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Last update: 06-05-2009
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Jurisdiction of the courts - Romania

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This page is now obsolete. The original language version has been updated and moved to the European e-Justice Portal.


Preliminary Remarks:  

  • The description should be limited to the jurisdiction of courts of first instance because, as a general rule, it is assumed that the information regarding the court of appeal is generally supplied or available at the court of first instance that issued the judgment.
  • The explanation of the system of jurisdiction should not be too detailed, but rather focus on those situations which are more important from the point of view of their practical relevance for the users of this site.
  • It should be clarified that, in general, the rules of jurisdiction described on this page are applicable to:
    1. internal cases;
    2. cross-border cases involving a defendant domiciled in a Member State of the European Union, where it is necessary to establish the competent court in the Member State under Community law;
    3. cross-border cases involving a defendant domiciled outside the European Union, unless an international treaty (such as the Lugano Convention) provides otherwise.

If you wish to start judicial proceedings in a civil or business matter, you have to identify the court that is competent to judge your case, or, in other words, the court which has jurisdiction. If you address the wrong court or if there is a dispute over competence, you risk a considerable delay or a rejection of your application because the court has no jurisdiction.

The organisation of courts of appeal, tribunals, specialist courts and courts of first instance is provided for by Act No 304/2004 concerning the judicial system, republished, with subsequent amendments and additions:

"Article 35

  1. Courts of appeal are courts with legal capacity in the jurisdiction of which several tribunals and specialised tribunals sit.
  2. Courts of appeal shall contain specialised sections or, depending on the case, panels for civil cases, criminal cases, commercial cases, cases involving minors and family disputes, cases of administrative and tax disputes, cases regarding labour disputes and social insurance, as well as, depending on the nature and number of cases, maritime and domestic waterways sections or sections for other matters.”

"Article 36

  1. Tribunals are courts with legal capacity organized at the level of each county and the city of Bucharest which, as a rule, sit in the county capital.
  2. The jurisdiction of each tribunal includes all first instance courts in the county or in the city of Bucharest.
  3. Tribunals shall have specialised sections or, depending on the case, panels for civil cases, criminal cases, commercial cases, cases involving minors and family disputes, cases of administrative and fiscal disputes, cases regarding labour disputes and social insurance, as well as, depending on the nature and number of cases, maritime and inland waterways sections or sections for other matters." 

"Article 39

  1. Depending on the nature and number of cases, specialised sections or panels may be set up in courts of first instance.
  2. In courts of first instance, specialised sections or panels shall be set up to hear cases involving minors and family matters."

"Article 40

  1. Specialised panels and sections for minors and family, as well as specialised tribunals for minors and family shall try offences committed by minors and against minors.”


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. Should I apply to an ordinary law court or to a specialised court? A.
B. If the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction, how can I find out which one I should apply to? B.
I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts and, if so, which one is competent for my case? I.
II. Territorial jurisdiction (Does the court of city/locality A or of city/locality B have jurisdiction for my case?) II.
1. The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction 1.
2. Exceptions to the general rule 2.
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court? a)
b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)? b)
c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise? c)
C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction, how can I find out which one I have to address? C.

 

A. Should I apply to an ordinary law court or to a specialised court?

In Member States where not all civil and business cases are heard entirely by ordinary civil courts but where independent specialised courts heard certain types of dispute (for instance, labour courts), the extent of jurisdiction needs to be specified.

In Romania, in addition to ordinary courts, there are specialised courts and panels specialised in certain types of case.

There are specialised courts/panels for labour and social insurance cases – they sit in county courts and courts of appeal; specialised courts/panels for disputes involving minors and family (divorce, division of joint possessions, custody of minors, rules on visits, adoption) – they sit at courts of first instance, county courts and courts of appeal; specialised courts for business disputes, which sit at courts of first instance, county courts and courts of appeal; specialised courts for restructuring and winding-up orders, which sit at county courts and courts of appeal; courts specializing in administrative disputes, which sit at county courts and courts of appeal; specialised courts/panels for industrial and intellectual property cases, which sit at county courts and courts of appeal.

B. If the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction, how can I find out which one I should apply to?

The Code of Civil Procedure is the main instrument that regulates the jurisdiction of the courts. It distinguishes between ordinary civil courts and specialised courts, which hear the cases listed at point A.

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For instance, Article 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure states that courts of first instance shall hear:

  1. all cases and claims, except those assigned by the law to other courts;
  2. claims against decisions by public administrative authorities acting in matters of jurisdiction and other bodies with similar fields of activity, in the cases laid down by law;
  3. any other matters assigned to them by law.

Article 2 then states that tribunals shall hear:

  1. at first instance:
    1. business cases and claims involving over ROL 1 billion and business cases and claims with a value that cannot be expressed in financial terms;
    2. civil cases and claims involving over ROL 5 billion; labour disputes, with the exception of those assigned by law to other courts;
    3. cases and claims in administrative disputes, with the exception of those assigned to the courts of appeal;
    4. cases and claims involving intellectual and industrial property;
    5. cases and claims in expropriation matters;
    6. applications for the approval, invalidity or annulment of adoption;
    7. *** Repealed;
    8. *** Repealed;
    9. claims for redress of damage caused by judicial error in criminal trials;
    10. claims for acknowledgment and approval of the enforcement of rulings issued abroad.
  2. as courts of appeal, appeals against rulings at first instance, in the cases specifically provided for by law;
  3. as higher courts of appeal second appeals specifically provided for by law;
  4. any other cases assigned by the law falling within their jurisdiction.

Article 3 states that the courts of appeal shall hear:

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  1. at first instance, cases and claims in administrative disputes concerning acts by authorities and central institutions;
  2. as courts of appeal, appeals against decisions at first instance delivered by courts and tribunals; as higher courts of appeal, second appeals in the cases specifically provided for by law;
  3. any other cases provided for by law and falling within their jurisdiction.

Article 4 states that the High Court of Cassation and Justice shall hear:

  1. second appeals against decisions of the courts of appeal and other decisions, in the cases provided for by law;
  2. second appeals in the interest of the law;
  3. *** Repealed;
  4. any other cases provided for by law and falling within their jurisdiction.

Finally, Article 4(1) points out that the jurisdiction assigned to courts in connection with arbitration cases covered by Section IV resides with the court that would be competent to hear the cases if no arbitration agreement is reached.

I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts and, if so, which one is competent for my case?

Most Member States make a distinction between lower and higher civil courts of first instance. In this case, jurisdiction should be defined as to function of:

  • a threshold for the material value of the claims in question, and/or
  • other factors that determine jurisdiction, regardless of the value of the claims in question.

The Romanian legal system distinguishes between lower and higher civil courts, determining jurisdiction by a dual mechanism that takes account of the value of the claim and of certain types of cases irrespective of the value of the claim.

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Courts of first instance courts have, in principle, a wide field of jurisdiction, but under Article 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, in civil cases involving ownership it is not the court of first instance but the tribunal which has jurisdiction for cases involving more than ROL 5 billion, (approx. €150 000), while, in business cases involving more than ROL 1 billion (approx. €30 000), jurisdiction resides at first instance with the tribunal and the court of first instance.

There is also a set of rules that establish material jurisdiction on the basis of criteria other than value, assigning jurisdiction to the tribunal in the case of private claims, such as labour and social insurance claims, intellectual and industrial property rights, adoption, administrative disputes, expropriation, redress of damages caused by judicial error, acknowledgment and approval of the enforcement of court rulings given in foreign countries and bankruptcy.

II. Territorial jurisdiction (Does the court of city/locality A or of city/locality B have jurisdiction for my case?)

1. The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction

Theoretically, the court in the defendant's usual place of domicile/residence has jurisdiction (the general rule is applicable to legal entities as well).

In the Romanian legal system the rules of territorial jurisdiction can be found in Articles 5–16 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and the general rule is that jurisdiction resides with the court competent for the place of residence of the defendant if the defendant is a natural person or with the court competent for the registered office of the defendant if the defendant is a legal person. Claims against the State or decentralized state entities/institutions must be lodged with courts in Bucharest or in county towns.

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2. Exceptions to the general rule

There are a series of exceptions to the general rule in that, where the defendant is a natural person, the court summons may be registered at the court having jurisdiction for the place where the defendant carries out a regular professional occupation or has an agricultural, commercial or industrial undertaking; in the case of legal persons, the court summons may be registered with the court having jurisdiction for the place where the legal person has branch offices, but for obligations that must be carried out there.

In ownership disputes concerning real estate, the case must be brought before the court having jurisdiction for the area where the real estate is located. Furthermore, inheritance disputes must be brought before the court having jurisdiction for the last place of residence of the deceased. Also, in commercial cases, actions involving commercial companies are dealt with by the court having jurisdiction for the place where the company has its headquarters. Finally, in bankruptcy cases, the court where the debtor company has its headquarters has jurisdiction.

a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court?

This section should contain explanations of the special, non-exclusive rules concerning territorial jurisdiction, which are usually related to the nature of the case or the reason for the claim.

The description should cover at least the rules:

  • on contract law cases (specific rules for certain types of agreements and labour agreements)
  • on maintenance cases
  • on cases of tort liability
  • on bringing civil actions for damages in a criminal trial
  • on divorce cases
  • on cases involving parental responsibility

Articles 9-12 of the Code of Civil Procedure contain a series of provisions which provide alternative rules on competence.

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Article 9 provides that the claim against several defendants may be brought before the court having jurisdiction for any of them; if, among the defendants, there are accessory obligations, the claim should be brought before the court having jurisdiction for any of the main debtors.

Article 10 provides that, in addition to the court having jurisdiction for the defendant’s place of residence, the following courts also have jurisdiction:

  1. in claims concerning the performance, annulment, settlement or cancellation of a contract, the court of the place named in the contract for the performance, even in part, of the obligation;
  2. in claims arising out of a property tenancy agreement, building location report, justification actions or conveyancing disputes, the court where the building is located;
  3. in claims arising in connection with a bill of exchange, cheque or promissory note, the court at the place of payment;
  4. in claims concerning business obligations, the court of the place where the obligation originated or that of the place of payment;
  5. in claims arising out of a transport agreement, the court at the place of departure or arrival;
  6. in claims against a married woman* whose usual residence is different from that of her husband, the court of the woman’s residence;
  7. in claims submitted by relatives in ascending and descending line for maintenance, the court of the petitioner’s domicile;
  8. in claims arising out of an illicit act, the court with jurisdiction for the area where the act was committed.

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* This provision must be considered repealed as a result of acknowledgment of the constitutional principle of gender equality.

Article 11 states that, in insurance cases, claims for compensation can be submitted to the court in whose jurisdiction the following is located:

  1. the insured person’s place of residence;
  2. the insured goods;
  3. the place where the accident occurred.

Any agreement on jurisdiction is null and void if it has been made before establishment of the right to compensation.

The above provisions are not applicable in cases involving maritime or inland waterways insurance.

Finally, Article 12 demonstrates that the claimant may choose between several equally competent courts.

b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)?

This section should cover the exclusive rules on special jurisdiction.

As stated in section II.2, paragraph 2, there are a series of rules that establish an exclusive territorial jurisdiction under Articles 13-16 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

These provisions are:

"Article 13

Claims concerning real estate may be submitted only to the court in the jurisdiction of which the buildings are located.

Where the building is located in the jurisdiction of several courts, the claim must be submitted to the court of the defendant's place of residence or domicile, if either is in one of these jurisdictions, otherwise to any of the courts in whose jurisdictions the building is located."

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"Article 14

In inheritance cases, the competent court is the court having jurisdiction for the last domicile of the deceased for:

  1. claims concerning the validity and execution of the testamentary provisions;
  2. claims regarding the inheritance and claims the heirs might have against each other;
  3. claims of legatees or creditors of the deceased against one of the heirs or the person executing the will."

"Article 15

Claims concerning companies that have not been wound up are heard by the court having jurisdiction for the place where the company has its registered offices."

"Article 16

Claims concerning company reorganisations and bankruptcy are heard only by the court in whose jurisdiction the debtor’s registered offices are located."

c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise?

This section relates to:

  • conditions concerning the validity and effects of agreements concerning the choosing of a court (including contractual provisions);
  • where a court's jurisdiction is based exclusively on the defendant's appearance before the court.

The Romanian judicial system contains a series of derogations from and special provisions concerning the rules on jurisdiction stated above with regard to general jurisdiction and exclusive jurisdiction.

These provisions are contained in Title III, Articles 17-19 of the Code of Civil Procedure and concern such matters as the extension of jurisdiction and agreements by parties on the jurisdiction of a court.

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Article 17 states that the supplementary and incidental claims must be heard by the court having jurisdiction for the main claim.

Article 18 provides that jurisdiction for claims regarding the establishment of rights is determined according to the rules on claims concerning the performance of services.

Article 18(1) states that the court designated under the rules on jurisdiction according to the value of the object of the claim retains jurisdiction even if the value of the object changes after the case has been referred.

Finally, on the establishment of jurisdiction by agreement between the parties, Article 19 states that the parties may agree, in writing or by verbal statement before the court, that claims concerning goods be heard in courts other than those having jurisdiction under the law, except for the cases provided in Articles 13, 14, 15 and 16.

C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction, how can I find out which one I have to address?

Where applicable, the description of rules concerning jurisdiction of specialised courts should follow the same structure as in section B. Where jurisdiction rules are roughly the same, this should be pointed out with an explanation of exceptions to the rule.

As shown in section B, the Code of Civil Procedure covers most aspects of substantive and territorial jurisdiction of specialised courts (labour and social insurance disputes, family disputes, disputes involving minors, adoption disputes, industrial and intellectual property disputes, administrative disputes, expropriation cases, claims for damages caused by judicial error, acknowledgment and approval of enforcement of court rulings issued in foreign countries and bankruptcy).

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Article 1(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure clearly establishes the jurisdiction of courts of first instance for claims against public administrative authorities acting in matters of jurisdiction and other bodies with similar fields of activity, in the cases provided for by law.

For example, by way of exception to the rules contained in the Code of Civil Procedure, there are rules relating to subject matter in several closely specified areas, such as the disputes that must be resolved under Article 24 of Law No 10/2001 on ways of returning buildings taken into state ownership, which  state that the county tribunal is competent at first instance to give a ruling on the claim made by the entitled person whose application for the return of the building was refused.

Similarly, Article 56 of Law No 168/1999 on the resolution of industrial conflict provides that applications suspending strikes must be addressed to the court of appeal in whose jurisdiction the union headquarters are located and must be settled within 7 days from the registration date, as distinct from the general rule that all rights disputed are heard at first instance by the county tribunal whose jurisdiction covers the employer’s headquarters.

As regards customs disputes, which are covered by Law No 554/2004 (Disputes Law), there are special rules on jurisdiction that take account of the value, in that customs disputes (apart from claims against civil offence records, where the courts of first instance have jurisdiction) are heard at first instance by specialised courts when the value of the case does not exceed RON 500 000. If the value exceeds this amount, then jurisdiction resides at the first instance with the court of appeal.

Finally, it should be mentioned that in cross-border cases involving a defendant domiciled in a Member State of the European Union, jurisdiction is determined in accordance with the provisions of Law No 187 of 9 May 2003 on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement in Romania of decisions under civil and commercial law delivered in Member States of the European Union, published in Official Gazette No 333 of 16 May 2003.

Further information

Useful links:

« Jurisdiction of the courts - General information | Romania - General information »

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Last update: 06-05-2009

 
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