How is the judicial power structured in Luxembourg?
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The legal system of the Grand Duchy, like all those in Continental Europe, is a civil law system, that is, laws are based on codified documents rather than subject to precedent and judicial decision. Concretely, how does it work?
The legal system of the country is largely inspired by its neighbouring countries. While Luxembourg Civil Law is based on the French Code Napoléon, Luxembourg company, commercial and criminal laws were mainly inspired by Belgian sources. In contrast, Luxembourg direct tax law is based on German tax law principles. The Grand Duchy being a founding member of the European Union, its legislation is also influenced by the EU directives and case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The country has a Constitutional Court and two branches of jurisdictions: the judicial order and the administrative order.
The Constitutional Court has its seat in Luxembourg City. Its function is to examine the constitutionality of laws, excluding those that approve treaties. The public has no direct recourse to the Constitutional court. If a party questions the constitutionality of a law before a judicial or administrative jurisdiction, the matter must be referred to the Constitutional court if the issue of constitutionality is deemed vital to the solution of a dispute. It is not possible to appeal a decision of the Constitutional Court.
The judicial order is divided into three instances. The first level of the judicial hierarchy is the magistrate’s court. The three magistrate’s courts have their seats in Luxembourg City, Esch-sur-Alzette and Diekirch. They are competent for minor civil and commercial cases, provided that the object of the dispute does not exceed EUR 10,000. They mostly play the role of conciliators and try to come to an amicable solution to the conflicts brought before it. In penal matters, the magistrate’s courts operate as police courts and have jurisdiction over criminal cases concerning minor offences and certain acts of misdemeanour. Sitting at magistrate’s courts, labour courts are composed of a president and two assessors where one is chosen among the employers and the other among the employees. They are competent for disputes regarding employment and apprenticeship contracts.
The country is divided into two judicial districts, Luxembourg City and Diekirch. Each of them has its district court. District courts handle civil and commercial matters when the subject of the dispute exceeds EUR 10,000. They also hear cases on appeal from the magistrate’s courts where the subject of the dispute exceeds EUR 750. In criminal cases, district courts act as a correctional or criminal chamber depending on the severity of the offence. Each district court has a youth and guardianship court, which is competent to make rulings concerning the protection of young persons and persons over 18 who are under guardianship.
The Supreme Court of Justice has its seat in Luxembourg City and comprises a Court of Appeal and a Court of Cassation, plus a Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Court of Appeal has jurisdiction over decisions handed down at the first instance by the district courts. It hears civil, commercial, criminal and correctional cases as well as cases decided by the labour tribunals. The Court of Cassation is responsible for hearing cases seeking to overturn or set aside decisions given by the Court of Appeal and judgements rendered in last resort by the district courts and the magistrate’s courts. An appeal to the Court of Cassation does not constitute a third path of appeal. The Court of Cassation does not retry the case but only checks the exact application of the law by courts and tribunals, to ensure a consistent interpretation of the law throughout the country. In the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation, representation by a lawyer is compulsory.
The administrative order is assigned to hear and adjudicate administrative and fiscal disputes. It consists of the Administrative Tribunal and the Administrative Court. Sitting in Luxembourg City, the Administrative Tribunal has authority in the first instance to rule on appeals submitted against individual administrative decisions issued by government authorities, communes or certain public legal entities and against administrative acts, regardless of the authority they are issued by. In principle, it also hears appeals on direct taxes and municipal taxes and duties. An appeal against the decisions of the Administrative Tribunal may be lodged to the Administrative Court, the supreme administrative jurisdiction.
Is English authorized?
Luxembourg’s three official languages may be used in courts and tribunals. However, in practice, discussions and hearings are usually conducted in French and/or Luxembourgish. The use of German is less common. English is not authorized, except for documents such as a contract. They may be submitted without translation.
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