National justice systems

The Member State judicial systems are very diverse, reflecting differences in national judicial traditions.

Courts

In most Member States, there are different branches of courts. Generally, three main types of courts can be identified:

The ordinary courts usually deal with disputes in civil matters (i.e. disputes between citizens and/or businesses) and/or criminal matters. In addition, many Member States have established courts for specific matters, such as disputes between public authorities and citizens or businesses (administrative matters, etc.).

Moreover, various Member States have an institution or court to ensure that their constitution is respected. Many of these courts or institutions can be asked to verify whether a certain law or legislation is in line with the constitutional requirements. Some of them can hear individual cases, but usually only as a last resort.

Beyond the information provided in the country-specific pages (see the list of flags on the right side), you can find valuable information on the following European websites (the following list may not be exhaustive):

Finding the right court

If you are involved in a judicial proceeding, or if you expect to be involved in one, you will need to identify the court that is competent to deal with your case or, in other words, which has jurisdiction. If you address the wrong court or if there is a dispute over the question of jurisdiction you run the risk of a considerable delay in the proceedings or even of a dismissal of your case because of a lack of jurisdiction.

If a court case has a cross-border dimension and involves, for example, parties living in different Member States, you will first have to identify in which Member State the proceedings should take place. The portal section "Going to Court " can guide you through this process.

Other judicial authorities and institutions

Beyond the courts, in most Member States, the judicial system comprises other judicial authorities and institutions that exercise public authority, such as public prosecutors or in certain cases state attorneys, public notaries or bailiffs. As for private lawyers, notaries and related professions with important functions in the judicial system, please see the page on legal professions.

The public prosecutors' office or prosecution service, which is regarded as part of the judiciary in many Member States, plays an essential role in criminal proceedings. The responsibilities and status of public prosecutors vary considerably among Member States. Related information can be found by selecting a relevant Member State flag in the section on ordinary courts, and also at the following websites:

Last update: 18/01/2019

This page is maintained by the European Commission. The information on this page does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. The Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice with regard to copyright rules for European pages.

Judicial systems in Member States - Belgium

This section presents an overview of the organisation of the courts and tribunals.

The judicial system

The Belgian judicial system is a system in the civil law tradition, in which a set of codified rules is applied and interpreted by judges.

The organisation of the courts in Belgium is a solely federal responsibility.

Principles

Before setting out the court system in Belgium, it is useful to look at some constitutional and general principles relating to the organisation of the judiciary.

Alongside the legislative power and the executive power, the Constitution established the judicial power, exercised by the law courts. The courts thus constitute an independent power alongside the other constitutional powers.

The judicial power is exercised by the courts in accordance with the constitutional and legal provisions. The role of the judiciary is to judge cases. When it rules in disputes between citizens, it applies the civil law, and where a person has committed an offence it applies the criminal law. A distinction is made between the judges adjudicating cases in court (la magistrature assise/de zittende magistratuur, ‘sitting judges’) and the law officers who work in the State Counsel’s Office or Prosecutor’s Office (ministère public/openbaar ministerie), who essentially bring prosecutions (la magistrature debout/de staande magistratuur, ‘standing judges’, also known as the parquet/parket, ‘the well of the court’).

Under Articles 144 and 145 of the Constitution, disputes about civil rights belong exclusively to the competence of the courts, and disputes concerning political rights belong to the competence of the courts except where otherwise provided for by the law.

A court or other body capable of rendering judgment can be established only by statute. Under Article 146 of the Belgian Constitution, no extraordinary courts or commissions may be created, no matter what they may be called.

Court hearings are public, unless public access would endanger morals or the peace; if such is the case, the Court so declares in a judgment (Article 148(1) of the Constitution). The principle of public hearings ensures the transparency of justice.

A judgment must state the reasons on which it is based. It is delivered in public (Article 149 of the Constitution). The requirement to give reasons imposed by the Constitution and by Article 780 of the Judicial Code (Code Judiciaire/Gerechtelijk Wetboek) means that the court must respond to the factual and legal arguments put forward in the parties’ submission. The reasons must be given in full and must be clear, precise and sufficient. The requirement to give reasons, like the independence of the judiciary, protects the litigant against possible arbitrary action, and he or she can decide in the light of the reasons given whether to lodge an appeal before an appeal court or the Court of Cassation (Cour de cassation/Hof van Cassatie).

Article 151(1) of the Constitution provides for the independence of judges in the exercise of their office, and the independence of the State Counsel’s Office in the conduct of investigations and prosecutions in individual cases, subject only to the right of the responsible minister to order that a prosecution be brought and to issue binding criminal policy guidelines, including guidelines on investigation and prosecution policy.

Under Article 151(4), judges are appointed by the King under the conditions and in the manner specified by the law.

Judges are appointed for life. They retire at an age determined by law and receive a pension provided for by law. A judge can be deprived of his or her position or suspended only by a court judgment. A judge can be transferred only by appointing him or her to a new position and only with his or her consent (Article 152 of the Constitution). Officers of the State Counsel’s Office are likewise appointed and dismissed by the King (Article 153 of the Constitution).

Salaries of members of the judiciary are determined by the law (Article 154 of the Constitution).

Judges cannot accept a salaried position from a government, unless they act free of charge and the position does not entail an incompatibility as determined by the law (Article 155 of the Constitution).

Type of court

Belgium has five major judicial areas, each within the jurisdiction of a court of appeal (cour d’appel/hof van beroep), of which there are five: Brussels, Liege, Mons, Ghent and Antwerp.

These areas are divided into judicial districts (arrondissements judiciaires/gerechtelijke arrondissementen), each having a court of first instance (tribunal de première instance/rechtbank van eerste aanleg). There are 12 judicial districts in the country. The Brussels judicial district has two courts of first instance, one of which is Dutch-speaking and the other French-speaking.

In addition, the judicial districts have 9 labour tribunals (tribunaux du travail/arbeidsrechtbanken) and 9 commercial courts (tribunaux de commerce/rechtbanken van koophandel).

The districts are divided, in turn, into judicial cantons (canton judiciaire/gerechtelijk kanton), each with a civil magistrate’s court (justice de paix/vredegrerecht). There are 187 cantons in the country.

Each of the ten provinces, as well as the Brussels Capital administrative district, has an assize court (cour d’assises/hof van assisen). The assize court is not a permanent court. It is convened whenever an accused person is committed for trial before it.

The type of court that must hear the case is determined by the nature and severity of the offence, or the nature of the dispute, and also the size of the sums involved.

In some circumstances it is the nature of the dispute that determines the court with jurisdiction. Thus, a civil magistrate’s court has jurisdiction over neighbourhood disputes, and the court of first instance has jurisdiction over divorce. In other cases it is the capacity of the parties that determines the appropriate court. Generally, most disputes between traders go before the commercial court.

Once the type of court with jurisdiction has been determined, it is necessary to designate the place where the case will be considered.

In civil matters the proceedings may be heard before the court of the defendant’s place of residence or before the court of the place where the obligation was contracted or was to be performed.

In criminal matters jurisdiction lies with the court of the place where the offence was committed, the court of the place where the suspect resides, or the court of the place where the suspect may be found. In the case of legal persons, the court with jurisdiction is the court of the place where the legal person has its registered office or its principal place of business.

Courts and their hierarchy

The ordinary courts are organised in a hierarchy. The structure of courts is as follows:

4

COURT OF CASSATION

3

Appeal courts

Labour courts

Assize courts

2

First instance courts

Labour tribunals

Commercial courts

1

Civil magistrates

Police courts






The judgments of lower courts are called jugements/vonnissen. Judgments of the appeal courts, the employment courts, the assize courts and the Court of Cassation are called arrêts/arresten.

Civil courts mainly deal with private disputes between persons, both natural and legal.

The purpose of the criminal courts is to penalise the perpetrators of punishable acts by means of the sentences prescribed by law (imprisonment, community service, fine, etc.).

There are occasions when one of the parties does not agree with a judgment. Various forms of redress are open to the parties to the litigation or, in certain cases, to third parties to obtain a fresh judgment. Redress procedures fall into two categories: ordinary redress procedures and extraordinary redress procedures.

There are two types of ordinary redress procedure: objection (opposition/oppositie) and appeal on points of fact and law (appel/hoger beroep).
The objection procedure allows a defendant to object to a judgment. In this case, the case can be reconsidered by the court that ruled on it.
Apart from a limited number of instances when it is not possible, appeal on points of fact and law is a right that may be exercised by any of the parties concerned. A convicted person, a party claiming damages, an applicant, a defendant or the State Counsel’s Office have the opportunity to have the case heard a second time. The appeal is always considered by a court higher than the one delivering the initial judgment.

The following table gives an overview of the courts dealing with appeals, depending on which body issued the judgment being appealed:

Judgment

Appeal

Civil magistrate

civil cases

Court of first instance (civil section)


commercial cases

Commercial court

Police court

criminal cases

Court of first instance (Criminal court)


civil cases

Court of first instance (Civil court)

Labour tribunal

Labour court

Court of first instance

Court of appeal

Commercial court

Court of appeal

At the appeal stage the judges (of the court of first instance or the court of appeal) deliberate the merits of the case for a second and last time and give a final ruling. The parties, however, still have the opportunity to bring an appeal on points of law (pourvoi/cassatieberoep) before the Court of Cassation.

In addition to these ordinary redress procedures, therefore, there are ‘extraordinary’ procedures, the main one being the appeal on points of law to the court of Cassation. Appeal to the Court of Cassation does not constitute a third instance or a third level of court. The Court of Cassation does not examine the facts of the case referred to it, but rather whether the judgment complies with the law.

In addition to the courts mentioned above, two other types of court exist in Belgium. They have a monitoring role: the Council of State (Conseil d'Etat/Raad van State) and the Constitutional Court (Cour Constitutionnelle/Constitutionele Hof). The Council of State is a superior administrative court and monitors the administration. It considers applications from members of the public who believe that an administrative body has not observed the law. The role of the Constitutional Court is to ensure that acts, decrees and ordinances are in conformity with the Constitution and to oversee proper separation of powers between the public authorities.

Legal databases

Link opens in new windowThe portal of the judiciary of Belgium gives access, among other things, to judgments, legislation and the Official Gazette (Moniteur belge/Belgisch Staatsblad).

Is access to these databases free of charge?

Yes, access to the database is free of charge.

Related links

Federal Public Service for Justice

Last update: 03/08/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Uwaga: niedawno wprowadzono na tej stronie zmiany w oryginalnej wersji językowej bułgarski. Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.

Judicial systems in Member States - Bulgaria

This section provides information about the judiciary in Bulgaria.

Organisation of justice – judicial system

The administration of justice in Bulgaria is based on three instances. The courts are state bodies that administer justice in civil, criminal and administrative cases.

The following courts exist in Bulgaria:

  • district courts– 113
  • provincial courts– 28
  • administrative courts – 28
  • Specialised Criminal Court – 1
  • courts of appeal – 5
  • Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal – 1
  • military courts – 5
  • Military Court of Appeal – 1
  • Supreme Court of Cassation – 1
  • Supreme Administrative Court – 1

Administration of the courts

The organisation and activities of the Bulgarian courts are governed by the Judicial System Act, which lays down the structure and operating principles of the judicial bodies and governs their interaction with each other and with the legislative and executive bodies.

Under the Judicial System Act, published in State Gazette No 64/2007, the Supreme Judicial Council is the highest administrative authority and is responsible for managing the judiciary and ensuring its independence. It determines the composition and organisation of the judiciary and manages its affairs without interfering with the independence of the bodies concerned.

The Supreme Judicial Council determines the number of judicial districts and the seats of the district, provincial, administrative and appeal courts on the basis of a proposal by the Minister of Justice and – as regards military courts – in coordination with the Minister of Defence.

The territorial jurisdictions of the district, provincial, administrative, military and appeal courts do not necessarily coincide with the administrative division of the country.

Types of courts – brief description

District courts – The district courts are the main courts for examining cases in the first instance. Their decisions are subject to appeal before the relevant provincial court.

Provincial courts – The provincial courts act as courts of first and second instance. As courts of first instance, they examine a precisely defined category of cases involving significant sums or substantial societal interest. When acting as a second (appellate) instance, they re-examine decisions taken by the district courts.

Administrative courts - The administrative courts have jurisdiction over all actions seeking: the issue, amendment, repeal or annulment of administrative acts; a declaration that an agreement covered by the Administrative Procedure Code is null or void; redress against unwarranted actions and omissions by the administration; protection against unlawful coercive enforcement; compensation for injury resulting from unlawful acts, actions or omissions by administrative authorities and officials; compensation for injury resulting from coercive enforcement; the annulment, invalidation or setting-aside of judgments rendered by administrative courts; a finding that an administrative act covered by the Administrative Procedure Code is not authentic.

Anyone can bring a legal action for ascertainment of the existence or non-existence of an administrative right or legal relationship, provided he or she has an interest and no other remedy is available.

Cases are examined by the Administrative Court within whose geographical jurisdiction the seat of the authority which issued the contested administrative act is located. If that seat is located abroad, cases are referred to the Sofia City Administrative Court.

Administrative acts directly implementing Bulgaria's national foreign, defence or security policy are not subject to judicial appeal, unless otherwise provided for in law.

Other Specialised Courts

Military courts examine, as courts of first instance, criminal cases concerning offences allegedly committed in the performance of their duties, or in connection therewith, by generals, officers, non-commissioned officers and rank-and-file in the Bulgarian army, civilian staff at the Ministry of Defence and personnel at other ministries and agencies within the structures reporting to the Minister of Defence, at the National Security Agency and at the National Intelligence Service. For such cases, the court of second instance is the Military Court of Appeal. The Criminal Procedure Code sets out the jurisdiction of the military courts. These courts have the same status as a provincial court.

There is only one Military Court of Appeal, which examines appeals and objections lodged against decisions handed down by military courts nationwide.

The courts of appeal consider appeals and objections against first-instance rulings by provincial courts within their territorial jurisdictions.

The Specialised Criminal Court, which has its seat in Sofia, is equivalent to a provincial court. Its jurisdiction is laid down by law. The criminal offences coming under the jurisdiction of the Specialised Criminal Court – essentially those committed by or for organised criminal groups – are exhaustively listed in Article 411а of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal considers appeals and objections lodged against decisions handed down by the Specialised Criminal Court.

The Supreme Court of Cassation is the supreme judicial instance in criminal and civil cases. Its jurisdiction covers the entire territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. It exercises supreme judicial review over the proper and uniform application of laws by all courts. It has its seat in Sofia.

The Supreme Administrative Court exercises supreme judicial review over the proper and uniform application of laws by administrative courts.

The Supreme Administrative Court deals with complaints and objections against acts by the Council of Ministers, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, ministers, heads of other institutions directly subordinate to the Council of Ministers, acts of the Supreme Judicial Council, acts of the Bulgarian National Bank, acts of district governors and other acts established by statute; it adjudicates on challenges to the lawfulness of statutory instruments of secondary legislation; as a cassation instance, it examines judicial acts, adjudicates in administrative cases and examines applications for final judicial decisions in administrative cases to be set aside.

Arbitration Court at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Arbitration Court settles civil disputes and disputes over filling gaps in contracts or adapting contracts to new circumstances, regardless of whether one or both parties have their registered office or domicile in the Republic of Bulgaria.

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Link opens in new windowConstitutional Court acts as guarantor for the irreversibility of the democratic processes in Bulgaria, the realisation of which is the Constitution's main aim. This court is not part of the judicial system; it is an independent body which derives its powers directly from the Constitution and which operates under a special law. The Court's decisions on, inter alia, the protection of citizens' human rights and legal interests, the separation of powers, the inviolability of private property, free enterprise, the independence of the media, the prohibition of censorship and the constitutionality of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities have won considerable public and international acclaim.

Legal database

Every court in Bulgaria maintains a website, which provides information both on the court's structure and activities and on cases past and present.

The website of the Link opens in new windowSupreme Judicial Council provides a detailed list of the courts in Bulgaria, along with their addresses and websites (available in Bulgarian only).

The main court websites are:

Electronic legislation databases:

  1. Commercial
  1. Free of charge
  1. Other useful websites providing legal information:
Last update: 25/08/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Czech Republic

Organisation of justice/judicial systems

The judicial system in the Czech Republic consists of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic and the 'ordinary' court system.

The ordinary court system consists of the Supreme Court (nejvyšší soud), the Supreme Administrative Court (nejvyšší správní soud), high courts (vrchní soudy), regional courts (krajské soudy) and district courts (okresní soudy).

Court administration

The central state administrative body for the courts is the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic.

The Ministry of Justice administers the high courts, regional courts and district courts within the scope of Act No 6/2002 on law courts and judges, either directly or through the Presidents of the courts; the district courts may also administered by the Ministry of Justice through the Presidents of the regional courts.

Some central government tasks are carried out by the President of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic (or the Vice-President where appropriate) and the President of the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic (or the Vice-President where appropriate).

The state administration of the courts is carried out taking into account the observations of the relevant Councils for the Judiciary established within the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic, the high courts, regional courts and all district courts.

Certain administrative activities are carried out by the administrative director of the court, who reports to the President of the court.

Types of courts - short description

The ordinary court system consists of four organisational branches:

  • the district courts; the area courts (obvodní soudy) in the capital Prague and the Municipal Court in Brno have the same status as the district courts
  • the regional courts in Brno, České Budějovice, Hradec Králové, Ostrava, Plzeň, Prague, Ústí nad Labem and the Municipal Court in Prague
  • the high courts in Prague and Olomouc
  • the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court in Brno.

The special court system consists only of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic.

Court hierarchy

The Czech Republic has a two-instance system, which is a determining factor in the hierarchical organisation of the system of remedies. From this point of view, the hierarchical relationship between the courts, based on the level of that branch within the judicial system, has three tiers.

Further information is set out in the section on the ordinary court system in the Czech Republic.

Pursuant to Act No 6/2002 on law courts and judges:

District courts

(a) rule as courts of first instance except where otherwise laid down by acts concerning court proceedings

(b) rule on other cases laid down by the Act.

Regional courts

(a) rule on cases laid down by the Act concerning court proceedings as courts of second instance in cases decided at first instance by the district courts belonging to their areas;

(b) rule on cases laid down by the Act concerning court proceedings as courts of first instance;

(c) rule on matters of administrative justice in cases laid down by the Act;

(d) rule on other cases laid down by the Act.

High courts

(a) rule on cases laid down by the Act concerning court proceedings as courts of second instance in cases decided at first instance by the regional courts belonging to their areas;

(b) rule on other cases laid down by the Act.

Supreme Court of the Czech Republic

As the supreme judicial authority in matters relating to the jurisdiction of the courts in civil and criminal proceedings, the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic ensures the consistency and legality of decisions by

(a) ruling on extraordinary appeals in cases laid down by the Acts concerning court proceedings;

(b) ruling on other cases laid down by specific legislation or by an international treaty ratified by Parliament which is binding on the Czech Republic and has been promulgated.

The Supreme Court also rules on:

(a) the recognition and enforcement of judgments by foreign courts, where required by specific legislation or by an international treaty ratified by Parliament which is binding on the Czech Republic and has been promulgated;

(b) other cases laid down by specific legislation or by an international treaty ratified by Parliament which is binding on the Czech Republic and has been promulgated.

The Supreme Court monitors and assesses the final judgments by courts in civil and criminal proceedings, and on the basis thereof, in the interests of consistent decision-making by the courts, delivers opinions concerning decision-making by the courts in particular types of case.

Pursuant to Act No 150/2002, the Code of Administrative Procedure:

Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic

As the supreme judicial authority in matters relating to the jurisdiction of the courts in the administrative judiciary, the Supreme Administrative Court ensures the consistency and legality of decisions by ruling on applications for review in cases laid down by the Act and by ruling on other cases laid down by this or a specific Act.

The Supreme Administrative Court monitors and assesses the final decisions taken by courts in the administrative judiciary, and on the basis thereof, in the interests of consistent decision-making by the courts, delivers opinions concerning decision-making by the courts in particular types of case.

In the interests of legal and consistent decision-making by administrative authorities, the Supreme Administrative Court may, in cases laid down by this Act and using a procedure laid down therein, decide on a fundamental resolution as part of its decision-making activity.

Legal databases

Link opens in new windowJustice Portal

Link opens in new windowPortal of the Public Administration

Is access to the database free of charge?

Both internet portals may be accessed free of charge.

Brief description of content

The Link opens in new windowJustice Portal contains information on the Ministry of Justice, individual courts, the Public Prosecutor and their contact details.

The official government portal provides the legislation of the Czech Republic published in the Collection of Acts.

Last update: 13/05/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Denmark

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Denmark.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

The Danish courts system is composed of:

  • The Supreme Court
  • The two high courts
  • The Maritime and Commercial Court
  • The Land Registration Court
  • 24 district courts
  • The courts of the Faroe Islands and Greenland
  • The Appeals Permission Board
  • The Special Court of Indictment and Revision
  • The Danish Judicial Appointments Council and
  • The Danish Court Administration.

Administration of courts

The courts are administered by the Danish Court Administration, which was established as a new independent institution on 1st July 1999. This body ensures the proper and adequate administration of the funds, staff, buildings and IT of the courts and the Appeals Permission Board.

The Danish Court Administration is headed by a board of governors and a director. The Danish Court Administration falls under the Ministry of Justice, but the Minister has no powers of instruction and cannot change decisions made by the Danish Court Administration.

The board of governors is the chief executive and generally liable for the activities of the Danish Court Administration. The director – who is appointed and may be discharged by the board of governors – is responsible for day-to-day management. The director is not required to hold a law degree.

The Danish Court Administration Act determines the composition of the Danish Court Administration's board of governors. The board of governors has 11 members, eight of whom are court representatives, one a lawyer and two who have special management and social insights.

Legal databases

For more information, please consult the continuously updated overview and description of the Link opens in new windowDanish judicial system.

Related Links

Link opens in new windowCivil Affairs Agency

Last update: 03/06/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Uwaga: niedawno wprowadzono na tej stronie zmiany w oryginalnej wersji językowej niemiecki. Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.

Judicial systems in Member States - Germany

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Germany.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

Because of the federal order of the Federal Republic of Germany, the court system is also structured federally. Jurisdiction is exercised by federal courts and by the courts of the 16 federal states (Länder). The main workload of the administration of justice lies with the Länder.

The German court system is divided into five independent specialised branches or jurisdictions:

  • Ordinary jurisdiction
  • Labour jurisdiction
  • General administrative jurisdiction
  • Fiscal jurisdiction
  • Social jurisdiction.

In addition to these specialised jurisdictions, there is the constitutional jurisdiction, which consists of the Federal Constitutional Court and the constitutional courts of the Länder.

You can see an overview of the structure of the courts on website of the Link opens in new windowGerman Federal Ministry of Justice.

Administration of courts

The courts of the Länder are generally administered by the federal ministries of justice. At the federal level, the Federal Minister of Justice is responsible for the Link opens in new windowFederal Court of Justice, the Link opens in new windowFederal Administrative Court and the Link opens in new windowFederal Finance Court. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is responsible for the Link opens in new windowFederal Labour Court and the Link opens in new windowFederal Social Court.

The responsible ministries also administer the necessary budgetary resources. The only exception is the Link opens in new windowFederal Constitutional Court, which has been granted organisational autonomy as an independent constitutional organ. It presents its own court budget for approval.

Types of courts – short description

In Germany, the court structure is divided between ordinary jurisdiction and specialised courts. The ordinary jurisdiction consists of the civil and criminal jurisdiction. The specialised courts are the administrative courts, the finance courts, the labour courts and the social courts. In addition, there is the constitutional jurisdiction, which consists of the Federal Constitutional Court and the constitutional courts of the Länder.

Hierarchy of courts

See the Link opens in new windowhierarchy of courts (overview) provided by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Related Links

Link opens in new windowWebsite of the German Federal Ministry of Justice

Link opens in new windowFederal Court of Justice

Link opens in new windowFederal Administrative Court

Link opens in new windowFederal Finance Court

Link opens in new windowFederal Labour Court

Link opens in new windowFederal Social Court

Link opens in new windowFederal Constitutional Court

Link opens in new windowFederal Ministry of Justice

Last update: 20/02/2013

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Uwaga: niedawno wprowadzono na tej stronie zmiany w oryginalnej wersji językowej estoński. Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.

Judicial systems in Member States - Estonia

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Estonia.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

The Estonian Constitution requires that justice be administered solely by courts which are independent in their activities. Courts must administer justice in accordance with the Constitution and other laws. Pursuant to the Constitution, the Estonian court system has exclusive competence to administer justice. A court is separate from both the executive and legislative spheres in the performance of its duties.

Estonia’s court system consists of three levels: County and administrative courts are courts of first instance. There are four county courts in Estonia: Harju county court, Viru county court, Tartu county court and Pärnu county court. There are two administrative courts in Estonia: Tallinn administrative court and Tartu administrative court. County courts and administrative courts are divided into courthouses.

District courts are courts of second instance which hear appeals lodged against rulings given by the courts of first instance. There are two district courts: Tallinn district court and Tartu district court.

The Supreme Court is the highest court and hears appeals in cassation lodged against rulings from courts of second instance. There is no separate constitutional court in the Estonian court system. The duties of a court of constitutional review are performed by the Supreme Court.

Administration of courts

Courts of first and second instance are administered by the Ministry of Justice together with the Council for Administration of Courts. The Council for Administration of Courts is an advisory board set up to run the court system and its work is directed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The courts of first and second instance are financed from the State budget, through the budget of the Ministry of Justice. The Supreme Court is independently responsible for its own administration and has its own budget.

The Council for Administration of Courts is composed of:

  • the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (also the chair of the Council);
  • five judges appointed for three years by all judges sitting together (en banc);
  • two Members of the Estonian Parliament;
  • an attorney-at-law appointed by the board of the Bar Association;
  • the Chief Public Prosecutor or a public prosecutor appointed by him or her;
  • the Chancellor of Justice or a representative appointed by him or her;
  • the Minister of Justice, or a representative appointed by him or her, who participates in Council sessions and has the right to speak.

The Minister of Justice may convene sessions, but has no voting rights.

The Council grants approval for:

  • determining the territorial jurisdiction of courts, the structure of courts, the exact location of courts and courthouses, the number of judges permanently serving in courts and courthouses, and the number of lay judges;
  • the appointment to office and premature release of chairpersons of courts;
  • determining the internal rules of courts;
  • determining of the number of candidates for judicial office;
  • determining additional remuneration for courthouse managers;
  • laying down procedures for compiling and submitting register data from the court information system;
  • determining how and how much lay judges should be paid.

The Council must:

  • provide a preliminary opinion on the principles applied in the drawing up and amendment of courts’ annual budgets;
  • provide an opinion on candidates for a vacant position of a justice of the Supreme Court;
  • provide an opinion on the release of a judge;
  • deliberate, in advance, the review to be presented to Parliament by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court concerning court administration, administration of justice and the uniform application of law;
  • discuss other issues at the initiative of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or the Minister of Justice.

Hierarchy of courts

Estonia’s court system consists of three levels:

  • County courts and administrative courts are courts of first instance.
  • District courts (courts of appeal) are courts of second instance.
  • The Supreme Court is the court of final appeal (cassation).

As general courts, county courts hear civil, criminal and misdemeanour cases. As courts of first instance, administrative courts hear those administrative cases which are placed under their jurisdiction by law. District courts are courts of second instance which scrutinise rulings given by the country and administrative courts in the event of an appeal. The Supreme Court is the highest court and hears appeals in cassation lodged against district court rulings. The Supreme Court is also the court of constitutional review.

Legal databases

General information on the Estonian legal system can be found on the website of the Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice.

An overview of the court system in Estonia can be found on the Link opens in new windowCourts website.

Is access to this database free of charge?

Access to information concerning the Estonian legal and court system is free of charge.

Last update: 03/08/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Ireland

This section gives you an overview of the court system in Ireland.

Organisation of Justice – Ireland

The Link opens in new windowCourts Service, which is an independent corporate body that came into existence in November 1999 and was established by the Government under the Courts Service Act, 1998,  has the following statutory responsibilities:

a. To manage the courts,

b. To provide support services for the judges,

c. To provide information on the courts system to the public,

d. To provide, manage and maintain court buildings, and

e. To provide facilities for users of the courts.

The Constitution of Ireland prescribes that justice shall be administered in courts established by law by judges appointed by the President on the advice of the Government; the judges of all courts are under the Constitution completely independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. A judge may not be removed from office except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity and then only on foot of resolutions passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament).

Hierarchy of courts

The Constitution outlines the structure of the court system as comprising a court of final appeal, the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal which has jurisdiction in both criminal and civil matters, and courts of first instance which include a High Court with full jurisdiction in all criminal and civil matters and courts of limited jurisdiction, the Circuit Court and the District Court organised on a regional basis.

In relation to criminal trials, Article 38 states that "No person shall be tried on any criminal charge save in the due course of law". Minor offences are tried in courts of summary jurisdiction while a person accused of a more serious offence cannot be tried without a jury. The Constitution also makes provision for the establishment of Special Courts to secure the effective administration of justice where the ordinary courts would be unable to do so.

The public are welcome to enter all courts except those displaying the 'in camera' sign which means that the case is not open to the general public.

The courts which try civil matters are organised in the following structures:

Supreme Court

Court of Appeal

(Based in Dublin)
Appellate Jurisdiction
(Based in Dublin)
Appellate Jurisdiction

High Court

Circuit Court

(Based in Dublin)
Full original Jurisdiction and appellate Jurisdiction from the Circuit Court and certain other tribunals

(Based in each of the 26 county towns)
Original Jurisdiction up to €75,000. (€60,000 in personal injuries actions) and appellate Jurisdiction from the
District Court and certain other tribunals

District Court

(Based in 24 districts)
Original jurisdiction up to €15,000 (Includes Small Claims procedure for certain consumer claims up to €2,000)

Last update: 28/05/2015

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Greece

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Greece.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

Justice in Greece is one of the three functions of the state. In line with the principle of the separation of powers, justice is independent of the legislative and executive powers.

Types of courts – short description

Courts in Greece are divided into the following main categories:

  • Administrative courts (Διοικητικά δικαστήρια)
  • Civil courts (Πολιτικά δικαστήρια)
  • Criminal courts (Ποινικά δικαστήρια)
  • Court martial (στρατοδικείο), naval court (ναυτοδικείο) and air force court (αεροδικείο)
  • Supreme Special Court (Ανώτατο Ειδικό Δικαστήριο)
  • Special court for corruption lawsuits
  • Special court for liability of Ministers
  • Special court for disputes on remuneration of judicial officials

Court administration

Each court is administered by judicial officials: a president or a three-member council.

Court hierarchy

Civil courts:

  • District civil courts (ειρηνοδικεία), courts of first instance (πρωτοδικεία), courts of appeal (εφετεία), Supreme Court (Άρειος Πάγος)

Criminal courts:

  • District criminal courts (πταισματοδικεία), magistrates' courts (πλημμελειοδικεία), courts of appeal, Supreme Court

Administrative courts:

  • Administrative courts of first instance, administrative courts of appeal, Council of State (Συμβούλιο της Επικρατείας)

Related links

Link opens in new windowCouncil of State

Link opens in new windowAdministrative Court of Athens

Link opens in new windowPublic Prosecutor's Office of District Court Judges

Link opens in new windowGreek Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights

Link opens in new windowSupreme Court

Last update: 03/07/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Uwaga: niedawno wprowadzono na tej stronie zmiany w oryginalnej wersji językowej hiszpański. Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.

Judicial systems in Member States - Spain

This section provides a general overview of the court system in Spain.

Organisation of justice. System of courts.

Administration of justice

In terms of contemporary legal systems, the Spanish system follows what is known as the continental model.

The basic features of this model are:

  • a separation between the public and private sectors of the legal system, which is divided into sections covering constitutional, criminal, administrative, tax, civil, commercial, labour and procedural matters;
  • primacy of statute law and written law, within the system of sources as defined in the Civil Code, namely statute, custom and the general principles of law;
  • hierarchical organisation of the judiciary with a system of judicial appeals.

Types of courts – brief description

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 states that Spain is a social and democratic state subject to the rule of law, which advocates liberty, justice, equality and political pluralism as the overriding values of its legal system.

The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards, and it recognises and guarantees the right to self‑government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed, and solidarity among them all.

Title VI of the Constitution is given over to the judiciary, with Article 117 stating that the principle of the unity of the judicial power is the basis for the organisation and operation of the courts.

All these principles inform the organisation of the courts in Spain, resulting in the existence of a single judiciary making up the ordinary courts.

Numerous courts exist, among which the work is distributed according to criteria for determining jurisdiction – subject matter, amount, person, function or region – since the unity of the judicial power does not preclude the existence of different courts with different areas of jurisdiction.

The ordinary courts are those regulated by the Organic Law on the Judiciary provided for in Article 122 of the 1978 Constitution.

A distinction must be made between three fundamental aspects:

  1. the territorial aspect;
  2. whether it is a single judge or a bench of judges who sit in the court;
  3. jurisdiction.

The territorial aspect

In accordance with the explanatory memorandum to Organic Law 6/1985 of 1 July 1985 on the Judiciary, the State is divided territorially, for judicial purposes, into municipalities, districts (partidos), provinces and autonomous communities, with jurisdiction over them being exercised by justice of the peace courts (Juzgados de Paz), courts of first instance and preliminary investigations (Juzgados de Primera Instancia e Instrucción), administrative courts (Juzgados de lo Contencioso-Administrativo), labour tribunals (Juzgado de lo Social), courts responsible for the welfare and supervision of prisoners (Juzgados de Vigilancia Penitenciaria) and juvenile courts (Juzgados de Menores), provincial courts (Audiencias Provinciales) and the autonomous communities’ high courts (Tribunales Superiores de Justicia). The National Criminal and Administrative Court (Audiencia Nacional), the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo), the central courts of preliminary investigations (Juzgados Centrales de Instrucción) and the central administrative courts (Juzgados Centrales de lo Contencioso-administrativo) have nation-wide jurisdiction.

Single judge or bench of judges

A single judge sits in all the courts with the exception of the Supreme Court, the National Criminal and Administrative Court, the autonomous communities’ high courts and the provincial courts.

The Supreme Court comprises its president, the divisional presidents (presidentes de sala) and the judges (magistrados) assigned by the law to each division. There are five divisions: civil, criminal, administrative, labour and military.

The National Criminal and Administrative Court (Audiencia Nacional) consists of a president, the divisional presidents and the judges assigned by the law to each division (appeals, criminal, administrative and labour).

The autonomous communities’ high courts (Tribunales Superiores de Justicia) comprise four divisions (civil, criminal, administrative and labour). They consist of a president, who is also the president of the civil and criminal divisions, the divisional presidents and the judges assigned by the law to each division.

The provincial courts (Audiencias Provinciales) comprise one president and two or more judges. They hear civil and criminal cases. There may be sections with the same composition.

The Courts Office

The Organic Law on the Judiciary defines the Courts Office (Oficina Judicial) as an administrative organisation which acts as a support for the judicial work of judges and courts.

It was designed to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of judicial proceedings, to streamline the resolution of cases, and to encourage cooperation and coordination between the various administrations. The launch of this Office is thus a response to the undertaking to ensure a quality public service that is close to the people, complies with constitutional values and is in keeping with the actual needs of citizens.

It is a new organisational model that introduces modern management techniques based on a combination of different administrative units: units providing direct support for judicial procedures equivalent to the old courthouses (juzgados), which support the judge in his judicial duties, and common procedural services headed by registrars (Secretarios Judiciales), which carry out and decide on all the tasks that are not strictly judicial such as receiving documents, handling summonses, enforcing decisions, non-judicial proceedings, admission of a petition for trial, notification of parties, remedying of procedural shortcomings, etc.

There are three types of common procedural services:

  • Common General Service
  • Common Case Management Service
  • Common Enforcement Service.

The new organisational model was launched in Burgos and Murcia in November 2010. In February 2011, the Courts Office was established in Cáceres and Ciudad Real, and in Leon, Cuenca and Mérida in June 2011. It will also be established in Ceuta and Melilla in 2013. This model coexists alongside the former model of courthouses (juzgados and tribunals) which is found elsewhere in Spain.

Jurisdiction

In addition to the territorial aspect, the matters or issues that can come before the courts are of different kinds, and are dealt with by four systems of courts:

Civil courts: deal with disputes not explicitly assigned to another class of court. They can therefore be described as ordinary courts.

Criminal courts: criminal cases and proceedings must be dealt with in the criminal system. In Spanish law, however, civil action arising out of a criminal offence can be brought at the same time as the criminal action. In such a case, the appropriate damages to be paid in order to make good the loss caused by the offence or misdemeanour will be determined by the criminal court.

Administrative courts: examine the legality of acts carried out by the authorities and financial claims made against them.

Labour tribunals: deal with claims made under labour law, both in individual disputes between workers and employers arising from the employment contract, and in relation to collective bargaining, as well as social security claims or claims against the state when it bears liability under employment legislation.

In addition to these four court systems, there are also military courts in Spain.

The military courts are an exception to the principle of the unity of the judicial power.

For further information please consult the factsheet on ordinary courts in Spain.

In Spain no system of extraordinary courts exists; however, in the context of the judicial systems mentioned, special courts have been created for specific matters, for example courts dealing with violence against women, courts responsible for the welfare and supervision of prisoners and juvenile courts. These are ordinary courts but are specialised in a particular area. For more information, see the factsheet on specialised courts in Spain.

Hierarchy of courts

The system of appeals gives rise to a hierarchical structure of courts within the appeal system.

You must find out what the Spanish legal system says as regards the jurisdiction of each court in order to see what possibilities of appeal exist and before which court an appeal must be lodged. For further information, see the factsheet on ordinary courts in Spain.

Data bases on law

Is access to the data bases free of charge?

Yes, access is free of charge.

Brief summary of contents

Related links

Link opens in new windowGENERAL COUNCIL OF THE JUDICIARY

Last update: 12/03/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - France

In this section you will find an overview of the hierarchy of courts in France.

Organisation of the courts - ordinary courts and administrative courts

The structure of the courts

Ordinary courts

1. First instance

Civil courts

  • Regional court (tribunal de grande instance)
  • District court (tribunal d’instance)
  • Specialised civil courts (employment tribunal (conseil de prud’hommes), commercial court (tribunal de commerce), etc.)

Criminal courts

  • Police court (tribunal de police), dealing with minor offences (contraventions)
  • Criminal court (tribunal correctionnel), dealing with intermediate offences (délits)
  • Assize court (cour d’assises), dealing with serious crimes (crimes)

2. Second instance: courts of appeal (cours d’appel)

3. Court of Cassation (Cour de cassation)

Administrative courts

1. First instance

  • Administrative court (tribunal administratif)
  • Specialised administrative courts: financial courts, such as the regional auditors’ office (chambre régionale des comptes); social welfare courts (juridictions d’aide sociale); professional disciplinary courts (juridictions disciplinaires)

2. Second instance

  • Administrative courts of appeal (cours administratives d’appel)
  • Specialised administrative courts of appeal (juridictions administratives d’appel spécialisées), such as the Court of Auditors (Cour des comptes) or the Central Commission for Social Welfare (Commission centrale d’aide sociale)

3. Council of State (Conseil d’État)

More information is available on the site of the Council of State.

Legal databases

Access to legal databases in France is provided via the Internet as a public service. The Link opens in new windowLégifrance site covers:

Is access to these databases free of charge?

Yes, access to these databases is free.

Related links

Finding the appropriate court

Link opens in new windowOrganisation of justice – France

Last update: 19/05/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.
Do tej pory przetłumaczono ją na następujące języki

Judicial systems in Member States - Croatia

Judicial system in the Republic of Croatia

The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia stipulates that authority in Croatia is organised according to the principle of separation of powers, so that legislative authority is exercised by the Croatian Parliament, executive authority by the Government of the Republic of Croatia and judicial authority by the courts of Croatia. As holders of judicial authority, the courts administer justice according to the Constitution, laws and regulations and international treaties which Croatia has signed and ratified. The judicial function is vested in judges appointed by the State Judicial Council. In exercising their judicial duties, judges must be independent and autonomous and enjoy immunity in accordance with the law. Judicial office is permanent and a judge may not perform any other duty.

Organisation of the judicial system in Croatia

The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Croatia carries out:

  • legal and other duties relating to:

civil, criminal and trade laws and the administration of administrative justice, the structure, functioning and professional training of judges, prosecutors and staff in the courts, public prosecution bodies in charge of misdemeanour proceedings and authorities in charge of the enforcement of criminal sanctions, administrative and other tasks relating to the work of notaries and prosecutors, court and notary fees, international legal assistance and other forms of legal assistance, enforcement of criminal sanctions, pardons and parole, computerisation, institutionalisation and coordination of the system of support for victims and witnesses within the judiciary, activities relating to the provision of information and support to victims and witnesses, matters relating to the payment of compensation to persons unjustifiably arrested and unjustly convicted and administrative tasks relating to financial compensation for the victims of crime,

  • supervision of the performance of the administration within the judicial system, the public prosecutor’s office and the bodies conducting misdemeanour proceedings,
  • administrative and other tasks related to:

right of ownership, property matters relating to expropriation and other restrictions on ownership, property matters concerning construction, agricultural and forest land, land consolidation, the sale and purchase of land and buildings and those agricultural operations that do not fall under the jurisdiction of other government bodies, the property of foreign nationals, compensation for property confiscated during the Yugoslav communist rule that do not fall under the jurisdiction of other government bodies and the succession of property, rights and liabilities of the former SFRY,

  • administrative and professional tasks related to the cooperation of the Government of the Republic of Croatia with international criminal courts, representation of the Republic of Croatia before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the International Court of Justice and other international courts, unless otherwise provided for by a specific decision of the Croatian Government, and tasks related to the protection of human rights and the rights of national minorities,
  • tasks related to the participation of Croatia in the work of the bodies of the European Union in the areas under the Ministry's jurisdiction,
  • other tasks within the Ministry's competence under a specific law.

Judicial Academy

The Judicial Academy is an independent public institution that provides quality initial professional training for trainees in the judicial bodies and for students at the State School for Judicial Officials, and organises and continuously improves the lifelong learning of judicial officials and advisors in the judicial bodies.

Structure

  1. State School for Judicial Officials
  2. Directorate for professional training of trainees, advisors in the judicial bodies and judicial officials
    • Regional centres in the county courts in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek and Varaždin
    • the Judicial Academy is governed by judges, prosecutors, university professors and other experts

The Judicial Academy is actively involved in international cooperation and participates in European Union projects as both a beneficiary and a participant. These projects are aimed at institutional strengthening of the Academy and the professional development of its target groups.

Link opens in new windowJudicial Academy Act

Courts in the Republic of Croatia

The Courts Act regulates the organisation, competence and jurisdiction of the courts.

In the Republic of Croatia, judicial authority is exercised by the courts as separate bodies of state authority. They exercise their authority autonomously and independently within the scope and competence prescribed by law.

The courts protect the legal order of Croatia as established by the Constitution, laws and international treaties and ensure the uniform application of the law and the equality of all before the law.

The courts decide on cases concerning fundamental human rights and obligations, the rights and duties of the Republic of Croatia and of local and regional self-government units and the rights and obligations of other legal persons, pronounce sanctions and other measures against the perpetrators of crimes, misdemeanours and offences specified by law and other regulations, review the legality of general and individual acts of the public administration authorities, decide on disputes concerning the personal relations of citizens, labour, commercial, property and other civil cases, and deliberate on other legal cases as provided for by law.

The courts administer justice in conformity with the Constitution, laws, international treaties, and other valid legal sources.

Judicial authority in the Republic of Croatia is exercised by ordinary and specialised courts and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia.

The ordinary courts are municipal courts and county courts.

The specialised courts are commercial courts, administrative courts, misdemeanour courts, the High Commercial Court of the Republic of Croatia, the High Administrative Court of the Republic of Croatia and the High Misdemeanour Court of the Republic of Croatia.
Municipal and misdemeanour courts are established for the territory of one or more municipalities, one or more towns or parts of an urban area, and the county, commercial and administrative courts are established for the territory of one or more counties.
The High Commercial Court of the Republic of Croatia, the High Administrative Court of the Republic of Croatia, the High Misdemeanour Court of the Republic of Croatia and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia are established for the territory of the Republic of Croatia.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia is the highest court in Croatia.

The law may establish other ordinary and specialised courts with jurisdiction in a particular technical or legal area.

Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia

County courts (15)

High Commercial Court (1)

High Administrative Court (1)

High Misdemeanour Court (1)

Municipal courts (67)

Commercial Courts (7)

Administrative courts (4)

Misdemeanour courts (61)

Please note that a new network of municipal and commercial courts, consisting of 24 municipal courts and eight commercial courts, will be put in place on 1 April 2015. On 1 July2015 a new network of 22 misdemeanour courts will be put in place. These are governed byLink opens in new window the Courts (Areas and Seats) Act (OG 128/14)
The information given here is currently up-to-date and accurate, but will be changed after 1 April 2015 and 1 July 2015.

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia has its seat in Zagreb.

  1. It ensures the uniform application of law and the equality of everyone in its application,
  2. It decides on ordinary legal remedies when prescribed by a specific law,
  3. It decides on extraordinary legal remedies against final decisions of the courts in Croatia,
  4. It decides on conflicts of jurisdiction when prescribed by a specific law,
  5. It discusses current legal issues concerning judicial practice, analyses the need for professional development of judges, advisers and court trainees and engages in other activities provided for by law.

Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia
Trg Nikole Šubića Zrinskog 3
10 000 Zagreb
tel: +385 1 486 22 22, +385 1 481 00 36
fax: +385 1 481 00 35
e-mail: Link opens in new windowvsrh@vsrh.hr
Link opens in new windowhttp://www.vsrh.hr/

Link opens in new windowCourts Act

Link opens in new windowCourts (Areas and Seats) Act

These acts are currently in force.
The new Courts (Areas and Seats) Act was adopted and published in the Official Gazette (NN) 128/14 and enters into force on 1 AprilLink opens in new windowhttps://narodne-novine.nn.hr/clanci/sluzbeni/2014_10_128_2430.html 2015 or 1 July 2015, thus replacing the existing acts.

Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime

The Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime is a special public prosecutor’s office established for the entire territory of the Republic of Croatia, which performs public prosecution tasks in cases involving corruption and criminal acts by organised crime.

Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime
Gajeva 30a
10 000 Zagreb
tel: +385 4591 874
fax: + 385 1 4591 878
e-mail: Link opens in new windowtajnistvo@uskok.dorh.hr

Link opens in new window
Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime Act

Last update: 20/07/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Italy

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Italy.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

The Italian judicial system is based on the civil law.

The function of a judge, as well as of that of a public prosecutor, is exercised by members of the judiciary. The administrative function is carried out by the Ministry of Justice.

The judicial function can be broken down into the following areas:

  • Ordinary civil and criminal
  • Administrative
  • Accounting
  • Military
  • Taxation

Jurisdiction over administrative matters is exercised by regional administrative courts (Tribunali Amministrativi Regionali or TAR) and by the Council of State (Consiglio di Stato).

Jurisdiction over accounting matters is exercised by the State Auditors’ court (Corte dei conti). The office of its general public prosecutor is based at the same court.

Jurisdiction over taxation matters is exercised by the Provincial Taxation Commissions and the District Taxation Commissions.

Jurisdiction in military affairs is exercised by the military courts, the military appeals court, the surveillance military court, military prosecutors based at the military courts, general military prosecutors based at the military appeals court, and the general military prosecutor based at the Court of Cassation.

Jurisdiction over ordinary civil and criminal matters is exercised by magistrates belonging to the judicial order, which is divided into judges on the one hand and magistrates of the public prosecutor's office on the other, fulfilling the roles of judges and investigators respectively.

Administration of courts

The Constitution, among the government structures, puts the Ministry of Justice in charge of court administration because of its special function, role and relationship with the judiciary.

After a very difficult public examination, magistrates are assigned to courts in a certain area of competence, according to their personal choice. They cannot be assigned, promoted, removed, transferred or punished without deliberation by the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura or CSM (the superior council of magistrates) and with special guarantees of protection.

All matters related to magistrates must be evaluated by the CSM, which protects the independence of the magistrates and their status.

The President of the Italian Republic is also president of the CSM.

The Ministry of Justice carries out its administrative and organisational functions at two levels:

  • Within the central structures (dipartimenti), mainly in Rome and, for special areas of competence, also in local sections
  • In judicial offices, tribunals, courts and so on

The administrative function is also responsible for the personnel assigned to judicial services.

At the top level of the courts (or public prosecution offices), there is:

  • A chief magistrate, who is in charge of the judiciary and has the last word on office decisions
  • A court manager (dirigente) dedicated to the organisation of judicial services for the public and internal assistance to judges and prosecutors. The dirigente is the highest position in the administrative personnel.

Types of courts – short description

Courts are set up as follows:

First instance

  • Justices of the peace (giudici di pace) – who are honorary (not professional) judges. They hear minor civil and criminal matters
  • Courts or tribunals (tribunali) – hear the more serious cases
  • The penal office (ufficio di sorveglianza) – hears cases in the first instance involving penal (criminal) justice (questions about prisoners, convictions, etc.)
  • Juvenile court (tribunale per i minorenni)

Second instance

To claim against the first decision on factual grounds and the interpretation of the law:

  • Courts of appeal (corte d’appello)
  • Penal tribunals (tribunale di sorveglianza) – second instance (and, in some special matters, first instance) courts in matters involving penal justice

Third instance

To obtain recourse for infringement of the law at the highest level:

  • Supreme court (corte di cassazione) – with overall competence and final instance

Inside the main tribunals, there are also special sections. Courts of assizes (corti d’assise) sit with two professional judges and six jurors. Jurors are chosen from the body of citizens to serve for short periods, to cooperate and represent the various sectors of society. These courts take decisions on serious crimes (murder, serious assault and similar).

Magistrates who play the role of the public prosecutors in the trials are:

  • Chief prosecutors of first instance (procuratore della Repubblica presso il Tribunale) and their deputies (sostituti procuratori)
  • Chief prosecutors of second instance (procuratore generale presso la Corte d’appello) and their deputies (sostituti procuratori generali)
  • Attorney general for the supreme court (procuratore generale presso la Corte di cassazione) and his or her deputies (sostituti procuratori generali)

In Italy, the role of public prosecutor is played by career magistrates, who exercise their functions under the supervision of the chief of their bureau. This operates as a kind of hierarchy that applies only to the public prosecutors’ offices.

Hierarchy of courts

Civil Jurisdiction

Criminal Jurisdiction

Juvenile Jurisdiction

Penal Jurisdiction

I Degree

Justice of the Peace

Justice of the Peace

Juvenile Court

Penal Office/Penal Tribunal

II Degree

Tribunal

Tribunal

Specialised Section of the Court of Appeal

Penal Tribunal

Court of Appeal

Court of Appeal

Infringement of law

Supreme Court (or Court of Cassation)

Supreme Court (or Court of Cassation)

Supreme Court (or Court of Cassation)

Supreme Court (or Court of Cassation)

Legal databases

The website of the Link opens in new windowItalian Ministry of Justice contains information about the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice, the respective competences of and contact details for various offices.

The website of the Link opens in new windowSuperior Council of Magistrates offers details about the Italian judicial system in Italian, English and French.

Both websites are accessible free of charge.

Last update: 18/06/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.
Do tej pory przetłumaczono ją na następujące języki

Judicial systems in Member States - Cyprus

Organisation of justice – Judicial systems

Administration of courts

Cyprus was a British colony until 1960 and the legal systems established are based almost entirely on the English legal system and legislation was passed on the basis of the principles of common law and equity.

The legal system which has been in force since the Republic of Cyprus was established retains the influence of the English legal system. The courts of the Republic of Cyprus apply the following laws:

  • The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus (Σύνταγμα της Κυπριακής Δημοκρατίας)
  • The laws retained by virtue of Article 188 of the Constitution
  • The principles of common law and the principles of equity
  • The laws passed by the House of Representatives (Βουλή των Αντιπροσώπων).

Following the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union in 2004, the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus was amended so that European law has supremacy.

Types of courts – a short description

There are courts of two instances in Cyprus: the Supreme Court (Ανώτατο Δικαστήριο) (second instance) and the various courts of first instance listed below:

  • SUPREME COURT (ΑΝΩΤΑΤΟ ΔΙΚΑΣΤΗΡΙΟ)
  • DISTRICT COURTS (ΕΠΑΡΧΙΑΚΑ ΔΙΚΑΣΤΗΡΙΑ)
  • ASSIZE COURTS (ΚΑΚΟΥΡΓΙΟΔΙΚΕΙΑ)
  • FAMILY COURTS (ΟΙΚΟΓΕΝΕΙΑΚΑ ΔΙΚΑΣΤΗΡΙΑ)
  • RENT CONTROL TRIBUNAL (ΔΙΚΑΣΤΗΡΙΑ ΕΛΕΓΧΟΥ ΕΝΟΙΚΙΑΣΕΩΝ)
  • INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES TRIBUNAL (ΔΙΚΑΣΤΗΡΙΑ ΕΡΓΑΤΙΚΩΝ ΔΙΑΦΟΡΩΝ)
  • MILITARY COURT (ΣΤΡΑΤΙΩΤΙΚΟ ΔΙΚΑΣΤΗΡΙΟ)

Legal databases

There is still no official legal database. There are a number of private legal databases, some of which provide subscriber services and some of which provide free access.

They contain information on court judgments and primary legislation.

Related Links

Supreme Court of Cyprus (Ανώτατο Δικαστήριο Κύπρου)

Last update: 29/08/2014

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.
Do tej pory przetłumaczono ją na następujące języki

Judicial systems in Member States - Latvia

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Latvia.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

Alongside the legislative and the executive branches of government, Latvia has an independent judiciary, with a three-tiered court system. The Constitution states that judicial power is vested in district and city courts, regional courts, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court and, in the event of war or a state of emergency, also in military courts.

Administration of courts

Pursuant to Link opens in new windowthe Law on Judicial Power, the main public authority for the administration of courts is the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice:

  1. may issue internal regulations on how the administrative work of district and city courts, regional courts and land registry offices is organised;
  2. may request district and city courts, regional courts and land registry offices to provide it with the information necessary for it to perform the functions assigned to it under laws and regulations;
  3. is responsible for the institutional governance of district and city courts, regional courts and land registry offices;
  4. carries out inspections in district and city courts, regional courts and land registry offices.

The Courts Office (Tiesu administrācija) arranges and ensures performance of the administrative work of district and city courts, regional courts and land registry offices. It is under the authority of the Minister for Justice, who acts via the Ministry of Justice.

The Supreme Court (Augstākā tiesa) has no administrative links to district or city courts or regional courts. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court organises the work of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has a separate department for performing administrative tasks, the Supreme Court Administration (Augstākās tiesas Administrācija).

The Judicial Council (Tieslietu padome) is a collegiate body involved in formulating court system policy and strategy and improving the way the work of the court system is organised.

Types of courts: brief description and hierarchy

Ordinary courts: courts of first instance and appellate courts

District and city courts (rajonu (pilsētu) tiesas) are the courts of first instance in civil, criminal and administrative cases. A district or city court may have structural units, i.e. courthouses located at various places within the territorial jurisdiction of the relevant district or city. District or city courts may have a land registry office. A land registry office manages land registers (where items of immovable property and associated rights are recorded) and considers claims for undisputed enforcement, debt recovery orders, and approval of statements of auction.

Regional courts (apgabaltiesas), as appellate courts, hear civil, criminal and administrative cases in a panel of three regional court judges. A regional court may have structural units, i.e. courthouses located at various places within the territorial jurisdiction of the relevant regional court.

According to the Link opens in new windowLaw on judicial power, military courts may operate in a state of war or emergency. Pursuant to the Link opens in new windowLaw on military courts, the order that military courts are to begin operating is given by the Minister for Justice. Should that occur, one or several military courts of first instance and a military court of appeal begin operations.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court (Augstākā tiesa) comprises a Senate, consisting of three divisions (departamenti) (Civil Cases, Criminal Cases and Administrative Cases) and two chambers (palātas) (Civil Cases and Criminal Cases). The Supreme Court is the court of appeal on points of law (kasācijas instance), unless the law provides otherwise. The Supreme Court had two chambers (Civil Cases and Criminal Cases) until 31 December 2014, but from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2016 it has only a chamber of civil cases.

The full bench (plēnums) is the general assembly of the judges of the Supreme Court. It deliberates on immediate questions of interpretation of legal provisions. The full bench also elects members of the Disciplinary Tribunal (Disciplinārtiesa). The Disciplinary Tribunal is made up of six judges from the divisions of the Supreme Court. The Disciplinary Tribunal is convened to review the legality of the decisions of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee (Tiesnešu disciplinārkolēģija). Immediate questions of interpretation of legal provisions may be considered, in order to ensure the uniform application of the law, not only by the full bench of the Supreme Court but also by the full bench of the relevant chamber or division.

The Constitutional Court (Satversmes tiesa) is an independent judicial body that considers cases of the constitutionality of laws and other legal acts within the remit laid down for it in the Constitution and the Law on the Constitutional Court. It also considers other cases referred to it under the Law on the Constitutional Court.

Legal databases

Latvia has the following legal databases:

  1. The website of the Ministry of Justice, which contains information on the court system, persons operating within that system (certified notaries and certified bailiffs) and links to other court-system-related websites.
  2. Latvia’s National Portal Link opens in new windowLatvija.lv

The ‘Latvija.lv’ portal gives access to the internet resources of central and local government bodies. Information is classified by topic.

The section of the portal entitled ‘e-services’ (E-pakalpojumi) gives access to e-services generally provided using dedicated centralised infrastructure. This section contains a virtual working space where users can request and receive central and local government e-services, follow progress in the provision of those services, and receive information on the outcomes.

The section for finding services (‘Service catalogue’, Pakalpojumu katalogs) is a centralised point of access to central and local government services. The ‘Service catalogue’ can be used to obtain essential information on central and local government services, conditions for requesting and receiving those services, the cost of those services and a description thereof. The descriptions of online services contain a link to the relevant resource (information, website, direct link or e-service). Users can access the information either via the catalogue, which is divided into sections corresponding to various life situations, or by using the portal’s search functions. The content of the centralised catalogue is maintained by the government bodies providing the services.

Latvia’s national portal, Link opens in new windowLatvija.lv, has as its objective to enable Latvian and foreign residents to access the internet resources of Latvian government bodies and act as a centralised point of access for e-services provided by a range of institutions.

The portal can be accessed free of charge.

Links

Link opens in new windowNational Courts portal, Link opens in new windowSupreme Court, Link opens in new windowConstitutional Court, Link opens in new windowCourts Office, Ministry of Justice

Last update: 04/01/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Lithuania

This section provides you with an overview of the courts in Lithuania.

Organisation of justice. Judicial system

In Lithuania there are 56 ordinary courts and six specialised (administrative) courts.

Administration of the courts

The General Meeting of Judges (Visuotinis teisėjų susirinkimas) is the highest body of judicial autonomy, involving all judges in Lithuania.

The Lithuanian Council of Courts (Teisėjų taryba) is an executive body of judicial autonomy, composed of 23 members, which ensures the independence of the courts and judges.

The Judicial Court of Honour (Teisėjų garbės teismas) is an institution of judicial autonomy, which hears disciplinary cases against judges and judges’ petitions against defamation.

The National Courts Administration (Nacionalinės teismų administracija) seeks to ensure that the institutions of the judiciary operate effectively and helps to guarantee the independence of the courts and judges and the organisational autonomy of the courts.

Related links

Finding the competent court

Last update: 20/04/2015

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.
Do tej pory przetłumaczono ją na następujące języki

Judicial systems in Member States - Luxembourg

In this section, you will find an overview of the organisation of the courts of law of Luxembourg.

Organisation of justice - the judicial system

The judicial system of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is divided into a judicial branch and an administrative branch. In addition to these two branches, there is also the Constitutional Court.

Ordinary courts of law

The Constitution requires the courts and tribunals to exercise judicial power and to apply general and local orders and regulations only insofar as they comply with existing laws.

1. Ordinary courts of law

  • The Supreme Court of Justice

Positioned at the top of the hierarchy of courts in the judicial system is the Supreme Court of Justice which comprises a Court of Cassation and a Court of Appeal, plus a Supreme Prosecutor’s Office. It is in Luxembourg.

  • District courts

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is divided into two judicial districts, each with a District Court, one in Luxembourg and the other in Diekirch.

  • Justices of the Peace

There are three Justices of the Peace, one in Luxembourg, one in Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg judicial district) and one in Diekirch (Diekirch judicial district).

2. Specialised courts

  • Higher Social Security Board

The Higher Social Security Board (Conseil supérieur des assurances sociales) comprises a president, advisors appointed from the judges and two delegates from the National Health Fund (Caisse Nationale de Santé - CNS).

  • Arbitration Board

The Social Security Arbitration Board (Conseil arbitral de la sécurité sociale) comprises a president and two delegates from the National Health Fund (CNS).

Courts of law within the administrative branch

The Administrative Court

The Administrative Court comprises five judges and has a single division with a bench of three judges.

The Administrative Tribunal

The Administrative Tribunal comprises ten judges and has three divisions with benches of three judges.

Legal databases

Information on the Ministry of Justice, legal professions, legislation, the courts, the prisons, citizens’ services, forms and news are available on the website of the Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice.

Is access to the database free of charge?

Yes, access to the databases is free of charge.

Related links

Link opens in new windowLegilux

Link opens in new windowJustice Portal

Link opens in new windowCourts of law within the administrative branch

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice

Luxembourg Government

Last update: 04/02/2015

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Uwaga: niedawno wprowadzono na tej stronie zmiany w oryginalnej wersji językowej węgierski. Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.

Judicial systems in Member States - Hungary

This section provides an overview of the court system in Hungary.

Administration of the courts

The President of the National Judicial Office

The central administration of the courts is managed by the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO), supported by the General Vice-President and further Vice-Presidents, as well as by the NJO’s staff. The administrative work of the President of the NJO is supervised by the National Judicial Council (NJC). The President of the NJO is responsible for the conduct and efficiency of the central administration and for the performance of its duties in a manner compatible with the constitutional principle of judicial independence, insofar as this is provided for by law. In exercising his or her administrative powers, the President of the NJO hands down decisions, regulations and recommendations.

The President of the NJO is elected by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Hungarian Parliament, on the recommendation of the President of the Republic. Only a judge may be elected as President of the NJO.

The National Judicial Council

The National Judicial Council (NJC) is the body that supervises the central administration of the courts. The NJC has its seat in Budapest and consists of 15 members. The President of the Kúria (Supreme Court) is a member of the NJC, whereas its other 14 members are elected at a meeting of judge delegates from among the delegates by simple-majority, secret ballot voting. At the first meeting, the judge delegates elect one judge from a court of appeal, five from general courts, seven from local tribunals and one from a labour court. (District courts, administrative and labour courts will commence operations on 1 January 2013.)

Organisation of the courts

In Hungary, justice is exercised by the following types of courts:

  • The Kúria (The Supreme Court of Hungary);
  • regional courts of appeal (‘ítélőtáblák’ in Hungarian);
  • general courts (‘törvényszékek’ in Hungarian);
  • district courts (‘járásbíróságok’ in Hungarian) and
  • administrative and labour courts.

The courts’ area of jurisdiction generally corresponds to administrative boundaries, with the name of a court indicating the location of its seat.

Non-professional judges (nem hivatásos bíró) may participate in judicial proceedings as assessors in certain cases and under conditions prescribed by law, but only professional judges may act as single judges (egyesbíró) or presidents of council (tanácselnök).

Professional judges are appointed by the President of the Republic and may be removed from office only on the grounds, and in accordance with the procedures, specified by law. Judges are independent and subject only to the law, and they may not be members of political parties or involved in political activities.

Hierarchy of the courts

District courts, administrative and labour courts

District courts and administrative and labour courts hear cases in the first instance. (Until 31 December 2012, cases are heard in the first instance by local courts and labour courts.)

An administrative and labour court hears cases concerning the judicial review of administrative decisions or relating to employment and similar relations (and other cases referred to them by law).

Sections may be established within the district courts and administrative and labour courts for handling specific types of cases.

General courts

General courts hear cases in the first instance where the law so provides, and also hear appeals brought against decisions handed down by local courts and labour courts before 31 December 2012 or by district courts or administrative and labour courts after 1 January 2013.

General courts operate in the form of panels (tanács), sections and criminal, civil, economic, administrative and labour divisions (kollégium). Various divisions may also function collectively.

Specific cases are heard by military tribunals (katonai tanács) at designated general courts, with defined areas of jurisdiction.

Regional Courts of Appeal

Regional courts of appeal operate in Debrecen, Szeged, Budapest, Győr and Pécs. These courts hear appeals filed against decisions handed down by local and general courts before 31 December 2012 or by district and general courts after 1 January 2013 in cases specified by law, and hear other cases referred to their jurisdiction by law. Until 31 December 2012, appeals in administrative cases are heard by the Budapest Court of Appeal.

The regional courts of appeal contain panels and criminal and civil divisions. Until 31 December 2012, the Budapest Court of Appeal also has an administrative division.

Areas of jurisdiction

  • Szeged Regional Court of Appeal: Csongrád, Bács-Kiskun and Békés county;
  • Pécs Regional Court of Appeal: Baranya, Somogy, Tolna and Zala county;
  • Debrecen Regional Court of Appeal: Hajdú-Bihar, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county;
  • Győr Regional Court of Appeal: Győr-Moson-Sopron, Komárom-Esztergom, Vas and Zala county;
  • Budapest Regional Court of Appeal: Budapest, Fejér county, Heves county, Pest county and Nográd county.

The Kúria (Supreme Court)

The Kúria is the supreme judicial body of Hungary and has its seat in Budapest. The Kúria or Supreme Court ensures that courts apply the law uniformly and adopts law harmonising decisions to this end which are binding on all courts.

The President of the Supreme Court is elected by the Hungarian Parliament, with a two-thirds majority of its members, on the recommendation of the President of the Republic. Only a judge may be elected as President of the Supreme Court. The President of the Republic appoints the Vice-Presidents of the Supreme Court on the recommendation of the President of the Supreme Court.

The Kúria (Supreme Court)

  • hears appeals filed against decisions handed down by general courts and regional courts of appeal (in cases specified by law);
  • hears motions for review (felülvizsgálati kérelem);
  • adopts law harmonising decisions (jogegységi határozat) which are binding on all courts of justice;
  • analyses the case law established by final judgments, and audits and reviews the general adjudication practice of the courts;
  • adopts judicial decisions and judgments of legal principle;
  • adopts decisions on the incompatibility of local authority decrees with other laws and on the annulment of such decrees;
  • adopts decisions establishing that a local authority has failed to meet its obligation to enact legislation, as specified by law, and
  • hears other cases referred to its jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court consists of adjudication and harmonisation panels (ítélkező és jogegységi tanács), panels concerning municipal administration and decisions of legal principle, as well as criminal, civil and administrative and labour divisions (kollégium) and sections for case law analysis.

Last update: 17/11/2015

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Malta

This section provides an overview of the court system in Malta.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

Essentially, the judiciary system in Malta is a two-tier system comprising a court of first instance presided over by a judge or magistrate and a court of appeal. The Court of Appeal in its superior jurisdiction is composed of three judges and hears appeals from the court of first instance, which is presided over by a judge. The Court of Appeal in its inferior jurisdiction is presided over by one judge and hears appeals from the court of first instance presided over by a magistrate. There is also a range of tribunals that deal with specific areas of the law and have varying degrees of competence. Almost all appeals against decisions taken by any of these Tribunals are dealt with by the Court of Appeal in its inferior jurisdiction, while others are dealt with by the Court of Appeal in its superior jurisdiction.

The Director General (Courts), who is appointed by the Prime Minister, is responsible for the administration of the courts. He is assisted by the Registrar (Civil Courts and Tribunals), the Registrar (Criminal Courts and Tribunals), the Registrar (Gozo Courts and Tribunals) and by the Director (Support Services).

The Director General (Courts) is responsible for the management and administration of the Courts of Justice Department, including the registries, archives and other services, and also heads this Department. All court executive officers performing duties in the Courts of Justice Department take their instructions from, and are answerable to, the Director General (Courts).

Types of court - short description

You can find a short description of each court in the table below.

Hierarchy of courts

The Court of Appeal

Second instance

Appellate

The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the civil courts in both their superior and inferior jurisdiction.

(i) This court hears appeals from the First Hall of the Civil Court and the Civil Court (Family Section).

(ii) Appeals from the Court of Magistrates in its civil jurisdiction, the Small Claims Tribunal and the administrative tribunals are also heard by this court.

(i) Composed of three judges.

(ii) Composed of one judge.

The Court of Criminal Appeal

Second instance

Appellate

This court, with superior jurisdiction, hears appeals by persons convicted by the Criminal Court.

This court, with inferior jurisdiction, hears appeals in respect of cases decided by the Court of Magistrates sitting as a criminal court.

Composed of three judges

Composed of one judge

The Criminal Court

First instance

This court serves as a criminal court and hears criminal cases beyond the competence of the Court of Magistrates.

Presided over by a judge who may sit with a jury of nine persons.

The Civil Court:

The First Hall of the Civil Court

Civil Court (Voluntary Jurisdiction Section)

The Civil Court (Family Section)

First instance

The First Hall of the Civil Courts hears cases of a civil and/or a commercial nature exceeding the jurisdiction of the Court of Magistrates. Within its constitutional jurisdiction, it also hears cases relating to violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution and by the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The Civil Court (Voluntary Jurisdiction Section) is a voluntary jurisdiction court and is responsible for the interdiction or incapacitation of persons of unsound mind, the nomination of tutors for these persons, the opening of successions and the confirmation of testamentary executors. It is also a repository for secret wills.

This court hears all cases relating to family matters such as marriage annulment, personal separation, divorce, maintenance and custody of children.

Presided over by a judge

Presided over by a judge

Presided over by a judge

The Court of Magistrates

First instance

In the civil field the Courts of Magistrates only have inferior jurisdiction of first instance, in general limited to claims not exceeding €15 000.

In the criminal field, the Court has a twofold jurisdiction: as a court of criminal judicature for cases falling within its jurisdiction, and as a court of inquiry in respect of crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court.

(i) Court of Criminal Judicature – this Court is competent to hear all cases related to offences punishable by a sentence of up to six months' imprisonment.

(ii) Court of Inquiry – the Court conducts preliminary inquiries in respect of indictable offences and transmits the corresponding records to the Attorney General. If there is no objection from the accused, the Attorney General may refer cases punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment back to the Court of Magistrates to be heard and decided upon.

Presided over by a magistrate

The Court of Magistrates for Gozo

First instance

In the civil field, the Court of Magistrates for Gozo has two-fold jurisdiction:

an inferior jurisdiction comparable to that exercised by its counterpart court in Malta, and a superior jurisdiction, with the same competence as the First Hall of the Civil Court, apart from the constitutional jurisdiction, and as the Civil Court (Voluntary Jurisdiction Section).

In the criminal field, the Court of Magistrates for Gozo has the same competence as the Court of Magistrates when sitting as a criminal court and as a court of inquiry.

Presided over by a magistrate

The Juvenile Court

First instance

The Juvenile Court hears charges against, and holds other proceedings relating to, minors under the age of 16 years, and may also make care orders.

Presided over by a magistrate and two members

Small Claims Tribunal

First instance

This tribunal summarily decides, on principles of equity and law, claims of a value of less than €5 000.

Presided over by an adjudicator

Legal databases

The official Government website of the Link opens in new windowMinistry for Justice, Culture and Local Government provides a range of online services. The site, in Maltese and English, includes information on the Ministry for Justice and Home Affairs, as well as on the courts of justice, the judiciary system and the judicature, the Office of the Attorney General, court services and legal services.

The following are links to the various court services and legal services available:

Link opens in new windowMinistry for Justice, Culture and Local Government

Link opens in new windowCourt Services

Link opens in new windowCourt Services - Sentenzi Online

Link opens in new windowCourt Services - Court Proceedings

Link opens in new windowCourt Services - Hall Usage

Link opens in new windowCourt Services – Statistics

Link opens in new windowCourt Services - Judicial Sales by Auction

Link opens in new windowCourt Services - Civil Forms (in Maltese)

Link opens in new windowCourt Experts

Link opens in new windowLegal Services (Laws of Malta)

Last update: 22/12/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Netherlands

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in the Netherlands.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

Administration of courts

The Council for the Judiciary is part of the judicial system, but does not administer justice itself. It has taken over responsibility for a number of tasks from the Minister of Justice. These tasks are operational in nature and include the allocation of budgets, supervision of financial management, personnel policy, ICT and accommodation. The Council supports the courts in carrying out their tasks in these areas. It was also given the task of promoting the quality of the judicial system and advising on new legislation, which has implications for how justice is administered. The Council also acts as a spokesperson for the judiciary in public and political debate.

The Council’s tasks relate to operational matters (in the broadest sense of the term), budgetary matters and the qualitative aspects of the administration of justice.

The Council has a pivotal role in terms of preparing, implementing and accounting for the judicial system’s budget. The budget system is based on a workload-measurement system maintained by the Council. The Council encourages and supervises the development of operational procedures in the day-to-day running of the courts. The specific tasks in question are personnel policy, accommodation, ICT and external affairs. The Council has a range of formal statutory powers, which enable it to carry out these tasks. For instance, the Council is empowered to issue binding general instructions with regard to operational policy, although it prefers to exercise this power as little as possible.

The Council is responsible for the recruitment, selection and training of judicial and court officials. It carries out its tasks in these areas in close consultation with the court councils. The Council has a significant say in appointing members to the court council.

The Council’s task in respect of the quality of the judiciary system involves promoting the uniform application of the law and enhancing judicial quality. In view of the overlap in the content of judicial rulings, the Council has no mandatory powers in this area.

The Council also has a general advisory task. It advises the government about new laws that have implications for the judicial system. This process takes place in ongoing consultation with the members of the court councils.

Although the Council has formal powers at its disposal, the relationship between the Council and the courts should not be seen as hierarchical. The Council sets itself the primary goal of supporting the courts in respect of their tasks. In order to ensure that the various tasks are properly completed, the Council consults regularly with court presidents, directors of operations, sector heads and the Board of Representatives (an advisory body made up of representatives from the courts).

Types of courts – short description

District Courts

The Netherlands is divided into 11 districts, each with its own court. Each court has a number of sub-district venues. The district court is made up of a maximum of five sectors. These always include the administrative sector, civil sector, criminal sector and sub-district sector. Family and juvenile cases are often put into a separate sector, as is sometimes the case with the administration of the law concerning aliens. The court board is free to determine such matters.

Sectors

Sub-district

It is relatively simple for ordinary citizens to have their cases heard in the sub-district sector. This means that they have the right to argue their own cases and do not need a lawyer to represent them in court. In terms of civil law, the sub-district judge deals with all cases involving rent, hire purchase and employment, as well as all disputes involving amounts up to € 25 000.

In criminal law, the sub-district judge deals with minor offences only. Often these are cases in which the police or the public prosecutor has proposed a settlement. If the accused refuses to accept such a proposal, then the case comes before the sub-district judge. The sub-district judge usually delivers an oral judgement immediately after the session

Criminal law

Judges in the criminal sector deal with all criminal cases that do not come before a sub-district judge. These cases can be heard in single-judge divisions or in full-bench divisions with three judges. The full-bench division deals with more complex cases and all cases in which the prosecution demands a sentence of more than one year’s imprisonment.

Civil law / family law

The civil sector also handles cases not specifically allocated to the sub-district judge. Most of these are decided by a single judge, but here, too, there are full-bench divisions with three judges to deal with more complex cases. A number of district courts have a separate sector for family and juvenile cases, when the number of such cases is considerable.

Administrative law

With only a handful of exceptions, administrative disputes are heard by the district court; in many cases the hearing by the administrative law sector is preceded by an objection procedure under the auspices of the administrative authorities. It is usual for these cases to be heard by a single-judge division, but here, too, the district court can decide to appoint three judges to a case which is complex or which involves fundamental issues. If the district court in question has no separate sector to handle cases governed by the law concerning aliens, such cases are dealt with by the administrative law sector or a division thereof. In cases involving civil servants and social security issues, appeal is a matter for a special appeals tribunal – the Central Appeals Tribunal – and, in most other cases, for the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State.

Courts of Appeal

The 11 districts are divided into four areas of Court of Appeal jurisdiction: The Hague and Amsterdam, Arnhem-Leeuwarden and 's-Hertogenbosch. With regard to criminal and civil law, Court of Appeal judges deal only with cases where an appeal has been lodged against the judgement passed by the district court. The Court of Appeal re-examines the facts of the case and reaches its own conclusions. In most cases, it is possible to contest the Court of Appeal’s decision by appealing in cassation to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. In addition to criminal and civil cases, the Court of Appeal also deals with all appeals against tax assessments, in its capacity as administrative court.

Special Tribunals

The Central Appeals Tribunal is a board of appeal that is principally active in legal areas pertaining to the social security and the civil service. In these areas, it is the highest judicial authority. The Tribunal is based in Utrecht.

The Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal is a special administrative court, which rules on disputes in the area of social-economic administrative law. In addition, this appeals tribunal also rules on appeals for specific laws, such as the Competition Act and the Telecommunications Act. The Tribunal is based in The Hague.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands, located in The Hague, examines whether the lower court applied the law properly in reaching its decision. At this stage, the facts of the case as established by the lower court are no longer subject to discussion. The appeal in cassation therefore fulfils an important function in promoting unity of law.

Legal databases

Further information can be found on the website dedicated toLink opens in new windowthe judicial system in the Netherlands.

Case law can be found in aLink opens in new windowlegal database.

Is access to these databases free of charge?

Yes, access is free of charge.

Links

Link opens in new windowThe Dutch judiciary

Last update: 07/03/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Austria

This section of the Portal provides an overview of the courts in Austria.

Organisation of justice - judicial system

Alongside the legislative and executive branches, the judiciary is considered to be the third pillar of government in a country under the rule of law. Under the Austrian federal constitution the ordinary courts belong to the federal level. The judicial system is separate from the executive at all levels. There are also areas of justice administered by independent tribunals subject to special rules.

Austria’s judicial system comprises — in addition to the Ministry of Justice — the ordinary courts, the public prosecutor’s offices, the prisons (prisons holding prisoners for trial and prisons enforcing sentences), and the probation services, which for the most part are privately operated.

  1. The ordinary courts (ordentliche Gerichte) are state institutions that adjudicate on civil-law claims and on criminal charges in formal proceedings. They are established by law and are made up of independent and impartial judges who cannot be removed or transferred from office, and are bound only by the law.
  2. Public prosecutor’s offices (Staatsanwaltschaften) are special bodies that are separate from the courts. Their main task is to represent the public interest in the administration of criminal justice. They direct the preliminary investigation in criminal proceedings, bring charges, and conduct the prosecution. They are regarded as forming part of the ordinary court system.
  3. Prisons are responsible for the enforcement of sentences of imprisonment and other orders for detention.
  4. The probation services are also part of the judicial system. They take care of convicts with conditional sentences and prisoners released on probation. For the most part these tasks have been transferred to private associations, which, nevertheless, are under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

The Federal Minister for Justice heads the judicial administration; the Federal Ministry of Justice is one of the supreme administrative bodies of the federal state. The Minister is a member of the federal government, and is in charge of political management and coordination and overall supervision of all the associated bodies and departments.

As well as the ordinary courts there is also the Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof), the High Court of Administration (Verwaltungsgerichtshof), and since 1 January 2014 the administrative courts. At federal level there is a Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) and a Federal Revenue Court (Bundesfinanzgericht), both of which are based in Vienna, though they also sit in other towns. In every province there is a regional administrative court (Landesverwaltungsgericht). The administrative courts are outside the sphere of responsibility of the Ministry of Justice.

The ordinary courts can be divided into several levels

  • district courts (Bezirksgerichte),
  • regional courts (Landesgerichte), also known as ‘courts of first instance’ (Gerichtshöfe erster Instanz),
  • higher regional courts (Oberlandsgerichte), also known as ‘courts of second instance’ (Gerichtshöfe zweiter Instanz), and
  • the Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof).

Legal databases

The Link opens in new windowAustrian Justice portal provides general information on the Austrian judicial system.

Is access to the legal database free of charge?

Yes, access to the Link opens in new windowAustrian Justice portal is free.

Last update: 29/08/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Poland

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Poland.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

Chapter VIII of the Polish Constitution deals with courts and tribunals and lists the authorities vested in the administration of justice in Poland, namely:

  • Supreme Court (Sąd Najwyższy)
  • Common courts (sądy powszechne)
  • Administrative courts (sądy administracyjne)
  • Military courts (sądy wojskowe).

Administration of courts

Types of courts – short description

The system of common courts includes the appellate (sądy apelacyjne), provincial (sądy okręgowe) and district courts (sądy rejonowe). These courts decide, among other things, cases concerning criminal, civil, family and juvenile law, commercial law, labour and social security laws – except for cases vested in other special courts (e.g. military). Common courts also keep land and mortgage registers as well as the pledge register, National Court Register, and National Criminal Register.

The system of administrative courts includes the High Administrative Court (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny) and regional administrative courts – one per voivodeship or region (wojewódzkie sądy administracyjne).

The Supreme Court (Sąd Najwyższy) is the highest judicial authority in Poland. It exercises judicial supervision over the decisions of all other courts, ensuring consistency in the interpretation of laws and judicial practice. The Supreme Court is not a common court.

In the Polish law system, the Constitutional Tribunal (Trybunał Konstytucyjny) is not considered a common court. The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicates:

  • On the constitutionality of national legislation and international agreements
  • On the compliance of national legislation with international agreements, whose ratification is required prior to approval by Parliament
  • On compliance with the Constitution of legal regulations issued by central state authorities, ratified international agreements and legislative Acts
  • On the constitutionality of the objectives or activities of political parties
  • On constitutional complaints.

The Tribunal of State (Trybunał Stanu) adjudicates cases in which persons who occupy (or have occupied) the highest positions of state are charged with violation of the Constitution or other legislative Acts.

Hierarchy of courts

  • District courts (sądy rejonowe) – generally first instance
  • Provincial (sądy okręgowe) – appeal or first instance in certain cases
  • Appellate (sądy apelacyjne) – appeal
  • The Supreme Court – the highest judicial authority.

Legal databases

You can find links to information about all common courts, their websites and contact details (addresses, phone numbers, e-mails etc.) on the website of the Link opens in new windowPolish Ministry of Justice (information on courts).

Last update: 10/12/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Portugal

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Portugal.

Courts – General principles

Articles 202 et seq. of the Portuguese Constitution define the principles underlying the administration of justice and the workings of the courts in Portugal. The courts are sovereign bodies with competence to administer justice in the name of the people. They are responsible for safeguarding citizens’ legally-protected rights and interests, prohibiting breaches of the democratic rule of law and settling public or private disputes.

The courts are independent and subject only to the law. Their rulings are binding on all public and private entities and prevail over the decisions of all other authorities.

Court hearings are held in public, save when, in order to safeguard personal dignity or public morals, or to ensure its own proper operation, the court in question decides otherwise by way of a written order setting out the grounds for its decision.

Organisation of justice – the judicial system

Under Articles 209 et seq. of its Constitution, Portugal has two separate sets of courts – the civil courts and the administrative courts. Provision is also made for other courts – the Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional), the Court of Auditors (Tribunal de Contas), courts of arbitration (tribunais arbitrais) and justices of the peace (julgados de paz).

In the civil sphere, the ordinary courts with civil and criminal jurisdiction are the judicial courts, which are organised in three instances. In descending order of hierarchical rank and territorial scope, these are: the Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal de Justiça, with jurisdiction over the whole country), the courts of appeal (tribunais da relação, one per judicial district and two in the Porto judicial district) and the district courts (tribunais de comarca, at first instance).

The first instance judicial courts fall into three categories, depending on the subject-matter of the action and the amount at stake: courts with general jurisdiction, courts with specialised jurisdiction (criminal cases, family matters, minors, labour law, trade, maritime affairs and the enforcement of sentences) or specific jurisdiction (civil, criminal or mixed divisions; civil or criminal benches; civil or criminal benches dealing with minor matters).

The administrative courts include the first instance administrative and tax courts, the central administrative courts (North and South) and the Supreme Administrative Court (Supremo Tribunal Administrativo, covering the whole country).

Conflicts of jurisdiction between courts are resolved by a Tribunal de Conflitos, regulated by law.

Types of courts – short description

In the Portuguese judicial system, the following categories of courts exist:

  • The Constitutional Court, whose main task is to assess the constitutionality or legality of law and rules, as well as the constitutionality of a failure
    to legislate;
  • The Court of Auditors, which is the highest body with the authority to scrutinise the legality of public expenditure, and to review the accounts that the law stipulates must be submitted to it;
  • The judicial courts, which have general jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters and also exercise jurisdiction in all matters not assigned to other courts. They include the Supreme Court of Justice, the second instance judicial courts (as a rule, the courts of appeal) and the first instance judicial courts (as a rule, the district courts).
  • The administrative and tax courts, whose role is to settle disputes arising out of administrative and tax relations. They include the Supreme Administrative Court, the central administrative courts, the circuit administrative courts and the tax courts.
  • The justices of the peace, which are courts with special characteristics and with competence in civil proceedings where the value of the claim does not exceed €5 000.
  • During states of war, courts martial (tribunais militares) may also be created.

Useful links

Link opens in new windowConstitutional Court

Link opens in new windowCourt of Auditors

Link opens in new windowSupreme Court of Justice

Link opens in new windowLisbon Appeal Court

Link opens in new windowPorto Appeal Court

Link opens in new windowCoimbra Appeal Court

Link opens in new window Évora Appeal Court

Guimarães Appeal Court

Link opens in new windowSupreme Administrative Court

Link opens in new windowCentral Administrative Court, South

Last update: 29/12/2017

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Romania

This section of the Portal provides you with an overview of courts in Romania.

Organisation of justice - judicial system

The principles, structure and organisation of the Romanian judicial system are laid down in the Romanian Constitution and in Law No 304/2004 on judicial organisation.

The following courts make up the judicial system:

  • the High Court of Cassation and Justice;
  • the courts of appeal;
  • the tribunals;
  • the specialised tribunals;
  • the district courts and
  • the military courts.

Hierarchy of courts

The Link opens in new windowHigh Court of Cassation and Justice functions as the Supreme Court in Romania. It ensures that the law is interpreted and applied uniformly by the other courts of law.

  • The 15 courts of appeal have tribunals and specialised tribunals under their jurisdiction.
  • The 42 tribunals are organised at county level and in Bucharest, and are located as a rule in the principal town of each county.
  • The 4 specialised tribunals function as separate courts for cases involving minors and family law (1) and for commercial cases (3).
  • The tribunals have 176 district courts under their jurisdiction.

Types of courts – short description

Several courts carry on their judicial activity under the jurisdiction of each of the 42 tribunals.

All 176 functioning courts are organised at county level and in the districts of Bucharest.

Each court is headed by a president with managerial capacity. The court's specialised sections are led by a section president. In each court, a leading committee decides upon general, court-governance issues.

The military courts are organised in 4 military tribunals, the Territorial Military Tribunal in Bucharest and the Military Court of Appeal in Bucharest. Each of the military tribunals has the status of a military unit.

  • The Link opens in new windowSuperior Council of Magistracy is the body that, under the Constitution, ensures the independence of the judiciary. Furthermore, it ensures observance of the law and of the criteria of competence and professional ethics in the exercise of the professions of judges and prosecutors.
  • The Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice contributes to the proper functioning of the judicial system, ensures that justice takes its course under proper conditions as a public service and defends the legal order and citizens' rights and freedoms.

Legal databases

The following legal databases are available online:

Is access to the legal database free of charge?

Yes, access to the legal database is free of charge.

Relevant links

Link opens in new windowOrganisation of justice – Romania

Link opens in new windowFinding competent courts

Last update: 10/02/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.
Do tej pory przetłumaczono ją na następujące języki

Judicial systems in Member States - Slovenia

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Slovenia.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

All courts in the Republic of Slovenia are regular courts and act in accordance with the principles of constitutionality, independence and the rule of law.

Types of courts – short description

The unified system of courts consists of courts with general and specialised jurisdiction.

  • Courts with general jurisdiction include 44 local, 11 district, and 4 higher courts and the Supreme Court
  • Specialised courts include 3 labour courts, 1 labour and social court and a higher labour and social court (which rule on labour-related and social insurance disputes), and the administrative court, which provides legal protection in administrative affairs and has the status of a higher court.

The State Prosecutor’s Office occupies a special place in the justice system, as it is an independent state authority but also part of the executive branch of power. The State Prosecutor General is appointed by the National Assembly.

The Constitutional Court is the highest judicial authority for the protection of constitutionality, legality, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It has the power to negate the actions of the legislature, by abrogating (putting aside) an Act or part of an Act.

Constitutional judges are appointed by the National Assembly, following a proposal by the President of the Republic. Nine judges are elected for a period of nine years, with no possibility of re-election. No state body has the authority to interfere in the work or judgments of judges in the constitutional, specialised and general courts.

Legal databases

You can find more information about the courts in Slovenia on the Link opens in new windowofficial website of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia.

Related Links

Judicial bodies

Last update: 02/11/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Uwaga: niedawno wprowadzono na tej stronie zmiany w oryginalnej wersji językowej słowacki. Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.

Judicial systems in Member States - Slovakia

This section gives an overview of the judicial system in Slovakia.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

Administration of justice

Justice in Slovakia is administered by the ordinary law courts and the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic.

Judicial power is exercised by independent and impartial courts. At all levels, judicial matters are separated from those of other national authorities.

The President of the court is in charge of the administration of justice.

Administration of the courts

Law courts in Slovakia are administered, as laid down in law, by the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic and the President of the court, who is also a statutory body of the court. A court is also administered by the administrative director of the court within the scope of the law.

Types of courts – short description

The ordinary court system

  • District courts (54)
  • Regional courts (8)
  • Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic
  • Special Criminal Court

Hierarchy of courts

Pursuant to Act No 757/2004 on courts and amending certain other acts:

  1. District courts act as courts of first instance in civil and criminal cases, unless otherwise stipulated by rules governing court proceedings.
  2. District courts also hear electoral cases, where stipulated by specific legal provisions.
  3. Regional courts act as courts of second instance in civil and criminal cases heard in the first instance by district courts.
  4. 4. The rules governing court proceedings specify the civil and criminal cases in which regional courts act as courts of first instance.
  5. Regional courts act as courts of first instance in administrative cases, except where otherwise stipulated by law.
  6. Regional courts also hear other cases, unless otherwise stipulated by specific legal provisions (Act No 166/2003 on the protection of privacy against unauthorised use of information technology and amending certain other acts, and the Act on protection against the interception of communications).
  7. The Supreme Court acts and decides:
    • ordinary appeals against decisions by regional courts and the Special Criminal Court;
    • extraordinary appeals against decisions by district courts, regional courts, the Special Criminal Court and the Supreme Court;
    • Disputes on subject matter jurisdiction between courts and public authorities
    • On the withdrawal and ordering of a case to a court other than the competent court, if the regulation on legal proceedings so stipulates
    • In other cases where the Act or an international treaty so stipulates

The Supreme Court conducts a review of courts' decision-making in lawfully closed cases.

The Supreme Court also promotes the uniform interpretation and consistent application of laws and other general legally binding regulations:

  • Through its own decision-making
  • By adopting opinions aimed at unifying the interpretation of Acts and other general legally binding regulations
  • By publishing valid court decisions of primary importance in the ‘collection of opinions’ of the Supreme Court and decisions of the courts of the Slovak Republic.

Legal databases

You can find further information on the website of the Link opens in new windowSlovak Ministry of Justice.

Related Links

Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice

Last update: 18/03/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Finland

This section provides you with an overview of the judicial system in Finland.

The judiciary – the court system

Broadly speaking, the Finnish judicial system consists of:

  • independent courts of law; general courts, administrative courts and special courts
  • the prosecuting authorities
  • the enforcement authorities (which see to the enforcement of judgments)
  • the prison service (which implements custodial sentences)
  • public legal aid, lawyers and licensed legal counsels.

The judiciary may also refer solely to the courts.

Article 98 of the Finnish Constitution lists the various courts of law. General courts comprise the Supreme Court, the courts of appeal and the district courts. General administrative courts comprise the Supreme Administrative Court and the local administrative courts.

Supreme judicial authority in civil and criminal matters is exercised by the Supreme Court and, in administrative matters, by the Supreme Administrative Court. The two supreme courts also supervise the application of the law within their own purview.  In Finland there are also special courts, which are provided for in separate statutes.

The independent and autonomous position of judges is safeguarded by a provision of the Constitution stating that a judge may be removed from office only by a court decision. Judges cannot be transferred to another post without their consent, unless the transfer is part of a reorganisation of the court system.

Section 21 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to have his or her case dealt with appropriately and without undue delay by a legally competent court of law or other authority. According to Section 21(2) the public nature of proceedings and the right to be heard, to receive a reasoned decision and to appeal against a decision are safeguarded by law, as are other guarantees of fair judicial proceedings and sound governance. This Section also lays down requirements for the quality of judicial proceedings.

Judicial administration

Many of the duties and responsibilities related to the administration of justice and the development of court activities fall primarily within the competence of the Ministry of Justice.

Additional information

Link opens in new windowThe website of Finnish courts contains information on the judicial system of Finland. It is a one-stop portal providing information about courts, prosecutors, enforcement authorities and legal aid .

It includes, for example, the latest case law from the courts of appeal and the administrative courts.

The free Link opens in new windowFinlex database includes case law from the courts, the Electronic Statutes of Finland and translations of Finnish acts and decrees.

Last update: 08/02/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Uwaga: niedawno wprowadzono na tej stronie zmiany w oryginalnej wersji językowej szwedzki. Strona w wybranej przez Ciebie wersji językowej jest obecnie tłumaczona przez nasze służby tłumaczeniowe.

Judicial systems in Member States - Sweden

This section provides you with an overview of the court system in Sweden.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

Types of courts - short description

The judicial system usually refers to the authorities and agencies responsible for the rule of law and legal safety. The courts are the backbone of the judicial system, which also comprises authorities responsible for crime prevention and investigations, including:

Other authorities may have tasks connected with the judicial system, e.g. Link opens in new windowthe Enforcement Service.

Hierarchy of courts

Sweden has two parallel types of courts:

  • Ordinary courts, which deal with criminal and civil cases.
  • General administrative courts, which deal with cases relating to public administration.

The general courts are organised in a three-tier system: district courts, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court.

The administrative courts also have three tiers: administrative courts, administrative courts of appeal and the Supreme Administrative Court. In addition, a few special courts and tribunals have been established to hear specific kinds of cases and matters.

Administration of courts

Link opens in new windowThe Ministry of Justice is responsible for matters involving the courts, including the codes of procedure and organisation of the courts. However, neither the government nor any other agency has the authority to decide how a court rules in individual cases.

Link opens in new windowThe National Courts Administration is the central administrative agency for public courts, public administrative courts, regional tenancy tribunals, regional rent tribunals and the Link opens in new windowNational Legal Aid Authority.

Last update: 06/11/2012

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - England and Wales

This section provides you with a brief overview of the courts in England and Wales.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

The UK has three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. This page discusses the courts in the England and Wales jurisdiction.

Administration of the courts

Responsibility for the administration of many of the courts in England and Wales lies with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (Link opens in new windowHMCTS). HMCTS is an agency of the Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice, the government department with responsibility for the justice system in England and Wales.

Types and hierarchy of courts – short description

Criminal cases in England and Wales are heard in the magistrates' courts, the Crown Court, criminal division of the Court of Appeal.

Civil cases in England and Wales are mainly heard in the county courts, the High Court and the civil division of the Court of Appeal, with Magistrates’ courts having jurisdiction for a range of applications made under various pieces of legislation.

The Link opens in new windowSupreme Court of the United Kingdom is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for both criminal and civil cases, although Scottish criminal cases do not have the right of appeal to the Supreme Court.

Other courts with jurisdiction in England and Wales include the Link opens in new windowEuropean Court of Human Rights whose functions to uphold the European Convention of Human Rights as it relates to national law. In addition the Link opens in new windowCourt of Justice of the European Union can make rulings on the Application of European Union Law, which by virtue of the European Communities Act are binding on England and Wales.

More detailed information about courts in England and Wales can be found on the page describing ordinary courts in England and Wales and on the website of Link opens in new windowHer Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service. Information about some of the tribunals and specialised courts in England and Wales can be found on the page describing specialised courts in England and Wales.

Related Links

Link opens in new windowHMCTS, Link opens in new windowMinistry of Justice, Link opens in new windowHer Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, Link opens in new windowSupreme Court, Link opens in new windowEuropean Court of Human Rights, Link opens in new windowCourt of Justice of the European Union

Last update: 12/12/2016

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Northern Ireland

This section provides you with an overview of the courts in Northern Ireland.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

The UK has three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Types of courts - short description

The Supreme Court

In 2009, the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom took over the jurisdiction of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. It also took over the devolved functions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (the highest court of appeal in several independent Commonwealth countries, UK overseas territories and British crown dependencies).

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for both criminal and civil cases, although Scottish criminal cases do not have the right of appeal to The Supreme Court. Such cases will usually be granted permission to refer an appeal to the Supreme Court only if it involves points of law of public importance.

The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal hears criminal appeals from the Crown Court and civil appeals from the High Court

The High Court

The High Court deals with civil cases, hears appeals in criminal cases, and also has the power to review the actions of individuals or organisations to make sure they have acted legally and justly. The High Court usually deals with cases if the value of the claim is over £30.000. In some circumstances, a case over £30,000 can be sent from the High Court to the county court and, similarly, a case under the value of £30,000 may be transferred from the county court to the High Court.

The High Court has three divisions, as follows:

  • The Family Division -
    deals with complex defended divorce cases, wardship, adoption, domestic violence and so on. It also deals with appeals from magistrates' and county courts in matrimonial cases, with the affairs of people who are mentally ill and simple probate matters.
  • The Queens Bench Division -
    deals with large and/or complex claims for compensation. It also deals with a limited number of appeals from magistrates' courts or Crown courts, reviews the actions of organisations to see whether they have acted legally, and handles libel and slander actions.
  • The Chancery Division -
    deals with trusts, contested wills, winding up companies, bankruptcy, mortgages, charities, contested revenue (usually income tax) cases etc.

The Crown Court

The crown court deals with the following types of cases:

  • More serious criminal offences which will be tried by judge and in most cases a jury
  • Convictions in the magistrates' court that are referred to the crown court for sentencing.

Imprisonment and fines in the crown court are more severe than in the magistrates' court.

The County Court

The County Court deal with civil cases and are heard by a judge or district judge. The county court usually deals with cases that are under £30,000 in value (or £45,000 in equity matters). Cases with higher value are heard in the High Court – see above. All claims arising from regulated credit agreements must be started in the county court, whatever their value.

Examples of cases dealt with by the County Court:

  • Landlord and tenant disputes: for example, possession (eviction), rent arrears, repairs
  • Consumer disputes: for example, faulty goods or services
  • Personal injury claims (injuries caused by negligence): for example, traffic accidents, falling into holes in the pavement, accidents at work
  • Undefended divorce cases, but only in some county courts
  • Race and sex discrimination cases
  • Debt problems: for example, a creditor seeking payment
  • Employment problems: for example, wages or salary owing or pay in lieu of notice
  • Appeals from the magistrates' court that are dealt with by a judge (and at least two lay magistrates if the defendant is a young person)

Small Claims Cases

Small claims cases are also heard in the County Court. In general, a small claim involves a claim with a value of not more than £3,000.

The Magistrates’ Court

Magistrates’ courts deal with criminal and some civil cases. Cases are heard by a district judge (magistrates' court).

  • Criminal Cases in the Magistrates’ Court
    Magistrates’ courts deal with criminal offences where the defendant is not entitled to trial by jury. These are known as summary offences. Summary offences involve a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
    Magistrates' courts also deal with offences where the defendant can choose trial by jury but decides to have his or her case heard in the magistrates' court. If the defendant chooses trial by jury, the case will be passed on to the Crown court.
  • The Youth Court
    The youth court deals with young people who have committed criminal offences, and who are aged between 10 and 17. The youth court is part of the magistrates' court and cases will be heard before a district judge (magistrates' court) and two other specially-trained lay magistrates. If a young person is charged with a very serious offence, which in the case of an adult would be punishable with 14 years imprisonment or more, the youth court can commit them for trial at the crown court.
  • Civil cases in the Magistrates’ Court
    Magistrates' courts deal with a limited number of civil cases as follows:
    • Some civil debts: for example, arrears of income tax, national insurance contributions, VAT arrears, rates
    • Licenses: for example, granting, renewing or taking away licenses for pubs and clubs
    • Some matrimonial problems: for example, maintenance and removing a spouse from the matrimonial home
    • Welfare of children: for example, local authority care or supervision orders, adoption proceedings and residence orders.

Coroners’ Courts

Investigate the circumstances of sudden, violent or unnatural deaths.

Hierarchy of courts

Further details and a diagram of the court structure in Northern Ireland can be found on the website of the Link opens in new windowNorthern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

Administration of the Courts

Responsibility for administration of the courts in Northern Ireland jurisdiction lies with the    Link opens in new windowNorthern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

This includes:

  • Providing administrative support for the Northern Ireland courts and judiciary
  • Enforcing civil court judgments through a centralised enforcement service provided by the Enforcement of Judgments Office
  • Providing administrative support for various Tribunals.

Related Links

Link opens in new windowNorthern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service

Last update: 28/08/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Judicial systems in Member States - Scotland

This section provides you with an overview of the courts in Scotland.

Organisation of justice – judicial systems

The UK has three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Administration of the courts

In Scotland, the Link opens in new windowScottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) is responsible for the administration of the courts. SCTS is an independent body corporate, chaired by the Lord President, the most senior judge in Scotland.

Types and hierarchy of courts – short description of the main courts

The organisation of the various courts in Scotland is as follows:

Procedure in the criminal courts is divided into ‘solemn’ (the most serious cases involving trial by jury) and ‘summary’ (less serious cases heard by a single judge).

The High Court of Justiciary is headed by the Lord Justice General, who is also the Lord President. This is the country’s supreme criminal court, which handles the most serious cases, such as murder or rape. It also acts as the final criminal appeal court.

The criminal Sheriff Appeal Court hears appeals against summary criminal proceedings from both the Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts, and also hears appeals against all bail decisions made by a Sheriff or Justice of the Peace.

The majority of criminal cases, both solemn and summary, are handled by the Sheriff Court and less serious summary cases are handled by the Justice of the Peace Court. The latter is made up of justices of the peace (who are lay justices and sit with a legally qualified adviser).

The two main civil courts in Scotland are the Court of Session and the Sheriff Court (including the civil Sheriff Appeal Court and the all-Scotland Personal Injury Court). The civil courts hear cases on a range of matters resolving disputes, including the recovery of debts, family actions and commerce.

The Court of Session is the supreme civil court in Scotland. It has an outer house, which deals with cases initially before any appeal, and an inner house, which deals mainly with appeals. The principal judge is the Lord President.

Points of law can be appealed to the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, with leave of either the Court of Session or Supreme Court.

The Sheriff Courts can deal with cases similar to those raised in the Court of Session, but also provide simplified procedures for cases up to the value of £5000, where the assistance of legal representatives is not required.  Actions over £5000 and up to £100,000 must be raised in the Sheriff Courts.

The civil Sheriff Appeal Court has provision to have a single or triple appeal Sheriff bench presiding over civil appeals.

More detailed information about courts in Scotland can be found on the website of the Link opens in new windowScottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

Related Links

Link opens in new windowScottish Courts and Tribunals Service,

Last update: 30/04/2019

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.