Faculty of LawComenius University Bratislava

History of Department

Development of the Department until 1989

Teaching of the theory of law, philosophy, and history of legal philosophy began in the academic year 1921/1922. The predecessor of the present department was the Seminar of Legal Philosophy, which was under the direction of Professor Bohuslav Toms. This structure of teaching, which fell under the Seminars of State Sciences, was maintained throughout the duration of the First Czechoslovak Republic.

One of the main tasks of teaching philosophy and the history of legal philosophy at that time was the effort to emphasize the vital, practical function of law in the interpretation of legal theory, the obligation to deal with the problems of practical morality, with the aim that the graduate would take with him a certain world view and philosophical orientation. Professor Tomsa published a number of important works from that period, and we may mention two timeless works, namely, The Idea of Justice and Law in Greek Philosophy (1923) and Chapters from the History of the Philosophy of Law and State.

Significant changes occurred during the times of the totalitarian regime of the Slovak state. In 1938, Professor Tomsa was forced to leave the University because of his Czech origin, while the controversial Vojtech Tuka, who held the position of the University's rector, took over the leadership of the Seminary of Legal Philosophy. Due to the fact that Tuka held several academic and state positions, the teaching of several subjects was substituted by Juraj Rajec. It was during this period that organisational changes took place and the seminaries were renamed scientific institutes. From the academic year 1942/1943, the Institute of Legal Philosophy under the leadership of Tuka became part of the Faculty of Law.

After the Second World War, further organisational and personnel changes took place at the faculty. At the end of the 1940s, departments gradually began to be created as the basic workplaces of the faculty. During this period, the faculty also had a Department of Theory and History of State and Law, whose first head was Prof. Karol Rebro was the first professor. During this period, Prof. Markov, Prof. Budil, Prof. Luby, Prof. Tureček. Subsequently, the department was headed by Ladislav Lipscher and after him by Martin Vietor.

After year 1956 there were several changes within the system of departments at the faculty. In 1963, the Department of Theory and History of State and Law was divided into two successor departments, one of which was the Department of Theory of State and Law. It was initially headed by associate professor Ján Bikča, with associate professors Franzišek Červeňanský and Libuša Ďurajová also working at the department. The Department provided the theoretical development of the subjects theory of state and law, history of political and legal ideologies, and legal sociology.

The Department as an independent organisational unit was preserved after 1989. In this period, it was headed by Pavol Dojčák, and the department was mainly oriented toward research on the issues of socialist legality, legal consciousness of university students, methodological problems of the science of state and law, the effectiveness of law in society from the aspect of law-making and its implementation. In addition to Professor Dojčák, during this period the department was occupied by assistant professors Emília Bakošová and Jozef Prusák, as well as assistant professors Ján Cuper, Pavol Holländer, Alexandra Krsková, Alexander Kuchta and Eva Malcevová.

Development of the Department in the period 1989-2003

The societal and political changes initiated in November 1989 did not bring changes to the functioning of the Department of Theory of State and Law from the organisational point of view. However, there were changes in the personnel composition of the Department. After 1989, a number of employees joined the Department, namely Prof. Filo, doc. Valent, PhDr. Chovancová and Dr. Vaculíková. In the academic year 1990/1991 the Department consisted of 12 members: two professors, six associate professors, and four assistant professors.

However, the composition of the department did not remain the same during the 1990s, and many personal changes took place. During 1994, only Professor Prusák remained in the department. In 1994, doc. Holländer, as he became a judge of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic in 1993 left the department. As far as assistant professors are concerned, Peter Colotka, Radoslav Procházka, Juraj Frič were members and in 2002 Branislav Fábry joined the Department.

In 1989, Pavel Dojčák asked the dean of the faculty to relieve him of his post as of 31 December 1989. Jozef Prusák became the new head of the department on 1. January 1990. After his departure in 2000, Eva Ottová took over the chair. Several members of the department have also held the post of secretary; the secretaries were Ján Cuper, from 1990 to 2002 Nadežda Vaculíková and then Roman Jurík.

The events that started in November 1989 brought changes in the teaching activities at the faculty. During the communist regime, the teaching of subjects and their content focused primarily on issues of socialist legality, the legal consciousness of undergraduates, methodological problems of the science of the state and law, the effectiveness of law in society in terms of law-making and its implementation, but all under the sway of the state ideology.

Since September 1990 the curriculum has been reformed. The Master's degree was divided into three blocks, and the Department of Theory of State and Law was primarily involved in the first of the three blocks. In order to provide for a number of subjects, the Department of Theory of State and Law itself was divided into a number of departments: the Department of Theory of the State, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Department of Theory of Law, the Department of Philosophy of Law and the Department of Foundations of Philosophy.

This composition of courses has changed as the block study has been replaced by the grade system of study. In 2002/2003, the Department taught three compulsory subjects, which were taught in the first year, as well as a number of elective subjects.

Academic and scientific growth continued after 1989, as the then Department of Theory of State and Law provided inauguration procedures and habilitation procedures. On 19 November 1991, Jozef Prusák was appointed professor in the field of 'Theory of State and Law' by the President of the Czechoslovak Federal Republic, Václav Havel, with effect from 1st December 1991. In the period 1989 to 2003, three members of the Department were successfully habilitated. In 1989, Alexandra Krsková was granted the title of 'Associate Professor' in the field of 'Theory of State and Law'. In 1996, Jarmila Chovancová successfully passed the habilitation procedure in the field of "Philosophy", as well as Eva Ottová in the field of "Theory of State and Law".   

The scientific and creative activity of the Department and its members at the beginning of the 1990s was fundamentally conditioned by the social and political changes brought about by the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The focus of the Department's attention was not only on the development of teaching texts and textbooks to ensure the teaching of theoretical subjects (which, however, would no longer be influenced by state ideology), but also, and above all, on the scientific investigation of highly topical issues of the theory of the state and law, the interrelation of law, morality, and justice, the investigation of several areas of the history of political and legal thought (and their relevance for the post-1989 period), as well as the conduct of several socio-legal researches. For this reason, several members of the Department were also part of the expert commissions that were to prepare the text of the Constitution of the Slovak Republic.

Development of the Department in the period 2003-2015

Starting with the academic year 2003/2004, the Faculty of Law started a credit system of study, which also involved the then Department of Theory of Law and Social Sciences. Members of the Department were involved in the actual teaching right from that academic year, as they provided the courses taught from the first year onward. The compulsory course 'Introduction to the Study of Law and Legal Theory', which had been taught as a two-semester course culminating in an examination in the summer term under the previous grade (noncredit) system of study, was replaced by two formally separate courses, both culminating in an examination (these were the compulsory courses 'Introduction to the Study of Law and Legal Theory I' and 'Introduction to the Study of Law and Legal Theory II'). and "Introduction to the Study of Law and Legal Theory II"). Later, before the academic year 2004/2005, new subjects "Theory of Law I." began to be taught. and "Theory of Law II". In addition to these compulsory courses, the Department also provided a relatively large number of compulsory elective and voluntary courses. Within the framework of the new credit-bearing study programme, the Department also participated in the state examinations, as the subject "Theory of Law" became an optional subject of the state examination at the Master's degree level.

Changes in the curriculum that have been implemented since the 2003/2004 academic year have had no impact on the management of the Department. Eva Ottová remained the Head of the Department until 2007, when she was replaced by Nadežda Vaculíková. A change in the leadership of the Department took place in 2015, when Branislav Fábry became the Head of the Department. There were also several changes in the post of Secretary. This position was gradually replaced by several staff members of the Department. Roman Jurík was replaced in 2004 by Daniel Krošlák, who remained in office until 2007. In the years 2007 to 2015, Michal Mrva was the Secretary of the Department, and in 2015 he was replaced by Rudolf Kasinec (who remained in the newly appointed position of Deputy Head until 2019). 

In terms of staff composition, at the beginning of the academic year 2003/2004, the Department consisted of eight members: five associate professors (Emília Bakošová, Ján Cuper, Jarmila Chovancová, Eva Ottová and Tomáš Valent), one assistant professor (Nadežda Vaculíková) and two assistant professors (Branislav Fábry and Roman Jurík).  

In the course of the following years, there have been several changes in the Department. Roman Jurík (2004), Emília Bakošová (2007) and Eva Ottová (2010) left the Department. On the other hand, František Gahér joined the Department in 2011, and from that year until now he has been teaching students of the Faculty of Law in Bratislava the application of logic in law. After successful completion of doctoral studies at the Faculty of Law, Branislav Fábry (assistant since 2002, assistant professor since 2008), Michal Mrva (assistant since 2007, assistant professor since 2008), Martin Turčan (assistant professor since 2010), Rudolf Kasinec (assistant since 2012, assistant professor since 2013), and Eva Vranková (assistant professor since 2015) have become employees of the Department.  

Even after 2003, the Department of Theory of Law and Social Sciences participated and continued to educate experts in the field of "Theory of State and Law", later in the joint field of "Theory and History of State and Law" (cooperation with the Department of Legal History), as in addition to the first (bachelor's) and second (master's) degree, it also provided higher education of the third degree, i.e. doctoral studies. Doctoral studies were carried out both in full-time and part-time form. In the period from 2004 to 2015, as many as 24 students successfully completed doctoral studies in both fields (including one student in the field of "Theory of State and Law" and 23 students in the field of "Theory and History of State and Law").

Development of the Department since 2015

In the course of 2015, there were several changes in the internal structure of the Faculty of Law, mainly as a result of an amendment to the Organizational Regulations adopted by the Academic Senate of the Faculty (Internal Regulation No. 1/2015 - Amendment No. 3 to the Organizational Regulations of the Comenius University in Bratislava, Faculty of Law). These were mainly the creation of new departments or changes to existing ones. Five institutes (Ústavy) became the basic departments of the Faculty of Law (in addition to the departments). Although these were extensive organisational changes, the Departments of Theory of Law and Social Sciences were not directly affected. In fact, the Department remained as an independent department, and its name was not changed either. This happened only later, at the beginning of 2021, on the basis of internal regulation No. 7/2020 - Amendment No. 9 to the Organisational Regulations of Comenius University in Bratislava, Faculty of Law. With effect from 1 January 2021, the name of the Department was changed to the Department of Theory of Law and Philosophy of Law. This move was made because in recent years much more emphasis has been placed on the field of philosophy of law (including European political and legal thought and legal philosophy), and therefore the management of the Faculty and the Department decided to change the name to better reflect the actual scholarly and pedagogical activities of its members. At the same time, it is also a kind of symbolic step of the Department, which in this way also wants to continue the tradition that was established and built here already during the period of the First Czechoslovak Republic, when legal philosophy was an important part of the study of law.

At the same time, the above-mentioned internal regulation established the Centre for Cognitive Studies at the Department. The Department carries out its scientific, educational, and other selected activities in the field of cognitive sciences through this Centre. It is a research unit made up of a team of lecturers and doctoral students of the Department and their collaborators, dedicated to interdisciplinary research in the field of cognitive sciences and providing institutional support for research projects carried out by its members. The aim of the Centre is to create a platform for cognitive science research in the humanities and social sciences, interdisciplinary publications, teaching activities, scientific and popularization seminars and other related activities.

In 2017, there is also a change in the leadership of the Department. Branislav Fábry ended his position as the Head of the Department, and Tomáš Gábriš became the new Head of the Department. However, in 2019, there was another change in the leadership of the Department. After an unsuccessful candidacy for the position of Dean of the Faculty of Law in Bratislava in 2019, Professor Gábriš decided to terminate his employment at the Faculty of Law. His deputy, Associate Professor Rudolf Kasinec, was temporarily entrusted with the management of the Department, and in early 2020 he became the duly appointed Head of the Department. He is still at its head today. As Rudolf Kasinec was Deputy Head until 2020, changes had to take place in this position as well. In 2020-2023, Tomáš Mészáros served as Deputy Head. Since 2023, Olexij M. Metenkanyč has been acting as Deputy Head, a position he has held until now. 

The Department has undergone several personnel changes since 2015 and its composition has changed several times. In 2015, the Department had eleven members: one professor (František Gahér), three associate professors (Jarmila Chovancová, Ján Cuper and Tomáš Valent), six assistant professors (Branislav Fábry, Rudolf Kasinec, Michal Mrva, Martin Turčan, Nadežda Vaculíková and Eva Vranková) and one internal PhD student (Tomáš Mészáros). 

Tomáš Valent (2015), Nadežda Vaculíková (2017), Eva Vranková (2017) and Ján Cuper (2017) have left the Department. On the other hand, Tomáš Mészáros (2016) and Olexij M. Meteňkanyč (2020) became employees of the Department after successfully completing their doctoral studies at the Faculty of Law. At the same time, Professors Ľubomír Batka (2018) and Andrej Démuth (2018) became part of the Department. Subsequently, Martina Gajdošová (2020) and Renáta Kišoňová (2019) also became members. From 2017 to 2019, Professor Tomáš Gábriš was part of the Department and also its head; from 2016 to 2019, Andrea Kluknavská was also a member of the Department, and 2017 to 2018, Ján Šurkala was also a member.

After 2015, the Department participated in the formation of prominent experts in the field of theory and history of state and law. In terms of specific numbers, between 2015 and 2023, three successfully completed inauguration procedures and four successfully completed habilitation procedures. The title of professor in the field of "Theory and History of State and Law" was awarded to Tomáš Gábriš in 2017. A year later, Jarmila Chovancová was also appointed professor in "Philosophy". In 2023, Martina Gajdošová was appointed professor in "Theory and History of State and Law" with the topic of her inaugural lecture "Associations as Means of Political Participation in Governance". In 2015-2023, four members of the Department were awarded the title "Associate Professor": in 2017 Martin Turčan (habilitation thesis topic: "Methods of Argumentation in Law"), in 2017 Rudolf Kasinec (habilitation thesis topic: "Citizen versus State Power: "Miscarriage of Justice, Civil Disobedience, Right to Resistance"), in 2019 Branislav Fábry (habilitation thesis topic: "Bioethics and Law") and in 2020 Michal Mrva (habilitation thesis topic: "(In)validity and (in)effectiveness of a legal act").

Also in the period after 2015, the Department, in cooperation with the Department of Legal History and Legal Comparative Studies, co-provided higher education of the third degree, i.e. doctoral studies, both in full-time and external form. From 2015 to 2020, a total of 26 students successfully completed doctoral studies in the field of "Theory and History of State and Law" in full-time or part-time form. Both departments continue to strive to produce young scholars of high quality in the field.

In the pedagogical process after 2015, the Department continues to focus primarily on teaching subjects of a propedeutic nature, the mastery of which is of fundamental importance for further progress in legal studies. The primary goal is to provide students with detailed knowledge of legal theory in a comprehensive and effective manner, to introduce them to fundamental theoretical concepts and legal institutes, and to provide them with a basic "map" in legal thinking, which will later be followed by other branches of positive law. At the same time, the teaching also aims to introduce law students to different modes of legal and political thought that are closely related to legal scholarship. It is also necessary to introduce law students (at least to some extent) to the basic premises of the relationship between law, ethics, politics; liberty, equality, responsibility and justice; as well as to the diverse styles of thought and modes of argumentation that have occurred in the history of legal and political thought. Thus, the efforts of the members of the Department are also directed towards cultivating the thinking of the students of the Faculty of Law in Bratislava and deepening their understanding of the diversity of thought in the development of legal, political, and social philosophy.  

For this reason, the current composition of the Department is quite diverse in profile and is by no means "only" about the legal environment. The aim is to create a group of scholars and university lecturers who will collectively bridge many scholarly disciplines and form a truly interdisciplinary professional environment. Therefore, it is not surprising that, in addition to experts in the theory of law and the state, the Department also includes experts in the disciplines of philosophy, ethics, logic, psychology, history, political science, art, and even theology. It is also this diverse composition of the Department that reflects today's need for an interdisciplinary approach in the exploration of many new topics related to law. In today's modern and global world, legal dogmatics often does not "keep up" with societal developments, which is why it is appropriate to expand the boundaries of legal scholarship and to combine its knowledge with other disciplines. This is what the members of the Department are trying to do.

For a source of information on the history of the Department and for more see :

METEŇKANYČ, M. Olexij. Katedra teórie práva a filozofie práva. In: GREGOR, Martin – LYSÝ, Miroslav – MARTINCOVÁ, Lenka (eds.): Dejiny Právnickej fakulty Univerzity Komenského (2. zväzok): Katedry a ústavy. Rozhovory. Bratislava: Právnická fakulta UK, 2022, s. 10-32.