Judicial system of Finland

Under the Constitution of Finland, everyone is entitled to have their case heard by a court or an authority appropriately and without undue delay. This is achieved through the judicial system of Finland.

The Finnish judicial system consists of [http://www.oikeus.fi/8108.htm Judicial system in Finland] . Finnish ministry of Justice. Retrieved 10-4-2007]
* the independent courts of law and administrative courts
* the prosecution service
* the enforcement authorities, who see to the enforcement of judgments
* the prison service and the probation service, who see to the enforcement of custodial sentences, and
* the Bar Association and the other avenues of legal aid.


The Finnish legal system originated during the period of Swedish rule and the country's first court of appeals was established at Turku in 1634. [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9073860 Turku. (2007)] . In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 4, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online. ] The law concerning the judicial procedure, the Act of Judicial procedure ( _fi. Oikeudenkäymiskaari), was instituted as part of the legal codification of 1734. Since then, the Act has undergone numerous changes. The modern division of the Finnish courts into two main branches - general courts, dealing with civil suits and criminal cases, and administrative courts, regulating the actions of the country's bureaucracy - also dates from the administrative procedure of the 18th and 19th centuries. [http://virtual.finland.fi/finfo/english/court.html#posi Modeen, T. (1999) The Finnish Court System] . Virtual Finland. Retrieved 10-4-2007]

This division was formalized in 1918 when two sections of the Senate became the newly independent country's two highest courts. The Senate Department of Justice became the Supreme Court, and part of the Senate Finance Department was the basis of the Supreme Administrative Court. The two court systems are entirely separate, and they have no jurisdiction over one another. The establishment of the two courts was confirmed by the Constitution Act of 1919. [ [http://www.kho.fi/en/21404.htm Supreme Administrative Court of Finland: Activities] . Retrieved 10-4-2007] [ [http://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/1919/19190094001 "Suomen Hallitusmuoto" (94/1919)] . 2 §. Retrieved 10-4-2007. fi ]

Overseeing the system of justice are the Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Although these two officials have largely parallel functions and each is required to submit an annual report of their activities to Parliament, the Chancellor of Justice is appointed for life by the President and is a non-voting member of the Council of State, whereas the Parliamentary Ombudsman is chosen for a four-year term by the Parliament. Both officials receive complaints from citizens about the conduct of civil servants, and on their own may investigate all public officials and may order prosecutors to proceed against them. The Chancellor of Justice also supervises advocates. [ [http://www.oikeusasiamies.fi/Resource.phx/eoa/english/ombudsman/chancellorofjustice.htx The Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice] . Parliamentary Ombudsman. Retrieved 10-4-2007.] [ [http://www.oikeusasiamies.fi/Resource.phx/eoa/english/ombudsman/tasks/subjects.htx Subjects of the Ombudsman's oversight.] Parliamentary Ombudsman. Retrieved 10-4-2007] [ [http://www.chancellorofjustice.fi/index.html Supervision of legality] . Chancellor of Justice. Retrieved 10-4-2007] Both officials may call any Finnish authorities to render such assistance as they deem fit. [ [http://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/2002/20020197 "Laki eduskunnan oikeusasiamiehestä" (197/2002)] 6 §. Retrieved 10-4-2007. fi] [ [http://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/2000/20000193 "Laki valtioneuvoston oikeuskanslerista" (193/2000). 8 §. Retrieved 10-4-2007. fi] ]

As in the other Nordic countries, there is no constitutional court. Issues dealt with by a court of this kind elsewhere are handled by the Parliament's Constitutional Committee.

Legal profession


Any lawyer applying for membership in the Finnish Bar Association must have completed a Master of Laws degree, entitling them to hold judicial office, and must be known to be a person of integrity. They also must have several years experience in the legal profession and other judicial duties. An advocate must be independent and autonomous in relation to the government and all other quarters with the exception of their client.

Only members of the bar association are entitled to use the professional title "Advocates" (Finnish: "asianajaja", Swedish: "advokat"). The Finnish Bar Association has about 1 570 members. Practising lawyers who are not members of the Bar Association may not meet the requirements for an advocate, or may prefer not to submit to the obligations of an advocate.


The prosecutors in Finland are organised in two tiers. The prosecution service consists of the Office of the Prosecutor General in Helsinki and the local prosecution units in all 90 state local districts in Finland. The Office operates as the central administrative authority for the prosecution service.

The Prosecutor General is the supreme prosecutor and the head of the prosecution service. The current Prosecutor General is Matti Kuusimäki. The Prosecutor General directs and develops prosecutorial activity by issuing general instructions and guidelines to the prosecutors. He also appoints local prosecutors. The Prosecutor General may take over a case from a subordinate prosecutor. He also acts as the prosecutor in the High Court of Impeachment if the Parliament decides that charges are to be brought against the President of Finland or against a member of the Finnish Council of State. Some of the duties of the Prosecutor General are assigned to the Deputy Prosecutor General, the office of which is presently held by Jorma Kalske. For regular prosecutorial tasks, the office has thirteen State Prosecutors, whose jurisdiction covers the entire country.

In the state local districts, prosecutorial duties are performed by local district prosecutors. Their jurisdiction normally covers one local district. In addition, the Åland Islands have a provincial prosecutor. The Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice are competent to raise charges in special cases.


General Courts

District Courts

The Finnish District Courts (Finnish: "käräjäoikeus", Swedish: "tingsrätt") deal with criminal cases, civil cases and petitionary matters, such as divorce, the custody of children or debt adjustment. There are 54 district courts in Finland. A district court is headed by the Chief Judge (Finnish: "laamanni") and other judges, who have the title of District Judge. In certain cases, the district court may also have Lay Judges. The cases are handled and resolved either in a session, or in chambers. In simple cases decisions can be made by notaries at the court or by trained office staff. The decision of a district court can normally be appealed in a Court of Appeal.

Routine cases can be handled by a single District Judge. More complicated cases are handled by three District Judges. Lay Judges sit mainly in criminal cases, but it can also sit in civil matters. In tenancy and family disputes, Lay Judges are obligatory. The composition with Lay Judges consists of the ordinary District Judge at the District Court, acting as the chairperson, and three Lay Judges. The municipal councils appoint the Lay Judges for terms of four years. Each Lay Judge participates in a hearing approximately once a month. The District Court pays a hearing fee to the Lay Judges and reimburses them for loss of income.

Trial by jury does not exist in Finland as such. In most civil cases, there are no non-professional judges involved in the process. In criminal cases, the common sense and popular sense of justice are represented by the three (or four, in complicated matters) Lay Judges. However, they participate both in the trying of fact and of law, as well as in sentencing.

Courts of Appeal

Appeals from the District Courts are addressed to the six Courts of Appeal (Finnish: "hovioikeus", Swedish: "hovrätt"), located at Helsinki, Turku, Vaasa, Kouvola, Kuopio, and Rovaniemi. Most of the cases dealt with by the Courts of Appeal are appeals against decisions of the district courts. In addition, Courts of Appeal decide, as the first instance, matters of treason and high treason, as well as certain offences in public office. The Helsinki Court of Appeal has special responsibilities, such as granting parole to felons serving a life sentence.

The head of a Court of Appeal is the Chief Justice. The other judges of the court are called Senior Justices or Justices. Cases are presented for decision by legally trained referendaries, who are called Senior Assistant Justices or Assistant Justices. Most cases are heard by professional three-judge divisions, with each division headed by a Senior Justice. More important cases are tried before a plenary session of judges if the Chief Justice decides. In cases involving senior government officials, a court of appeals may serve as the court of first instance. The judges of the Courts of Appeal are appointed by the President, on the basis of a draft decision presented by the government.

In all types of cases, any party may appeal to the Court of Appeal. In the Finnish interpretation of the prohibition of double jeopardy, the case is considered closed only after the final verdict. Thus the prosecution or an injured party may appeal in criminal cases, in addition to the defence. The Court of Appeals usually completely retries the case, hearing the same evidence as presented in the District Court. The process is mainly verbal. However, the process economy rules require that the parties may present new evidence or make new claims only if that evidence was not available at the time of the trial in the District Court.

The verdict of the Court of Appeals may be executed immediately, even if one of the parties seeks a leave of appeal from the Supreme Court of Finland.

upreme Court

The Supreme Court (Finnish: "korkein oikeus", Swedish: "högsta domstolen"), located in Helsinki, consists of a President and 18 other Justices, usually working in five-judge panels. The most important function of the Supreme Court is to rule on important points of law in cases which are significant for the entire legal order, guiding the administration of justice in future cases. Decisions of courts of appeal, as well as certain decisions of the Insurance Court may be appealed against to the Supreme Court, provided that it grants leave to appeal.

The Supreme Court gives advice to the President in cases concerning the exercise of his or her right to grant a pardon, and to the Ministry of Justice in cases concerning extradition. It may provide legal opinions on Government Bills at different stages of the legislative process, and the President may consult it on Bills passed by Parliament before ratifying them. The Supreme Court may also approach the President on its own initiative, and propose enactment of a new Parliament Act or an amendment to an existing Act.

The Supreme Court mainly relies on written evidence when deciding on a case. The Court may, however, hold oral hearings in which the parties, witnesses and experts are heard in person. The oral hearings are public.

The President and other justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of the Republic.

The current judges of the Supreme Court are:

* President Pauliine Koskelo
* Justice Riitta Suhonen
* Justice Kari Raulos
* Justice Gustaf Möller
* Justice Mikko Tulokas
* Justice Lauri Lehtimaja
* Justice Kati Hidén
* Justice Eeva Vuori
* Justice Kari Kitunen
* Justice Mikael Krogerus
* Justice Gustav Bygglin
* Justice Liisa Mansikkamäki
* Justice Pertti Välimäki
* Justice Pasi Aarnio
* Justice Juha Häyhä
* Justice Hannu Rajalahti
* Justice Ilkka Rautio
* Justice Dan Frände

Further reading:
* Supreme Court of Finland

Administrative Courts

Regional Administrative Courts

There are eight regional Administrative Courts (Finnish: "hallinto-oikeus", Swedish: "förvaltningsdomstol"), named after their seats as the Administrative Courts of Helsinki, Hämeenlinna, Kouvola, Kuopio, Oulu, Rovaniemi, Turku and Vaasa. In addition, the autonomous Åland Islands have a separate administrative court. The judicial oversight of administrative acts is the task of the administrative courts. A person or a corporation that believes a decision of a state or local authority relating to them is illegal is entitled to appeal against the decision. The administrative acts are recognized from the hallmark that they become binding without the consent of the other involved parties. The contracts between authorities and private persons fall usually to the jurisdiction of the general court system.

On appeal, the administrative court reviews the legality of the decision of the authority. The appeal may usually be made by an involved person, or by another authority charged with the supervision of public interest in the matters of its jurisdiction. Depending on the type of the case and the laws involved, the review by the administrative court may cover only the formal legality of the authority's procedure, but it may extend to the actual appropriateness of the decision. If the authority in question is overturned, the administrative court issues a decision in the case or submits it back to the authority for further consideration of facts. If the appellant or the authority is discontent with the decision of the administrative court, it is possible to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court. The proceedings are chiefly written, but if the case requires, the administrative courts may conduct surveys, hold oral proceedings, hear witnesses, experts or involved parties, or receive opinions from other authorities.

The decisions of the municipal governments ( _fi. kunta, _sv. kommun) can be appealed against by any member of the municipality, regardless whether the decision involves them. However, while the usual administrative court proceeding examines both the reasonableness and the legality of the decision, the municipal decision can only be overturned on the grounds of legality. In addition, a municipal decision may not be amended by the administrative courts, only overturned. However, in some areas of administration, the municipal government acts as an administrative authority, and its decisions can be appealed against in the normal manner.

The legal costs in the administrative court system are borne by the parties. However, the prevailing party may be awarded the legal costs partly or in full, if it is deemed reasonable in the light of the decision. If the private party prevails, the most important point considered is whether the proceeding was due to an error of the authority. The authority which prevails against a private party is not awarded its legal costs unless the appeal was frivolous.

All judges in administrative courts are professionals, appointed in the same manner as judges who sit in general courts. Judges work in three-judge panels in the regional administrative courts and in five-judge panels in the Supreme Administrative Court. In certain types of matters, part-time experts also participate in the proceedings of the Administrative Courts.

upreme Administrative Court

The Supreme Administrative Court (Finnish: "korkein hallinto-oikeus", Swedish: "högsta förvaltningsdomstolen") consists of a President and 19 other Justices. The court has three chambers.

The first chamber focuses on cases concerning building and planning, environmental permits, real property, waste management, water rights, roads, nature conservation, extraction of land resources and general administrative law. The second chamber handles cases concerning taxation and customs, competition, trades, access to documents, population administration, and driver’s licences and other cases related to vehicles, as well as cases concerning traffic, financial management, pharmacies, agriculture and forestry, labour administration and state officials. The third chamber handles cases concerning social welfare, child welfare and public care of children, nationality, aliens, patents and registers, local government, local authority officials, Church law, handicap services, mental health, health care, health inspections, school education, public order and public entertainment, and firearms.

The chambers do not exclusively handle cases concerning the aforementioned subject-matters but may examine any types of cases falling within the Court's jurisdiction. About 50 percent of the cases heard in the Supreme Administrative Court involve questions about taxes.

The current judges of the Supreme Administrative Court are:

* President Pekka Hallberg (appointed 1993)

* Justice Ahti Rihto (1988)

* Justice Ilmari Ojanen (1990)

* Justice Olof Olsson (1993)

* Justice Esa Aalto (1993)

* Justice Pirkko Ignatius (1994)

* Justice Lauri Tarasti (1994)

* Justice Raimo Anttila (1995)

* Justice Tuulikki Keltanen (1995)

* Justice Marita Liljeström (1997)

* Justice Olli Nykänen (1997)

* Justice Pekka Vihervuori (1998)

* Justice Marjatta Kaján (2000)

* Justice Heikki Kanninen (2000)

* Justice Kari Kuusiniemi (2003)

* Justice Niilo Jääskinen (2003)

* Justice Ilkka Pere (2003)

* Justice Ahti Vapaavuori (2003)

* Justice Irma Telivuo (2004)

* Justice Jukka Mattila (2004)

pecial Courts

Market Court

The Market Court is a special court that hears market law, competition and public procurement cases. It issues injunctions against illegal restrictions of competition and order monetary penalties. It has duties also in the supervision of mergers and acquisitions. In addition, the Market Court may overturn public procurement decisions, adjust the procurement process and order compensatory payments. The appeals from the decisions of the Market Court are made to the Supreme Court in market law cases and to the Supreme Administrative Court in public procurement cases and in most competition cases.

Labour Court

The Labour Court has jurisdiction in disputes on collective agreements and collective civil service agreements. Disputes on individual employment relationships are heard by the general courts and disputes on individual civil service relationships by the administrative courts.

Insurance Court

The Insurance Court has jurisdiction in certain matters of social insurance, such as accident insurance, employment pensions, civil service pensions and national pensions. The Insurance Court "does not" consider private insurance contracts by private insurance companies.

High Court of Impeachment

The High Court of Impeachment may be convened for cases dealing with criminal charges (for an offence in office) against the President of the Republic, the justices of the supreme courts, members the Council of State, the Chancellor of Justice and the Ombudsman of Parliament. The court has been used only three times since its formation in 1922. Members of this court are the presidents of the two supreme courts, three most senior chief judges of the courts of appeal and five members of Parliament elected by the Parliament. The term of parliamentary members is the same as the term of the parliament. The verdict of the court is final.

Military justice

The service-related criminal cases against military persons serving in the Finnish Defence Forces or the Finnish Border Guard are handled by the civilian courts with some modifications to the usual procedure. The usual forum for the proceedings is the local district court, with a civilian District Judge as a chairperson and two military persons as other members. One of the military members is a commissioned officer and the other belongs to some other personnel group of the military. Both are appointed on a permanent basis by the court of appeals. Unlike in civilian cases, the court may decide to impose a disciplinary measure if the punishment would normally be a fine. The measures available are two types of warning, additional service (1–5 shifts), confinement to garrison (1–15 days), 1–30 disciplinary fines, or confinement to quarters (1–30 days).

The military criminal cases are investigated by the Defence Forces, by the Border Guard or by the civilian police and the case is brought to court by the civilian local district prosecutor. The proceedings take place according to the normal procedure, but the majority option will become the verdict of the court only if it is supported by the District Judge or is milder than his/hers.

The appeals are considered by a court of appeal with a military member who must have at least major's rank and who is appointed by the Supreme Court. The cases against officers with at least major's rank are always handled by the court of appeals acting as a court first instance. If the Supreme Court considers a military case, it will have a military member who is a general officer appointed by the President of Republic.

In addition to the judicial proceedings, the military may use disciplinary means in minor infractions. A serviceperson has a right to appeal to the District Court against the disciplinary action. The disciplinary actions available depend on the person using discipline. The discilinary means available are the same as for the court with the exception of confinement to quarters, which may be sentenced only by a court.

During a war, the Finnish law gives an option of founding courts martial to handle military crimes. Their judgements could be appealed to courts of appeal. Civilian personnel of the Defence forces and the Border guard would also be subject to the military criminal legislation and to the jurisdiction of courts handling military crimes.

External links

* [http://www.oikeus.fi/8108.htm The judicial system in Finland] by the Finnish [http://www.om.fi/ Ministry of Justice]


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