The Supreme Court

The following Chambers have been formed within the Supreme Court: 1) the Civil Chamber; 2) the Criminal Chamber; 3) the Administrative Law Chamber; 4) the Constitutional Review Chamber. There are 19 members of the Supreme Court, as specified by law.

The highest court of the Republic of Estonia is the Supreme Court, located in Tartu, which reviews court decisions by way of cassation proceedings. In addition to the latter function, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court also includes the review of court decisions which have entered into force (a new hearing of a court decision which has entered into force is conducted on the basis of a petition by a participant in the proceedings after new facts relevant to the adjudication of the case become evident) and the correction of court errors in court decisions which have entered into force.

At least three justices participate in the hearing of cases by way of cassation proceedings in the sessions of Chambers of the Supreme Court. Given the importance of the Supreme Court as the authority overseeing judicial practice in Estonia and ensuring the uniform application of law, the review of a case by the Supreme Court may require the participation of a greater number of justices to ensure harmony in the interpretation of Acts by the Supreme Court. If fundamental differences of opinion arise in the Civil, Criminal or Administrative Law Chamber concerning the application of law, the matter shall be referred to the full panel of the respective Chamber for adjudication. If the full panel of the Civil, Criminal or Administrative Law Chamber offers an opinion different to the one expressed by another Chamber of the Supreme Court or Special Panel in its most recent judgement concerning the application of law, the panel shall refer the matter for hearing to a Special Panel consisting of members elected from two or three Chambers. The Special Panel shall contain two members from each Chamber which has a difference of opinion to be resolved by the Panel. Its sessions are chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

As the Supreme Court is a court of cassation, its function is to monitor the correctness of the application of law by courts of lower instance rather than to ascertain facts relevant to the adjudication of the case. Therefore, besides Chambers, Special Panels and the Supreme Court en banc, an Appeals Selection Committee also operates at the Supreme Court, its function being to decide the grant of leave to appeal on the basis of conditions provided by law upon recourse to the Supreme Court. If the Appeals Selection Committee adopts a common position that the action, protest or petition contains no grounds for the grant of leave to appeal prescribed in Acts concerning court procedure (incorrect application of a provision of substantive law or a material violation of a provision of court procedure by the circuit court), leave to appeal is not granted. The decision is prepared in writing as an unreasoned resolution, which is signed by all members of the Appeals Selection Committee. If at least one member of the Appeals Selection Committee finds that the petition materials contain grounds for the grant of leave to appeal prescribed in Acts concerning court procedure, leave to appeal is granted. The jurisdiction of the Appeals Selection Committee does not include the review of petitions submitted to the Constitutional Review Chamber. The Appeals Selection Committee has three members and consists of the justices of Civil, Criminal and Administrative Chambers. The composition of the Appeals Selection Committee alters every three months, when one member is changed on the basis of the principle of rotation.

A case shall be referred to the Supreme Court en banc consisting of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and members of the Supreme Court for adjudication if: 1) the majority of the full panel of the Civil, Criminal or Administrative Law Chamber expresses a different opinion or legal principle than that hitherto held by the Supreme Court en banc on the application of law, or 2) the majority of the full panel of a Chamber considers the adjudication of the matter by the Supreme Court en banc to be essential for the uniform application of the law.

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