Administration of courts

Administration of courts of first instance and courts of appeal falls within the competences of the Ministry of Justice. The Minister of Justice determines the territorial jurisdiction and location of courts of first instance and courts of appeal, as well as the number of judges to be appointed to office at each of the above-mentioned courts. The Minister of Justice also appoints the chairmen of courts of first instance, determines the number of assistant judges at county and city courts, and releases assistant judges from office. The Minister of Justice also approves the rules of courts of first instance and courts of appeal. The Minister of Justice determines the territorial jurisdiction and location of circuit courts and the number of judges to be appointed to office with the approval of the Supreme Court. The Ministry of Justice may audit the organisational and financial activities of courts of first instance and courts of appeal. Twice a year, all courts in Estonia submit reports to the Ministry of Justice concerning the progress of cases and convicted offenders during the reporting period.

Issues of court administration belong to the competence of the Riigikogu (parliament), the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice. The total number of judges (by instances of court) and the number of courts in each instance are determined by the Riigikogu, acting upon the proposals of the Minister of Justice with the approval of the Supreme Court. Chairmen of circuit courts are appointed pursuant to the same procedure. The Riigikogu also determines the total number of lay judges at county and city courts (at present, the number is 5485).

Besides organising of the activities of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court performs the following functions in the administration of courts of lower instances:

  • determines the Chambers of circuit courts, the number of members in Chambers and the judges who belong thereto, appoints the chairmen of Chambers, approves the appointment to office of chairmen and judges of courts of first instance and courts of appeal and the territorial jurisdiction of courts;
  • reviews the applications of candidates for judicial office and makes recommendations for running as a candidate for judge;
  • approves the procedures for work and management of the judges’ examination committee;
  • approves the procedure for disciplinary proceedings against judges. Issues concerning the administration of courts are decided by the Supreme Court en banc.

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