Print   

Rules of the Supreme Court

Unofficial translation, for information purposes only

Adopted by Supreme Courten bancon 16 June 1999

I. GENERAL PROVISIONS

Supreme Court is the highest court of the Republic of Estonia, which hears appeals filed against decisions of circuit courts in cassation proceedings and petitions for review submitted against court decisions which have entered into force, and corrects court errors. The Supreme Court is also the court of constitutional review.The Supreme Court is located in Tartu, 17 Lossi Street. Supreme Court has its representation in Tallinn, 7 Pärnu Road.The Supreme Court is comprised of structural units administrating justice and of structural units providing services thereto.The Supreme Court acts pursuant to Constitution and laws which are in conformity therewith.

II. STRUCTURE OF SUPREME COURT

Justice is administered in the Supreme Court by:Supreme Courten banc;Constitutional Review Chamber;Administrative, Civil and Criminal Chambers either in panels of three members or in the full composition of Chambers;Special Panel.Administration of justice in the Supreme Court is serviced by:the counsellors, consultants and secretaries of Administrative, Civil and Criminal Chambers, whose work is arranged by the Chairmen of respective Chambers;other structural units and employees, whose work as a whole is arranged by the director of the Supreme Court.The structural units to service the administration of justice and their staff are determined by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in accordance with the budget approved by theRiigikogu.

III. CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall direct the activities of the Supreme Court, represent the Supreme Court in relations with other agencies and officials or authorises this representation, is anex officioChairman of the Constitutional Review Chamber and the Chairman of the Supreme Courten bancand of the Special Panel.The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall:present to theRiigikogucandidates for office of members of the Supreme Court for appointment and make proposals to theRiigikoguto release members of the Supreme Court from office;present to the Supreme Courten bancproposals to appoint the Chairmen of Administrative, Civil and Criminal Chambers, taking into consideration the opinion of justices and respective Chambers;make proposals to the Supreme Courten bancto elect the members of the Constitutional Review Chamber;convene and chair the sessions of the Supreme Court en banc;sign the rulings and decisions of the Supreme Courten banc;convene and chair the sessions of the Special Panel;if necessary, temporarily transfer a member of one Chamber to another Chamber for up to three months;appoint a supervisor for the applicant for the position of judge from among the justices, approve the professional training programme and check the implementation thereof;present to the President of the Republic candidates for the office of county, city and administrative court judges and circuit court judges for appointment and shall make a proposal to release a judge from the office;present to the Government of the Republic proposals concerning the yearly budget of the Supreme Court and amendments thereto;appoint to and release from office the director of the Supreme Court, the assistants to the Chief Justice, the heads of the general office and departments, the senior security guard, counsellors and consultants to Chambers, impose disciplinary punishments, apply incentives and approve their job descriptions;secure the preparation of cases for hearing at sessions of the Supreme Courten bancand the Special Panel;approve the internal procedure rules, internal audit rules and instructions for the organisation of records management of the Supreme Court;initiate, pursuant to procedure provided by law, the disciplinary proceedings of judges and shall refer matters for hearing to the disciplinary commission;co-ordinate the activities of the Chambers and develop co-operation with the Association of Judges;appoint the head of the Appeals Selection Committee, if the latter has not done so, and, in the absence of the former, his or her deputy;fulfil other obligations imposed on him or her by law or by these Rules.The decisions of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be made by way of regulations or directives.The senior by office Chairman of a Chamber or, in case of equal seniority, the eldest Chairman of a Chamber shall substitute for of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in his or her absence.

IV. SUPREME COURTEN BANC

All members of the Supreme Court belong to the Supreme Courten banc.The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court convenes and chairs sessions of Supreme Courten banc, except in the case when his or her own disciplinary matter is being heard.The Minister of Justice may participate in a session of the Supreme Courten bancwhich does not review court decisions, with the right to speak. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has discretion to ask other persons to the sessions and give the floor to them.The Supreme Courten bancshall have a quorum if at least 11 justices of the Supreme Court participate in the session. Decisions and rulings shall be adopted by the majority vote of the members of the Supreme Courten bancpresent. Upon an equal division of votes, the vote of the chair, who shall vote last, decides the matter.The Supreme Courten bancshall:hear court decisions, in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law;appoint Chairmen and members of Administrative, Criminal and Civil Chambers on the proposal of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court;elect members of the Constitutional Review Chamber for the term of five years;determine the chambers of circuit courts, the number of members of the chambers, appoint judges to chambers, as well as chairmen of the chambers and shall approve the appointment of first instance court chairmen and territorial jurisdiction of courts;hear applications of the candidates for the position of judge and give recommendations for running as a candidate;decide on removal from office of a judge on the proposal of disciplinary commission;approve the procedure for the work and management of the judge's examination commission and the procedure of disciplinary proceedings, and shall elect three members of the Supreme Court to both commissions;approve, in concordance with the Association of Judges, the programme of judges' supplementary training;resolve disputes of jurisdiction, in the cases provided for by procedural laws and on the proposal by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court;hear complaints against decisions of the disciplinary commission;initiate and hear the disciplinary matter against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, if at least 11 justices of the Supreme Court so demand;examine the draft budget of the Supreme Court for the following year, amend it if necessary, and shall hear information concerning the fulfilment of previous year's budget;approve the Rules of the Supreme Court;decide on granting of extraordinary holidays to justices of the Supreme Court;fulfil other functions proceeding from laws and these Rules.The justices of the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice shall be informed of the convening of a session of the Supreme Courten bancwhich is not related to hearing court decisions not later than ten days before the session, and the project of agenda and other documents shall be forwarded to justices and the Minister of Justice in a timely manner before the session.Minutes shall be taken of the sessions of the Supreme Courten banc. A special opinion of a judge will, upon his or her request, be indicated in the minutes. The presiding justice of the session of the Supreme Courten bancand the court reporter shall sign the minutes.A resolution of the Supreme Courten bancshall be made by way of a decision or a ruling.The Chief Justice or his or her deputy shall nominate a reporting judge from the Chamber which referred the decision to the Supreme Courten bancto prepare the hearing of the decision by the Supreme courten banc.The reporting judge shall, in co-operation with counsellors and consultants, prepare an overview of the proceedings of the case, facts ascertained and arguments of the parties to the case. The overview is given to every justice of the Supreme Court for examination not later than ten days before the session of the Supreme Courten banc.The presiding justice shall, on the proposal by the reporting judge, determine the time and place of the session, of which the secretary to the supreme Courten bancshall inform the parties to the case not later than two weeks before the day of session. In case there is no open oral hearing, the presiding justice shall determine the time of hearingin camera.Public oral hearing of a matter is conducted pursuant to procedure provided by procedural law.After public oral hearing of a matter the judges will have deliberationsin camera, where they present their views and considerations concerning the decision to be made. Minutes may be taken of the course of deliberations. For writing the decision a committee will be set up, consisting of two more justices in addition to the reporting justice. The committee shall prepare a draft decision, which shall be given to justices for examination not later than five days before the next deliberations.Justices may make amendments to the draft decision, the inclusion of which shall be decided by vote. Decision shall be made at deliberations by roll-call vote, whereas the junior by office judge shall vote first and the senior by office judge shall vote last. Decisions shall be announced pursuant to procedure provided by procedural law.To hear a complaint against a decision of the disciplinary commission or to remove a judge from office the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall convene the Supreme Courten bancwithin one month since the receipt of the complaint or proposal from the disciplinary commission. The complaint shall be heard at the session of the Supreme Courten bancpursuant to procedure for formation and procedure of disciplinary commission.A disciplinary case against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be initiated on the basis of a petition from at least eleven justices of the Supreme Court, which shall be submitted to the senior by office Chairman of a Chamber and, in case of equal seniority, to the eldest Chairman of a Chamber, who shall convene the Supreme Courten bancsession and shall inform the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the petition. The Supreme Courten bancshall be convened within one month since the receipt of the petition.An applicant for the position of judge shall be summoned to the hearing of the application and he or she will be given the floor and justices may ask him or her questions.

V. PREPARATION OF CASES IN CHAMBERS

A. CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW CHAMBER

The Supreme Court adjudicates constitutional review cases collegially, in the sessions of either the Constitutional Review Chamber or sittingen banc.As a rule, a constitutional review case is adjudicated by the Constitutional Review Chamber. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall refer a submitted and duly registered petition to be heard by the Supreme Courten banc, if:a petition to hear the matter has come from another Chamber of the Supreme Court;the petition pertains to an essential issue of constitutionality.The Constitutional Review Chamber may decide to refer a case to the Supreme Courten banc, if:at least one justice on the panel has a dissenting opinion during the hearing of matter in Chamber;adjudication of the matter by the Supreme Courten bancis necessary for changing previous practice of interpretation or decision-making.A petition for constitutional review shall be prepared for examination at a preliminary session of the Chamber, presided by the Chairman of the Chamber, or in his or her absence by senior by office, or in case of equal seniority, by the eldest member of the Chamber.At the preliminary session the Chamber shall:check whether the petition was submitted by an entitled subject;check whether the petition meets the requirements for content and form, established by law;decide whether the petition falls within the competence of the Constitutional Review Chamber;take a stand as to the necessity of supplementary documents, explanations and opinions for the resolution of the petition;decide whether it is necessary, for substantive resolution of the matter, to involve specialists and experts or address international organisations or bodies for consultation;decide whether the matter will be heard orally in public or in writing. A matter may be heard by way of written procedure if the participants have in writing expressed their willingness to do so;determine the time of court session, within the limits for resolving cases provided by law. This term may be extended by the Supreme Courten bancbut not for more than two months;determine, pursuant to principle of rotation, the member of the Chamber who shall, in co-operation with the counsellors to the Chamber, prepare the hearing of the matter at the session of the Chamber and shall be responsible for drafting the decision. If the authority of the member of the Chamber who prepared the case expires before a decision is made in the prepared case, the member shall continue to fulfil his or her obligations in the hearing of the matter until the decision of the Chamber is announced;decide who is to be summoned to the session in addition to the parties to the case;set out a term for eliminating the errors of content and form of a petition, for submitting supplementary documents, giving explanations and opinions.The parties to the case, specialists, experts, the Legal Chancellor, the Minister of Justice and other invited persons shall be informed, in a timely manner, of the time and place of the court session. The court may fine a person for failure to appear before court without a good reason, if the court deemed his or her appearance obligatory. The court may examine a petition even if the party fails to appear.The court shall send the parties a copy of the petition and appended documents.The Constitutional Review Chamber and the Supreme Courten bancmay, in relation to constitutional review cases, give regulations:to organise the preparation for and conducting of the hearing of matter;to solve procedural issues which may rise in the course of the proceedings;to draw the attention of concerned agencies to procedural infringements which have become apparent, to drawbacks in legal circumstances, to possible consequences thereof and to the need to amend the legal circumstances;give an interpretation of a decision made by way of constitutional review;to assess legislation disputed by way of constitutional review, which has been amended or annulled by the issuer before the hearing of and deciding on the constitutional review matter;to join similar cases in one proceeding;to impose fines;concerning other issues essential to proceeding of matter, which have not been regulated by law.The Constitutional Review Chamber and the Supreme Courten bancmay, on proposal by a party or on its own initiative, address the body which adopted the legislation with the proposal, in the interest of constitutional rights and freedoms or constitutional order, to suspend the effect of the disputed part of the legislation until the decision of the constitutional review court becomes effective.The Supreme Court shall hear constitutional review cases to the extent requested in the petition.A court session shall begin with the report of the member of the court. After that the court hall hear the petitioner, the issuer of the legislation, the Legal Chancellor, the Minister of Justice and the opinion of the specialist. The parties have the right of rebuttal.

B. ADMINISTRATIVE, CRIMINAL AND CIVIL CHAMBERS

The Supreme Court has Administrative, Criminal and Civil Chambers for hearing of matters of cassation, review and correction of court errors. In the cases stipulated by law, the matters shall be heard by the Supreme Courten bancor by the Special Panel.The work of a Chamber is directed by the Chairman of the Chamber. The Chairman and the members of a Chamber shall be appointed by the Supreme Courten banc, on proposal by the Chief Justice, pursuant to the present Rules. In the absence of the Chairman of the Chamber he or she shall be substituted for by the senior by office, or in case of equal seniority, by the eldest member of the Chamber present.Leave to appeal is necessary for the acceptance of a matter for hearing in the Supreme Court. The general office of the Supreme Court shall refer the registered cassation complaints, protests, and petitions to the Appeals Selection Committee of the Supreme Court, who shall decide on the granting of such leave.The Appeals Selection Committee consists of three members, where the Administrative, Criminal and Civil Chambers are each represented by one member. The Appeals Selection Committee shall elect from among its members a chairman who shall organise the work of the Committee and preside its sessions. If the chairman is not elected or when he or she is temporarily absent, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall appoint the chairman.The one member of the Appeals Selection Committee shall change every three months on the principle of rotation in the following order: Administrative, Criminal and Civil Chamber. In the case of temporary absence of a member of the Appeals Selection Committee, he or she shall be substituted for by a member of the same Chamber.The Appeals Selection Committee shall examine the received applications for the leave to appeal in accordance with the procedural law. If necessary, the Appeals Selection Committee shall demand files from courts, that the inaccuracies of a cassation complaint be eliminated by a set term, that parties send written answers to the court's questions.The Appeals Selection Committee shall decide for the grant of leave to appeal without summoning the parties to the case. The Committee shall be assisted by the counsellors, consultants and secretaries to Chambers.The decision to grant or not to grant leave to appeal is made by the Appeals Selections Committee within the time-limit provided for by procedural laws by way of a resolution.Upon a motivated proposal by a member of the Appeals Selection Committee, the Committee has the right to review its decision for the grant of leave to appeal.If the leave to appeal is not granted, the court files shall be returned to respective courts and the complaint with the resolution shall remain in the files of the circuit court. A copy of the resolution shall be sent to all parties to the case for information.After the leave to appeal is granted the Chairman of the Chamber shall:on the principle of rotation or by other manner suitable for the Chamber, appoint the member of the Chamber who shall, in co-operation with the counsellors and consultants to the Chamber, prepare the matter for hearing at the session of the Chamber and who shall be responsible for the preparation of the decision. If the authority of the member of the Chamber who prepared the case expires before a decision is made in the prepared case, the member shall continue to fulfil his or her obligations in the hearing of the matter until the decision of the Chamber is announced;appoint the members of the panel who shall hear the matter;on the proposal by the reporting justice, determine the time and place of the session, which shall fit within the time-limits for resolving cases provided by law. The Supreme Court shall inform the parties of the time and place of the session, except in the case when the complaint is being heard in written proceedings.The panel of the court shall:decide whether to have a public oral hearing or written proceeding of the matter, pursuant to the procedural laws;take a stand whether it is necessary, for the substantive resolution of the matter, to involve specialists and experts or address international organisations or bodies for consultation.For each session of the Chamber a list of matters to be heard shall be drawn, indicating the justices who shall belong to panels. The list shall be posted at the notice board and at the Internet homepage of the Supreme Court.If the Chairman of the Chamber deems it necessary to join a member of some other Chamber in the hearing of the matter, he or she shall concord the joinder of the justice with the Chairman of the pertinent Chamber. In case of a dispute the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall resolve the issue of the joinder of the justice.The parties to a case or their representatives shall be informed of the court session and summoned to court pursuant to the procedure provided by procedural law.A panel shall hear matters within the time-limits provided by procedural law.Cases are prepared and heard at the sessions of the Chamber, Special Panel or the Supreme Courten banc, and decisions or rulings are made and announced pursuant to the procedure provided by procedural law. Persons so authorised may examine the files of the case in the office of the Chamber. The secretary to the Chamber shall arrange and maintain records of the examination of the documents.Upon making a decision the judges who are junior in office shall vote first. Upon an equal division of votes, the vote of the Chairman, who shall vote last, decides the matter.

VI. DIRECTOR OF THE SUPREME COURT

The director of the Supreme Court shall manage and co-ordinate the work of the structural units of the Supreme Court which provide services to the administration of justice.The director of the Supreme Court shall:make proposals to the Chief Justice of the Supreme court to appoint to and release from office the head of the general office, the heads of departments and the senior security guard of the Supreme Court.appoint and release officials (except the assistants to the Chief Justice, heads of the general office and departments, the senior security guard, as well as counsellors and consultants to Chambers), and shall enter into employment contracts with support staff;approve the job descriptions of appointed officials and the work instructions of the support staff;organise the drafting and purposeful fulfilment of the Supreme Court budget;enter into contracts in the name of the Supreme Court, in concord with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and monitor the fulfilment thereof;arrange the use and disposal of state assets within the limits of authority given by the Chief Justice and pursuant to law;arrange for the supplementary training of the staff of the Supreme Court;perform other duties specified in laws, other legislation, job description, Supreme Court instructions and rules and imposed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.The director of the Supreme Court shall issue directives within the limits of his or her authority.In the absence of the director of the Supreme Court he or she shall be substituted for by a person appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

VII. GENERAL OFFICE AND DEPARTMENTS OF THE SUPREME COURT

The function of the general office of the Supreme Court is to ensure the purposeful records management procedure necessary for the court.The function of the legal information department is to manage the information necessary for the administration of justice (to order law literature, account legal acts, administer data basis, storage and systematisation of court decisions), public relations (media, citizens, etc.) and the development and administration of information technology and software.The function of the economic department is to manage the administration and security service of the movable and immovable property in the possession of the Supreme Court. The department shall draft economic contracts and check the fulfilment of contracts which have entered into force.The function of the accounting department is to manage the accounting and reporting in the Supreme Court as required. The department has the right to make proposals to the Chief Justice and the director of the Supreme Court to improve and manage more efficiently the financial-economic activities.

VIII. ORGANISATION OF RECORDS MANAGEMENT IN THE SUPREME COURT

Records management in the Supreme Court is an activity related to the preparing, receiving, transferring and sending out, systematising and storing of documents of the Supreme Court.The head of the general office of the Supreme Court is responsible for the records management, and he or she shall provide methodological guidance over the records management to all structural units of the Supreme Court and shall inform new staff of the instructions for the organisation of records management. To this end the head of the general office has the right to demand that all Supreme Court officials observe the instructions for the organisation of records management.The registration of in-coming and out-coming documents or documents to be transferred is centralised. Procedures for maintenance of the register must meet the requirements of data protection.Records in the Supreme Court are managed pursuant to the Principles of Records Management of State Agencies, established by the Government of the Republic, and the Supreme Court Instructions for the Organisation of Records Management, approved by the Chief Justice on the basis of the Principles. The Instructions shall specify, taking into account the needs of the Supreme Court:procedures for preparing, concordance and signing of documents;formal requirements set for documents;organisation of registration and circulation of documents;drawing of the list of files and preparation of documents for storage;storage, use and destruction of documents;organisation of the archival work of the Supreme Court;procedure for the transfer of records management.

Uno LÕHMUSChief Justice of the Supreme Court