vienna

Brigitte Bierlein (German: [b?i?ɡ?t? ?bi???la??n]; born 25 June 1949) is an Austrian jurist and politician, who has been serving as the Chancellor of Austria since 3 June 2019. She is the first woman to hold the position. She was the advocate general of the Procurator's Office – essentially the country's chief public prosecutor – from 1990 to 2002, and a member of the executive board of the International Association of Prosecutors from 2001 to 2003. In 2003, Bierlein was made a member of the Constitutional Court. Between January 2018 and June 2019, she has served as its president, the first woman to hold this position.

Following the Ibiza affair, Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen named Bierlein chancellor on 30 May 2019, after a parliamentary motion of no confidence, the first successful motion of no confidence in Austrian modern history, dismissed the government of Sebastian Kurz. She is the first woman in this role in Austria and is expected to serve until the next government is sworn in after the upcoming national elections, which are slated to take place no later than September 2019.[1]

Early life[edit]

Brigitte Bierlein was born on 25 June 1949 in Vienna during the Allied occupation of Austria.[2] Her father was a civil servant. Her mother, trained as an artist, was a homemaker.[3] She was educated at the Gymnasium Kundmanngasse, from which she graduated in 1967.[2]

Judicial career[edit]

Bierlein originally wanted to study either art or architecture and came close to joining the University of Applied Arts.[4] However, she ultimately chose to study law instead, partly on the advice of her mother and partly because she did not want to be a financial burden on her parents any longer than necessary.[3][5][6] Bierlein enrolled at the University of Vienna, receiving her doctorate of law in 1971.[2]

After four years as a candidate judge, Bierlein was officially elevated to the judiciary in 1975. She spent the next two years presiding over trial courts, first the District Court Innere Stadt (German: Bezirksgericht Innere Stadt Wien) and then the District Tribunal Vienna (Strafbezirksgericht Wien), a criminal court that has since been dissolved.[2] In the former position, she mostly dealt with cases at tenancy law, an area that appears to have bored her greatly.[5]

In 1977, Bierlein left the bench to join the Vienna Public Prosecutor's Office (Staatsanwaltschaft Wien). She was responsible for general and political criminal cases as well as for criminal cases pursuant to media law, a type of proceedings customarily handled by dedicated specialists in Austria. In 1986, Bierlein was promoted to the Vienna Chief Public Prosecutor's Office (Oberstaatsanwaltschaft Wien). She was now a distinguished civil servant attached to one of the country's five most senior criminal chambers. In 1987, she spent a few months working in the Department of Criminal Law in the Ministry of Justice, then returned to her position in the prosecution service.[2]

In 1990, she was appointed advocate general of the Procurator's Office, the section of the prosecution service attached directly to the Supreme Court.[2] She was the first woman to serve in this position.[4]

The same year, Bierlein became a member of the board of examiners for judges and prosecutors at the Vienna Higher Regional Court, a position she would hold until 2010.[2]

In 1995, Bierlein was appointed to the executive board of the Association of Austrian Prosecutors. From 2001 to 2003, she served as the association's president. Also from 2001 to 2003, she held a seat on the executive board of the International Association of Prosecutors.[2]

In 2002, the first Schüssel government recommended Bierlein for appointment as vice president of the Constitutional Court. The move was not uncontroversial at the time. Bierlein had prosecuted crime with great fervor but had not distinguished herself as a legal scholar; she is in fact considered indifferent as a theorist to this day.[4][6] Opposition politicians such as Josef Cap accused the government of passing over multiple more competent candidates in favor of a partisan hack. Bierlein supporters such as Maria Fekter countered that Bierlein's appointment would be an important step towards gender equality in Austria.[7][8]

According to the well-known Austrian Law Professor Werner Doralt [de], Bierlein owed her career at the Constitutional Court to the Austrian politician J?rg Haider and her life partner, the Austrian Judge Ernest Maurer[9], a close friend of J?rg Haider.[10]

Assenting to the cabinet's recommendation, President Thomas Klestil appointed Bierlein on 21 November 2002, the appointment to be effective 1 January 2003. Once again, Bierlein was the first woman to serve in the role she was being elevated to.[7][8][11] In fact, there had been no women at all on the Constitutional Court until 1995.[3][12]

Bierlein took over from the president of the court, Gerhart Holzinger, when he retired from the bench effective 31 December 2017.[13]

On the initiative of the Freedom Party, the right-of-center Kurz government moved to turn her interim position into a permanent one.[14][15] President Alexander Van der Bellen confirmed Bierlein as the new president of the Constitutional Court on 23 February 2018.[16] Bierlein's previous role as vice president passed on to Supreme Court justice Christoph Grabenwarter. Wolfgang Brandstetter, who had formerly been vice chancellor and minister of justice on a People's Party ticket, was appointed to fill the vacancy of the Court.[14][15]

Bierlein will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2019.[14][15]


Bierlein has no political affiliation.[17] She is seen as solidly right of center. During her time as a prosecutor, she was noted for her hardline tough-on-crime stance, although her years on the bench have earned her a reputation for civility and for working well with ideological opponents.[6][4] Commentators from both sides of the political spectrum note Bierlein's close ties to both People's Party and Freedom Party, as well as the fact that her career owes both its unexpected major breaks to right-of-center coalition governments.[6][7][5][18]

Bierlein herself acknowledges both her toughness as a prosecutor and her socially conservative bent in general.[4] In response to doubts about her ability to remain above the fray as a Constitutional Court justice, she claims to be as committed to impartiality as any other professional judge and also points out that she has never actually joined any party.[18]

In December 2017 the Austrian Constitutional Court with Bierlein as president ruled to introduce same-sex marriage on 1 January 2019.

After the Kurz government lost a parliamentary vote of no-confidence on 27 May 2019 following the Ibiza affair, Alexander Van der Bellen, the President of Austria, named Bierlein as Kurz's successor.[1] She became the first female chancellor of Austria and has been expected to be in office until the next National Council elections which are planned to be held in September 2019.[1] Bierlein's appointment was agreed with all political parties in the National Council.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Bierlein is unmarried and has no children.[3][7] Her partner is Ernest Maurer, a retired judge.[9][5][7] In 2006, Maurer received criticism from The New York Times for acquitting David Irving, the notorious British Holocaust-denier.[20][21] His successive judgments received wide international attention[22] and were debated, amongst others, in a book by the Austrian social scientists Ruth Wodak and Alexander Pollak in 2002[23] and in November 2006, the European Court of Justice overturned three of his verdicts against the liberal Austrian newspaper Der Standard.[24] Wodak and Pollak maintained that Maurer left out a sufficiently distant relationship with biologistic and racist theories. His judgments contained a trivialisation of racist ideologies.[25] A key sentence of Maurer's verdicts said:

The advocacy of racial purity, hereditary health and the rejection of the integration of foreigners is not in any sense disrespectful. The idea of a race-pure and hereditary healthy people in itself is an ideal not invented by National Socialism.[24][26]

Bierlein continues to cultivate artistic tastes. She enjoys theater, the opera and visiting museums. She owns contemporary paintings, although she does not consider herself a collector.[3][5] She also enjoys skiing and sailing.[7][8]


Austrian honours

AUT Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria - 3rd Class BAR.png Grand Decoration of Honor in Silver with Sash of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria[27]


  1. ^ a b c Said-Moorhouse, Lauren (30 May 2019). . CNN. Archived from the original on 30 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h . Austrian Constitutional Court. Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jungwirth, Michael; Swoboda, Manuela (21 February 2018). . Kleine Zeitung. Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Kommanda, Benedikt; Aichinger, Philipp (21 February 2018). . Die Presse. Archived from the original on 22 February 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e Prechtl, Elisabeth (22 February 2018). . Ober?sterreichische Nachrichten. Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d John, Gerald (23 February 2018). . Der Standard. Archived from the original on 12 May 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f . Die Presse. 21 February 2018. Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  8. ^ a b c . Der Standard. 21 February 2018. Archived from the original on 14 July 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  9. ^ a b .
  10. ^ Bischof, Daniel. . Recht - Wiener Zeitung Online (in German). and Weber, Ina. "Befangene" Richter: SP? im Notfall für Gesetzes?nderung". ?sterreich Politik - Nachrichten - Wiener Zeitung Online (in German). In 2007, the SP? speaker for constitutional affairs, Hannes Jarolim severely criticized Ernest Maurer's close political relationship with J?rg Haider
  11. ^ Heller, Kurt (2010). Der Verfassungsgerichtshof. Die Entwicklung der Verfassungsgerichtsbarkeit in ?sterreich von den Anf?ngen bis zur Gegenwart. Vienna: Verlag ?sterreich. pp. 492?495, 626.
  12. ^ Aichinger, Philipp (27 December 2009). . Die Presse. Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  13. ^ . Austrian Constitutional Court. 1 January 2018. Archived from the original on 11 September 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  14. ^ a b c . Tiroler Tageszeitung. 21 February 2018. Archived from the original on 23 February 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  15. ^ a b c . Die Presse. 21 February 2018. Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  16. ^ . Die Presse. 23 February 2018. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  17. ^ . Financial Times. Archived from the original on 30 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  18. ^ a b "". Ober?sterreichische Nachrichten. 26 February 2018. Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  19. ^ . BBC. 30 May 2019. Archived from the original on 31 May 2019. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  20. ^ Landlerdec, Mark (21 December 2006). . The New York Times. p. A3. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  21. ^ Hoare, Liam (3 June 2019). . The Jewish Chronicle. London. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Ruth Wodak and Alexander Pollak "Der ausgebliebene Skandal. Diskurshistorische Untersuchung eines Wiener Gerichtsurteils. ISBN: 978-3-7076-0134-3, Seiten: 160, Czernin Verlag, Vienna, 2002
  24. ^ a b . Der Standard. 20 December 2006.
  25. ^ Wodak and Pollak in "Der Falter". Klenk, Florian (12 December 2000). 'Rassenrein & erbgesund'". Falter 50/00.
  26. ^ The German original of Maurer's judgement read as follows: "Das Eintreten für Rassenreinheit, Erbgesundheitslehre und gegen die Integration von Ausl?ndern ist per se betrachtet nicht ehrenrührig. Die Idee vom rassenreinen und erbgesunden Volk an sich ist eine Idealvorstellung, die nicht erst vom Nationalsozialismus erfunden wurde."
  27. ^ (PDF). Austrian Parliament. 23 April 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2018.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Karl Korinek
Vice President of the Constitutional Court
Succeeded by
Christoph Grabenwarter
Preceded by
Gerhart Holzinger
President of the Constitutional Court
Political offices
Preceded by
Sebastian Kurz
Chancellor of Austria