Courts of first instance and courts of appeal

In the first instance of the judicial system, county courts and administrative courts administer justice. At the moment, there are four county courts in Estonia: the county courts of Harju, Viru, Tartu and Pärnu. Every court has one or many court houses. Combining the court houses that are located in different cities into a single court is necessary so that work can be distributed in a more sensible way.

County courts
County courts hear all civil and criminal matters. In addition to administering the law, many functions of executive state authorities have been assigned to county courts. Thus such courts have registries for real estate, businesses, non-profit establishments, foundations etc.

Administrative courts
There are two administrative courts in Estonia: the administrative courts of Tallinn and Tartu. This means that all administrative cases are handled by these two courts. Administrative courts deal with complaints about the activities or inactivity of officials of the Estonian government and local governments, as well as other public disputes. After the ownership reform has been completed, most of the more complicated disputes consist of tax cases, as well as cases related to planning, construction and environmental control.

Circuit courts
The courts of second jurisdiction are the district courts, which hear appeals and review the decisions of land and administrative courts. Today there are two district courts in Estonia: in Tallinn and in Tartu.

A district court is divided into committees, which are specialized for different cases. At a meeting of a committee, at least three judges must participate in discussing appealed cases.

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