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Organisation of justice - Luxembourg

Organigramme (54.2 KB pdf)

Detailed explanations

The judicial system of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is divided into a judicial branch and an administrative branch. Besides these two branches there is also the Constitutional Court.

Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court decides by way of judgment on the conformity of particular laws with the Constitution, excepting those which sanction Treaties. When a party raises a question as to the conformity of a law with the Constitution before a judicial court or an administrative tribunal, the court is obliged to refer the case to the Constitutional Court, unless, in its opinion: a) a decision on the question raised is not crucial to its being able to deliver a judgment, b) the question is completely without foundation, c) the Constitutional Court has already given judgment in a case where the issue at stake was the same.

I. The ordinary courts

A. Supreme Court of Justice

At the top of the hierarchy of the judicial branch stands the Supreme Court of Justice, which comprises the Court of Cassation, a Court of Appeal and a department of public prosecution.

The Court of Cassation, comprising a bench on which five judges sit, is primarily responsible for hearing cases seeking to overturn or set aside decisions given by the various benches of the Court of Appeal and judgments by courts of last resort. Representation by a barrister or solicitor is compulsory.

The Court of Appeal consists of nine benches, each consisting of three judges. It hears civil, commercial and criminal cases and cases decided by the industrial tribunals in the country's two judicial districts. Representation by a barrister or solicitor is compulsory, except in criminal cases and summary applications. The criminal bench of the Court of Appeal hears appeals against judgments by the criminal bench of the District Court. This bench consists of five judges.

B. District Courts

The country is divided into two judicial districts and each has a District Court, one in Luxembourg and the other in Diekirch.

The two District Courts are divided into sections consisting of three judges; each District Court has its own department of public prosecution comprising a State Prosecutor and assistant prosecutors. Examining judges at each of the District Courts are responsible for preparing criminal cases for trial, as well as misdemeanours.

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In civil and commercial cases, the District Court hands down decisions in ordinary law and tries all cases other than those falling expressly within the competence of another jurisdiction in view of the nature or the amount of the claim.

It has jurisdiction ratione valoris in claims in excess of 10 000 Euros.

It has exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases which, due to their nature, are specifically assigned to it by law. It alone can hear applications for authority to execute judgments handed down by foreign courts and legal instruments received from the hands of foreign persons entitled officially to make them. District Courts also exercise inherent jurisdiction, for example in regard to adoption, guardianship, emancipation, etc.

The District Court hears appeals against judgments given at first instance by Justices of the Peace operating within the Court's judicial district.

Proceedings before the District Court are as a rule initiated by the issue of a writ, served to the defendant by a bailiff.

The presidents of the District Courts, or the magistrates appointed in their stead, hear interlocutory applications and as such are called upon to make interim orders in urgent cases, both civil and commercial.

District Courts exercise criminal jurisdiction as Criminal Courts. They have jurisdiction in all lesser indictable offences, that is to say all offences punishable by penalties for misdemeanours, as well as all acts classed as major offences under the law, that are referred to them by the court in chambers or the court in chambers of the Court of Appeal. Defendants must appear in person, except where the punishment for the offence is no more than a fine, in which case they may be represented by a lawyer.

As a rule, representation by a barrister or solicitor is compulsory before the District Court, though the law does permit certain exceptions, for example in commercial cases and summary applications for an interim order, when the parties may argue their own cases.

C. Justices of the Peace

There are three Justices of the Peace, one in Luxembourg, one in Esch-sur-Alzette (judicial district of Luxembourg) and one in Diekirch (judicial district of Diekirch).

In civil and commercial cases, Justices of the Peace hear all cases over which they have been given jurisdiction by the new Code of Civil Procedure or by other statutory legislation; they have jurisdiction at last instance up to a value of 750 Euros, and subject to appeal, up to a value of 10 000 Euros.

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They hear certain cases such as, for example, garnishee orders for attachment of earnings, pensions and annuities, as well as being responsible for the distribution of amounts raised by such orders up to the amount of the debt.

As a rule, the action is brought before Justices of the Peace by the issue of a summons served by a bailiff. A certain number of cases are brought by filing an application with the office of the Clerk of the Court. Parties appear before Justices of the Peace either in person or through a representative. This representative may be a lawyer, the spouse, parents or persons related in direct line, or parents or persons related in collateral line up to and including the third degree of kinship, as well as persons working exclusively in the service of the given party or his business.

In criminal proceedings, Justices of the Peace discharge the functions of police magistrates. In this capacity they are called upon to decide on petty offences or breaches of the law punishable by fines of between 25 and 250 Euros, as well as offences that the law classes as misdemeanours, which the court in chambers refers to Magistrates' Courts.

In addition, they hear cases concerning offences punishable by penalties exceeding the levels normally applicable to petty offences but which the law grants them the right to decide. Judgments handed down by Magistrates' Courts can always be challenged by an appeal. The time allowed for lodging notice of appeal is forty days counting from the date judgment is delivered or, if delivered by default, from the date of its personal service or service at a person's ordinary address. The appeal will be heard by the Criminal Court.

All Justices of the Peace have jurisdiction in industrial disputes and the power to adjudicate in disputes relating to employment contracts and apprenticeship agreements. Appeals are referred to the Supreme Court of Justice.

D. Arbitration Tribunal and National Insurance Board

All disputes relating to National Insurance and having to do with affiliation or qualification, contributions, administrative fines and benefits, with the exception of those covered by Article 317 or relating to Articles 147 and 148 of the National Insurance Code, are decided by the Arbitration Tribunal and, on appeal, by the National Insurance Board. Decisions handed down at last instance by the Arbitration Tribunal, as well as adjudications of the National Insurance Board, can be referred to the Court of Cassation.

II. Administrative courts

A. Administrative Court

Unless otherwise provided by law, appeals can be lodged with the Administrative Court, which sits in Luxembourg, against decisions given by the Administrative Tribunal exercising its authority to set aside decisions delivered in relation to administrative measures of a regulatory nature. The Administrative Court also acts as a trial and appeal court in proceedings against decisions of other administrative courts that have heard applications to reopen proceedings where special laws grant jurisdiction to these courts.

All lawyers entitled to plead before the courts of the Grand Duchy are equally entitled to plead before the Administrative Court; however, “lawyers included in List I” of the roll drawn up each year by the Bar Councils have the right to implement investigative measures ordered by the investigating judge and participate in procedural formalities (= legal representation).

The State is represented before the Administrative Court by an official or by a lawyer.

B. Administrative Tribunal

The Administrative Tribunal, sitting in Luxembourg, decides on appeals in cases of incompetence, acting in excess of authority, improper exercise of authority, breaches of the law or of procedures designed to protect private interests, appeals against administrative decisions in respect of which no other remedy is available in accordance with laws and regulations, and against administrative measures having a regulatory character, irrespective of the authority from which they emanate. As a rule, it also has power of decision in disputes relating to direct taxation and local authority charges and taxes.

Appeals against decisions of the Administrative Tribunal can be lodged with the Administrative Court.

The Administrative Tribunal can arbitrate in appeals against decisions by the Head of Administration for direct contributions in cases where the law relating to such matters provides for such appeals.

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Last update: 17-08-2004

 
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