Association des Conseils d'Etat - Association of the Councils of State
Events
Tour of Europe
Structure
History
Activities
Newsletter
Colloquia
Case law
Forum
ECJ's Reflets
Members
Observers
Exchanges
Statutes
Links
Tour of Europe ContactHomeFrançais

   Back to the map of Europe

Estonia (2009)

 
 Print version



  • INTRODUCTION (History, purpose of the review and classification of administrative acts, definition of an administrative authority)

    • 1. Main dates in the evolution of the review of administrative acts

      Before the Soviet occupation, since 1919, the independent Republic of Estonia had a separate Code of Administrative Court Procedure and also a separate chamber for administrative jurisdiction at the Supreme Court, which started work in 1920. On the first two level cases covering administrative law were adjudicated in ordinary courts by specialized judges or in special chambers. The first Code of Administrative Court Procedure after the re-gaining of independence came into force on 15 of September 1993.

      New Code of Administrative Court Procedure (currently in force) came into effect on 1 January 2000.

      According to the Constitution of Estonia and as elaborated by the Courts Act, Estonia has a three-level court system. Special courts are reviewing administrative acts. County courts and administrative courts adjudicate matters in the first instance. Courts of second instance, which are called courts of appeal (also called circuit courts), shall hear appeals against decisions or rulings of courts of first instance. The courts of appeal are situated in Tartu and Tallinn.

      The court of the highest instance is the Supreme Court, situated in Tartu, which reviews court judgments by way of cassation proceedings. The structure of Estonia’s court system is one of the simplest in Europe. The peculiarity of the system lies in the fact that the Supreme Court performs simultaneously the functions of the highest court of general jurisdiction, of the supreme administrative court as well as of the constitutional court. The Supreme Court consists of three chambers: Administrative Law Chamber, Civil Chamber and Criminal Chamber. In addition, the General Assembly of the Supreme Court elects eight members of the Constitutional Review Chamber from among the justices of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is an ex officio ninth member of the Constitutional Review Chamber.

      Administrative acts can only be contested in an administrative court, and further in a circuit court (or in the administrative law chamber thereof) and then in the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court.

      There are two administrative courts of first instance in Estonia (Tallinn and Tartu). For guaranteeing wider access to justice, these two courts have several court buildings in other cities besides Tallinn and Tartu in Pärnu and Jõhvi, where judges and their supporting legal staff work.

      The decisions of administrative courts are reviewed by courts of appeal (circuit courts) in the second instance by way of appellate proceedings. Circuit courts shall hear appeals against the judgments and rulings of administrative courts. An appeal shall be heard collegially in a circuit court with the participation of at least three judges. A special administrative law chamber which reviews administrative matters by way of appeal proceeding has been formed within the Tallinn Circuit Court. Despite the fact that there in no special administrative law chamber in the Tartu Circuit Court, the court hears appeals against the rulings or judgments of the Tartu Administrative Court. The competence of administrative courts and administrative court procedure is provided in the Code of Administrative Court Procedure.

    • 2. Purpose of the review of administrative acts

      The judicial review of administrative acts and measures taken by public authorities is aimed at submitting administrative authorities to law and protecting individual rights, in other words the rule of law. It is not only the review of the good functioning of the administration.

      According to the article 14 of the Estonian Constitution, the guarantee of rights and freedoms is the duty of the legislative, executive and judicial powers, and of local governments. On 1 of January 2002 the Administrative Procedure Act came into force. The aim of the act is to ensure that the principle of the rule of law are adhered to in administrative procedure. The Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court has underlined in its decisions the need of the administrative court procedure to ensure effective protection of individual rights.

    • 3. Definition of an administrative authority

      The definition of an administrative authority in Estonia includes public legal entities and in some cases private persons who perform administrative functions in public law. Administrative authority means any agency, body or official, which is authorised to perform administrative functions in public law by an Act of Administrative Procedure, a regulation issued on the basis of an Act or a contract under public law.

    • 4. Classification of administrative acts

      The classification identifies individual acts and general normative acts. It also separates unilateral acts and contracts awarded by administrative authorities.

      An administrative act is an order, resolution, precept, directive or other legal act which is issued by an administrative authority upon performance of administrative functions in order to regulate individual cases in public law relationships and which is directed at the creation, alteration or extinguishment of the rights and obligation of persons.
      A general order is an administrative act, which is directed at persons determined on the basis of general characteristics or at changing the public law status of things.

      Administrative acts against which an action or protest may be filed with an administrative court are the orders, directives, resolutions, precepts or other legislation which regulate individual cases in public law relationships, issued by agencies, officials or other persons who perform administrative functions in public law. For the purpose of administrative court jurisdiction, public law contracts are also deemed to be administrative acts. A public law contract is a contract, which regulates public law relationships.

      Measures against which an action or protest may be filed with an administrative court are activities, omissions or delays in public law relationships by agencies, officials or other persons who perform administrative functions in public law.

  • I – ORGANIZATION AND ROLE OF THE BODIES, COMPETENT TO REVIEW ADMINISTRATIVE ACTS

    • A. COMPETENT BODIES

    • B. RULES GOVERNING THE COMPETENT BODIES

    • C. INTERNAL ORGANIZATION AND COMPOSITION OF THE COMPETENT BODIES

      • 9. Internal organization of the ordinary courts competent to review administrative acts

        Judicial control of professional activities of bailiffs and notaries is exercised by the county courts. For example, a disciplinary penalty on a bailiff is imposed by a directive of the Minister of Justice, which can be contested in a county court of the location of the bailiff’s office. The same applies to the contestation of the disciplinary penalties imposed by the Minister of Justice on notaries.
        There are four county courts in Estonia (Harju, Tartu, Pärnu, Viru) which have a court house in almost every county centre. As a rule the county courts adjudicate civil, criminal offence and misdemeanour matters and perform other acts which are imposed on them by law. There are 155 judges in the county courts.

      • 10. Internal organization of the administrative courts

        There are two first instance administrative courts in Estonia. The two circuit courts of the state function as appellate courts in administrative matters. The highest court instance is the Supreme Court, where there is an Administrative Law Chamber comprised of five justices. See also topic number 1.

        Chart:
        3rd instance: Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court (only appeals in cassation or appeals against rulings, petitions for review of court decisions in administrative matters which have entered into force)
        2nd instance: circuit court of Tallinn (administrative law chamber) and circuit court of Tartu
        1st instance: administrative court of Tallinn and administrative court of Tartu (with courthouses in Pärnu and Jõhvi)

    • D. JUDGES

      • 11. Status of judges who review administrative acts

        Judges reviewing administrative matters have the same legal status as judges of ordinary courts. There are altogether 244 judges in Estonia: 155 of them in county courts, 27 in administrative courts, 43 of them in circuit courts (12 are specialised on administrative matters) and 19 (5 in Administrative Law Chamber) in the Supreme Court. All judges have the same social guarantees and position. Judges, also administrative court judges, are appointed for life. They cannot be transferred from one court to another without their consent. Education and training, as well as other requirements to become a judge are the same for administrative court judges as for county court judges.

        The same applies to the appointment of administrative court judges, however sometimes the background of a second or third instance administrative judge can differ from that of ordinary judges. Namely, a person who has achieved high ranking in civil service before their career as a member of judiciary can also be appointed as a judge reviewing administrative acts in second and third instance courts without having been a judge before. Salaries of the judges are regulated by the Courts Act, no difference is made between administrative judges and ordinary judges. Salaries of the judges at higher courts differ slightly.

      • 12. Recruitment of judges in charge of review of administrative acts

        A person who has undergone judge’s preparatory service and has passed a judge’s examination may be appointed as a judge of a county court or administrative court. A person who is an experienced and recognised lawyer and who has passed a judge's examination may be appointed as a judge of a circuit court. A person who worked as a judge directly before appointment shall be exempted from the judge’s examination. A person who is an experienced and recognised lawyer may be appointed as a justice of the Supreme Court.

        An Estonian citizen, who has: - fulfilled an accredited law curriculum of academic studies, - has proficiency in the Estonian language at the advanced level, - is of high moral character and has the abilities and personal characteristics necessary for working as a judge, may be appointed judge. The following persons shall not be appointed as a judge:
        a person who is convicted of a criminal offence;
        a person who has been removed from the office of judge, notary public or bailiff;
        a person expelled from the Estonian Bar Association;
        a person who has been released from public service for a disciplinary offence;
        a bankrupt person.

        If the candidate fulfils the above criteria, the recruiting consists of the following steps: first, there is a competition to be appointed as a candidate for judicial office (a complex exam, interview).

        Then the candidate needs to complete a preparatory service. The duration of the preparatory service is two years, but it may be reduced, if the person has been employed for at least two years as a senior clerk or clerk of a sworn advocate, assistant prosecutor or in any other position, which requires high qualification in law. A person, who has been employed as a judge or who, for at least two years before running as a candidate, has worked as a sworn advocate or prosecutor may be exempted from preparatory service or the person’s term of service may be reduced by a reasoned decision of the judge’s examination committee.

        Judges shall be appointed to office on the basis of a public competition. The Minister of Justice shall announce a public competition for a vacant position of judge of a county court, administrative court and circuit court. After that (providing there is a vacancy) a judge’s exam is to be passed. Judge’s examination shall consist of an oral and a written part. The oral part of a judge’s examination means the assessment of the theoretical knowledge of a candidate for judicial office. The written part of a judge’s examination is case analysis. A person who worked as a judge directly before appointment shall be exempted from the judge’s examination.

        The suitability of the personal characteristics of a candidate for judicial office shall be assessed on the basis of an interview. The judge’s examination committee may consider also other information concerning the candidate for judicial office which is important for the performance of the duties of a judge, make inquiries and ask for the opinion of the candidate’s supervisor. Candidate for judicial office must pass a security check (with the duration of 3 months) before being appointed a judge.

        If several persons run as candidates for the vacant position of judge, the Supreme Court en banc shall decide who to propose to the President of the Republic to be appointed to office as judge. The Supreme Court en banc shall first consider the opinion of the full court of the court for which the person runs as a candidate.

        Judges of first and second instances shall be appointed to office by the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Supreme Court en banc. The concrete court or the concrete chamber of the Supreme Court in case of the Supreme Court justices where the judge shall serve is decided by the Supreme Court en banc, thus the judge shall be appointed to court service by the Supreme Court en banc.

        Justices of the Supreme Court (including members of the administrative law chamber) shall be appointed to office by the Parliament, on the proposal of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. There are some other differences in the appointment of Supreme Court justices as well; first of all they do not need a preparatory service even if they have not served as judges before. There will be, however, a public competition. Before proposing a candidate to the parliament, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall first consider the opinion of the Supreme Court en banc concerning the candidate. Furthermore, the Council for Administration of Courts provides an opinion on the candidates for a vacant position of a justice of the Supreme Court. Then the candidates are being interviewed by the Constitutional Committee of the parliament. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be appointed to office by the Parliament on the proposal of the President of the Republic.

      • 13. Professional training of judges

        Before becoming a judge a university degree in law is needed plus see above (answer to p. 12) the conditions for judges recruitment: preparatory service, exam, etc. As to the constant and additional training of judges who are already in office, a judge is required to develop the knowledge and skills of his or her specialty on a regular basis and to participate in training. The Training Council is responsible for the training of judges. The Training Council shall be comprised of two judges of a court of the first instance, two judges of a court of appeal, two justices of the Supreme Court and a representative of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Minister of Justice and the University of Tartu. The judge members of the Training Council are elected by the judges themselves at the annual general assembly of Estonian judges (court en banc comprised of all Estonian judges).

        The Judicial training department of the Supreme Court organises the judicial training and provides support services to one of the judges’ self-government bodies - the Judicial Training Council. The judicial training department ascertains the training needs of judges, prepares the strategies for training, training programs and organises the implementation thereof. Also, the Supreme Court analyses training results, ensures the preparation of necessary study and methodological materials, assists in the preparation and selection of training providers, and prepares an annual review concerning the training of judges for the Training Council. The Training Council is comprised of two judges of a court of the first instance, two judges of a court of appeal, two justices of the Supreme Court, and representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Minister of Justice and the University of Tartu.

        The judges’ training is financed by the state; the hours of the training are working hours. The judges are free to attend all the seminars. There are mostly specialised trainings (like on tax law, aliens law, new legislation etc) but also topics of common knowledge, like computer skills, negotiation, psychology, etc. in the annual training program.

      • 14. Promotion of judges

        Judges shall be appointed to office on the basis of a public competition. The recruitment of a judge was described in p. 12. A person who is an experienced and recognised lawyer and who has passed a judge's examination may be appointed as a judge of a circuit court. A person who is an experienced and recognised lawyer may be appointed as a justice of the Supreme Court. All judges of first instance administrative courts are free to participate in the competition of a judge's position at the appeal court level.

        The Supreme Court en banc may appoint a judge to office to another court of the same or a lower level with the consent of the judge and on the proposal of the Minister of Justice.

        In the first instance courts a judge may become a president (chairman) of the court if the Minister of Justice so appoints. The Minister of Justice shall make the appointment after having considered the opinion of the respective full court. The chairman of a circuit court shall be appointed from among the judges of the same court for seven years. The Minister of Justice shall appoint the chairman of a court after having considered the opinion of the full court of the circuit court.

      • 15. Professional mobility of judges

        A judge may not be transferred from one court to another without his or her consent. In the interests of administration of justice, the Minister of Justice may transfer a judge of a court of the first instance or a court of appeal, with the consent of the judge, temporarily to another county court after having previously considered the opinion of the chairman of the court where the judge permanently administers justice. A judge may be transferred to the service of the Supreme Court taking the position of a law clerk in one of the respective chambers, or the judge can be transferred to service of the Ministry of Justice at his or her request and with the consent of the chairman of the court. During the service, the authority of the judge shall be suspended. He or she shall however retain the judge’s salary and other social guarantees during service in the Supreme Court or the Ministry of Justice.

    • E. ROLE OF THE COMPETENT BODIES

      • 16. Available kinds of recourse against administrative acts

        The court can declare an administrative act unlawful, but it can also annul it or part of it.

        The court has the right to a full review of an administrative act, action or contract.

        To be more precise, an administrative court has the right:
        1) to annul an unlawful administrative act wholly or partially and, if possible, issue a precept for the reversal of the administrative act, indicating the method of reversal;
        2) to issue a precept for execution of an unlawfully suspended administrative act, for the issue of an unissued administrative act or for an untaken measure to be taken;
        3) to declare an administrative act or measure unlawful if the legitimate interest of the person who filed the action or protest in such finding is expressed in the action or protest;
        4) to order the payment of compensation for damage caused in public law relationships;
        5) to establish the existence or absence of a relationship in public law;
        6) to dismiss the action or protest.

        An administrative court has the right to annul only a secondary condition of an administrative act if:
        1) the agency, official or other person performing administrative functions in public law who issued the administrative act was required to issue the administrative act without the secondary condition;
        2) annulment of the secondary condition separately from the administrative act does not damage the public interest or restrict the rights and freedoms of third persons.

        In other cases of contestation of a secondary condition, an administrative court may annul the unlawful administrative act wholly and issue a precept for the issue of a new administrative act.

        If a person filing an action applies for the whole or partial annulment of an administrative act or for a measure to be taken and the application concerns the payment of a certain amount of money, the administrative court, if the action is allowed, shall determine in the judgment the amount payable and order the payment of the amount for the benefit of the person who filed the action.

        There are also possibilities for different recourse and claims for compensation provided by the State Liability Act which constitutes the bases of and procedure for the protection and restoration of rights violated upon the exercise of powers of public authority and performance of other public duties and compensation for damage caused. The State liability cases in Estonia are solved in the administrative jurisdiction.

      • 17. Existence of mechanisms for the delivery of a preliminary ruling apart from the procedure under the Article 234 of the EC Treaty

        An administrative court does not give itself preliminary rulings; neither does the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court. But an administrative court shall suspend proceedings if the hearing of a matter is not possible before the adjudication of another matter (also in another jurisdiction), until the entry into force of the decision.

        An administrative court may suspend proceedings also during the time when the constitutional review matter is adjudicated in the proceedings of the Supreme Court, until entry into force of a judgment made in the matter, if this may affect the validity of legislation of general application subject to application in the administrative matter. The administrative courts can set aside a law which they think is unconstitutional in concrete matter and not apply it, but they cannot annul unconstitutional laws. The latter can be only done by the Supreme Court as a constitutional court. Proceedings are suspended by a ruling of the administrative court.

        An appeal may be filed against a ruling on the suspension of proceedings. Proceedings shall be resumed on the application of a participant in the proceedings or on the initiative of the court once the circumstances which constituted the grounds for the suspension of the proceedings cease to exist. Proceedings are resumed by a ruling of the administrative court. Proceedings shall be resumed from the point at which they were suspended

      • 18. Advisory functions of the competent bodies

        An administrative court only has judicial functions; judges cannot be at the same time members of legislative or executive powers. Judges shall not be employed other than in the office of judge, except for teaching or research. There are some judges, especially in higher instances who teach or participate in research activities.

        However, sometimes when so asked by the executive or the legislature, the judges, especially the justices from the Supreme Court give their expert opinions on drafts of procedural laws and laws concerning judiciary as well as court administration or even in administrative law matters besides the administrative court procedure also about the Administrative Procedure Act. Some judges have even participated as experts in law-making procedure.

        Furthermore, one could say, that the judgments are sometimes also seen as guidelines, this is even more important in a country with an administrative law still in constant developing and true especially concerning the general principles of administrative law and their application. The administrative authorities follow the principles and rulings given in court judgments. In some cases the judgments are very eagerly looked forward by the administrative authorities, in order to make sure they are solving particular problems properly or to get some guidelines to change their practice.

      • 19. Organization of the judicial and advisory functions of the competent bodies

        ./.

    • F. ALLOCATION OF DUTIES AND RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE COMPETENT BODIES

      • 20. Role of the supreme courts in ensuring the uniform application and interpretation of law

        The positions set out in a decision of the Supreme Court on the interpretation and application of the law are mandatory for the court conducting a new hearing of a matter. Besides that the judgments of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court often have a more far-reaching precedent value. The Chamber can change its previous case-law only by a full composition of its members.

        The Supreme Court has also the functions of a constitutional court (it has a Constitutional Review Chamber). Exercising those functions, the Supreme Court has the competence to declare a law or parts of it null and void. That means either the parliament has to adopt new regulation or the matter will be left unregulated.

  • II – JUDICIAL REVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE ACTS

    • A. ACCESS TO JUSTICE

      • 21. Preconditions of access to the courts

        On the whole, access to the courts in the system of control of administrative authorities does not have any preconditions; there are no mandatory objection proceedings (the term challenge proceeding or internal administrative review is also used in some English translation). Person who finds that his or her rights are violated or his or her freedoms are restricted by an administrative act or in the course of administrative proceedings may file an objection. An objection cannot be filed against an act or measure of an administrative authority over which the Government of the Republic exercises supervisory control.

        In a few fields, obtaining of a prior administrative act constitute preconditions for review by the courts. About the pre-conditions for a complaint see also answers to p. 22 and 23.

        An administrative court which receives an action or protest verifies the compliance of the action or protest with the requirements provided for in the Code of Administrative Court Procedure which among others foresees that the action must state the rights or freedoms of the person filing the action which are violated or restricted by the contested administrative act or measure, and in an action for the establishment of the existence or absence of a public law relationship or the unlawfulness of an administrative act or measure to set out additionally the legitimate interest in the establishment of the fact in question of the person filing the action.

        After acceptance of an administrative matter, however pre-trial proceedings are conducted in which the court prepares the matter so that it can be adjudicated without interruptions in one court session.

      • 22. Right to bring a case before the court

        Only a person who finds that his or her rights have been violated or his or her freedoms have been restricted by an administrative act or measure has the right to file an action with an administrative court. An action for the establishment of the existence or absence of a public law relationship or the unlawfulness of an administrative act or measure may be filed by a person who has legitimate interest in the matter. There are also judgments of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court interpreting the legitimate interest which state, that the legitimate interest cannot be public interest, but the legitimate interest can on the other hand exist also in preventive or rehabilitating purposes.

        According to the State Libality Act, a person may also request that an administrative act be not issued or administrative measure be not taken if the administrative act or measure would violate the rights of the person and would probably bring about consequences which would be impossible to eliminate upon later contestation of the administrative act or measure.

        A protest against an administrative act or measure may be filed with an administrative court by an agency or official to whom the corresponding right is granted by law.

        An association of persons, including an association, which is not a legal person, may file an action with an administrative court in the interests of the members of the association or other persons if the corresponding right is granted to the association by law.

        An agency, official or other person performing administrative functions in public law may file an action against an individual or against a legal person in private law only in the cases provided by law. In a dispute concerning issues of service, an official is deemed to be an individual. In review, by way of administrative court procedure, of actions against an individual, or a legal person in private law, such individual or legal person has the rights and obligations of an agency, official or other person performing administrative functions in public law, taking into consideration the nature of the action filed against the individual, or the legal person in private law. Every person shall file an individual action with a court.

      • 23. Admissibility conditions

        The legal situation in Estonia meets the requirements and suggestions set in the Recommendation R (2004) 20 of the Committee of Ministers to member states of the Council of Europe on judicial review of administrative acts, article B p.2a.

        The persons or bodies that want to challenge an administrative act or operation have to demonstrate an interest in the annulment of the act (see previous point). They have to prove that one of their rights has been infringed.

        Unless different jurisdiction is provided by law, an action or a protest shall be filed with the administrative court of the seat or place of service of the agency, official or other person who issued the administrative act or took the administrative measure against which an action or protest is filed.

        In the process of amending the Code of Administrative Procedure, which is being proceeded in the Parliament at the moment, there have been made proposals to foresee that all actions and protests shall be filed of the seat or place of the person or body filing the action or protest.
        There are also some other so to say technical requirements, which have to be met while filing the action or the protest. An action or protest shall be filed in writing and shall set out the following: 1) the name and permanent residence or seat (postal address) of the person filing the action or protest and the position and telecommunications numbers of the person filing the protest; 2) the clearly expressed request of the person filing the action or protest pursuant to § 6 of this Code; 3) the name of the agency or the name and the position of the official or other person performing administrative functions in public law who issued the contested administrative act or took the contested measure; 4) the reasons why the person filing the action or protest finds that the administrative act or the measure is unlawful.

      • 24. Time limits to apply to the courts

        An action for annulment of an administrative act may be filed with an administrative court within thirty days after the date on which the administrative act was made public, unless otherwise provided by law.

        If an administrative authority refuses to issue an administrative act or take a measure, an action requiring the issue of the administrative act or the taking of the measure may be filed within thirty days after the date on which refusal was communicated, unless otherwise provided by law.

        An action for compensation for damage caused by an administrative act or measure may be filed within three years after the person filing the action became aware or should have become aware of the damage and of the person who caused it, but not later than within ten years after the administrative act was issued or the unlawful measure was taken.

        An action for declaration of an administrative act or measure unlawful may be filed within three years after the administrative act was issued or the unlawful measure was taken.

        An action for the establishment of the existence or absence of a public law relationship may be filed without a term.

        If an action is filed after the expiry of the term for filing actions with an administrative court, the action shall set out the request for restoration of the term and the reasons why the term was allowed to expire.

        In pre-trial proceedings, an administrative court verifies whether an action was filed within a specified term and, after having obtained the opinions of the other participants in the proceedings, adjudicates an application for restoration of the term for filing an action. An administrative court shall satisfy an application for the restoration of a term if the court finds that the term was allowed to expire for good reason. If an administrative court finds that an action was filed in violation of a term and an application for the restoration of the term was not submitted, or if the administrative court denies an application for the restoration of a term, the court shall terminate the proceedings by a ruling. An appeal against a ruling on adjudication of an application for restoration of a term or a ruling on termination of proceedings may be filed with a circuit court within ten days after the receipt of the ruling.

        Against a ruling of the circuit court on adjudication of an application for restoration of a term or a ruling on termination of proceedings a may be complained (an appeal in cassation proceedings) to the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court.

      • 25. Administrative acts excluded from judicial review

        The law does not distinguish any administrative acts or actions that are not open to review by the courts.

      • 26. Screening procedures

        Adjudication of disputes in public law for which a different procedure is prescribed by law (for instance constitutional matters) does not fall within the competence of administrative courts, the courts need therefore to verify the jurisdiction and the competence of the court. In the first and second instance there are no special screening (filter) procedures foreseen except for verifying the competence of the court and also the conditions that an action and requirements that an appeal must meet, see answers to the points 21-23. These preliminary procedures and pre-trial proceedings do not include court hearings except in the cases, where it is questionable, whether an action is filed after the expiry of the term for filing actions and where it has to be proven by a testimony of a witness.

        In the Supreme Court however there exists a system according to which not all complaints are admitted to adjudication. The Supreme Court shall accept an appeal for cassation if:

        1) the appeal contests the correctness of application of a provision of substantive law or requests annulment of a court decision due to material violation of a provision of court procedure which has or may have resulted in an incorrect court decision;

        2) a judgment of the Supreme Court is essential for the uniform application of the law.

        An appeal shall not be accepted if the Supreme Court is convinced that the appeal is obviously unjustified. The Supreme Court shall decide on acceptance of an appeal without summoning the participants in the proceedings. Acceptance for proceedings of matters which fall within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court shall be decided by a panel of at least three members of the Supreme Court on the basis provided for in law regulating judicial procedure (one of them is a justice of the Administrative Law Chamber). A matter is accepted for proceedings if the hearing thereof is demanded at least by one justice of the Supreme Court. Acceptance of an appeal shall be decided after requiring submission of the documents.

        If the Supreme Court is convinced that the request for acceptance of an appeal is justified or unjustified, the Supreme Court may accept or refuse to accept the appeal without prior request of the documents. Upon non-acceptance of an appeal, the basis for non-acceptance shall be indicated in the ruling (but this is only a reference to a relevant article in the Code of Administrative Court Procedure). If an appeal is not accepted, the court files shall be returned to the corresponding courts and the appeal together with the ruling on refusal to accept the appeal shall be included in the circuit court file. Copies of the ruling shall be sent to all the participants in the proceeding.

      • 27. Form of application

        The application has to be presented in writing, using computer or a typewriter. The Supreme Court has established that the application can also be presented in readable handwriting.

        The Code of Administrative Procedure foresees the facts that have to be presented if the application, but no specific forms exist.

        The action must clearly express the request of the person filing the action or protest, the content of the contested administrative act or measure, the reasons why the person filing the action or protest finds that the administrative act or the measure is unlawful, the rights or freedoms of the person filing the action which are violated or restricted by the contested administrative act or measure, thus the application needs to be founded (see also answer to the p. 23).

      • 28. Possibility of bringing proceedings via information technologies

        The possibility of bringing proceedings via the Internet is provided by procedural laws. This happens only when the applicant is able to prove his or her identity by specific certification with Estonian Identification Card (using digital signature). Reading of the digital signature requires special technical possibilities, which all courts in Estonia possess.

        Estonian government has set an objective to collect and maintain the data concerning judicial proceedings (and, in addition, also pre-trial proceedings of criminal and misdemeanour matters) in digital from and to implement an e- file system for that purpose. E-file is a digital information system, which guarantees an operative overview to the parties in criminal, civil, administrative and misdemeanour cases of different phases of proceedings, procedural acts and decisions (judgments and rulings) taken. E-file system is a database belonging to the state information system, which is developed by the Ministry of Justice (the Centre of Registers and Information Systems – an agency in the area of administration of the Ministry, is in charge of the IT development, in co-operation with the Riigikogu, the Police Board, the Ministry of Finances, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications).

        By now the E-file system has been implemented in criminal procedure. For example, the Prosecutor’s Office sends the statement of charges to a court through the E-file system and no documents on paper are sent to the court. Also, in civil procedure it is possible, through the E-file system, to submit a petition for application of expedited procedure in a matter of a payment order, and monitor the proceeding of the petition in the court through a public E- file. Access is guaranteed after authentication (ID-card) only to those court cases in which the person is directly involved. Access is guaranteed in the extent established in procedural laws. The transfer to the E-file system in administrative court procedure is currently in the planning phase.

        Although the implementation of the E-file system in still in progress, the courts use special unified information system in their everyday work already since 2006. Information system of court decisions (information system of courts) contains all decisions of all courts (those that have entered into force as well as those that have not yet entered into force, final and preliminary decisions and decisions of procedural nature (judgments, rulings, orders)), as well as other documents drawn up by the courts in the course of court proceedings (minutes of hearings, letters, etc.).

        All the court judgments are made available to the public via Internet through the same information system, the Supreme Court judgments and rulings on refusal or acceptance of an appeal shall be published on the web-page of the Supreme Court at www.riigikohus.ee .

        Publication of the judgments made in administrative cases, which have entered into force, is regulated by the Code of Civil Procedure (see also topics 43 and 50). Based at the request of the data subject or at the court's initiative the name of the person and other personal data in the judgment shall be replaced by initials or other characters, the data concerning the state or local government agencies, legal persons in public law or other public authority must be disclosed. Procedural law also provides for the possibility not to publish the judgment in its entirety or to publish only the conclusion thereof. The court may refrain from publishing the judgment only if the judgment contains private or sensitive personal data or if publication of the judgment (by hiding the data partially by characters) may materially breach the inviolability of private life of the person.

      • 29. Court fees

        For filing an action with an administrative court and for filing an appeal pursuant to appellate procedure, a state fee shall be paid pursuant to law. The pecuniary charge for lodging an application for judicial review is: 250 Estonian kroons in the first and second instance court (16 Euros), 400 Estonian kroons in the Supreme Court (25 Euros), this is called a payment of security on cassation.

        A document, which certifies the payment of security on cassation, shall be annexed to an appeal in cassation. The appeal in cassation will be not examined if the payment of security on cassation has not been paid. An application for release from payment of security may be filed to the Supreme Court together with an appeal in cassation. An appeal may be filed against a court ruling by which a court refuses to release a person from the payment of a state fee or security.

        The court can decide that the pecuniary charge is not needed when the applicant proves that he or she is not able to pay the charge.

        If a court finds that a person is insolvent, the court may, at the request of the person, fully or partially exempt the person from payment of a state fee into the public revenues by a ruling. Exemption from payment of state fee in a court of first instance shall not free a person from paying the state fee for an appeal. An application for release from payment of state fee for an appeal filed pursuant to appellate procedure shall be filed to the circuit court together with the appeal.

        As to the security for an appeal in cassation, if an appeal in cassation is allowed and a petition is satisfied in full or in part, the security shall be refunded on the basis of a judgment or a ruling of the Supreme Court. If an appeal in cassation or a petition is dismissed, the security shall be transferred into the public revenues. Security shall be transferred into the public revenues also if the appeal in cassation, appeal against a ruling, or a petition for review or petition for the correction of a court error is not accepted.

      • 30. Compulsory representation

        The recourse to a solicitor/lawyer or counsel is not compulsory. If the judge believes, that the applicant would be more able to defend his or her rights with the help of a solicitor/lawyer, the judge recommends the applicant to hire a solicitor/lawyer.

        In the Supreme Court in the oral hearings sworn advocates or senior clerks of sworn advocates may be representatives of the parties. This does not apply to the representatives of agencies, officials or other persons performing administrative functions in public law and to the representatives of supervisory agencies and state or local government agencies involved by the court - they can be represented also by their officials and lawyers.

      • 31. Legal aid

        Possibilities to refund fees of a solicitor/lawyer through legal aid exist. State legal aid is granted on the bases and pursuant to the procedure prescribed in the State Legal Aid Act. The person has to prove that he or she is not able to hire a lawyer and the judge appoints him or her a lawyer free of charge (financed by the state). Only members of the Estonian Bar Association can render services financed through legal aid. The applicant is free to nominate the solicitor/lawyer he or she wants to represent him or her, provided he or she has a written consent of the particular lawyer.

        If the applicant gives the court false facts about his or her economic situation, the applicant will have to pay the sum of the aid back to the state. Legal aid is granted to natural or legal persons not only in connection with proceedings in an Estonian court, but also in connection with proceedings in an administrative authority. Legal aid is granted by the court conducting proceedings in the matter or the court whose jurisdiction would include conducting proceedings in the matter. Refusal to grant legal aid can be challenged before the courts.

      • 32. Fine for abusive or unjustified applications

        There is none. However, according to the case law of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court, one of the purposes of the payment of security on cassation has been also avoid abusive applications. This was more accurate before, since the amount of the payment on security on cassation was one-half of the minimum monthly wage, now days it is a fixed sum of 400 crowns and therefore can hardly be seen as preventing abusive applications.

    • B. MAIN TRIAL

      • 33. Fundamental principles of the main trial

        The following fundamental principles govern the main trial hearing:
        - right to obtaining all information concerning the case (right to examine the file, make copies of the file),
        - right to participate in the court hearing (and know the panel of the court hearing the matter),
        - right to the defence/the right to a fair hearing,
        - right to submit petitions of challenge and applications,
        - right to give statements to the court,
        - right to submit reasons and considerations related to all questions which arise in the course of the hearing of the matter in court, contest petitions, reasons and considerations submitted by other participants in the proceedings, submit questions to other participants in the proceedings,
        - right to submit evidence (participate in the inspection and examination of evidence, submit questions to the witnesses and experts)
        - principle of investigation (during proceedings in a matter, an administrative court can, if necessary collect evidence on its own initiative),
        - right to a hear the matter within reasonable time,
        - obligation to exercise one’s procedural rights in good faith.

        There exists the principle of a public hearing, except for the cases when the applicant asks the court to declare it closed. A court may declare that a session or a part of it be held in camera in order to maintain a state or business secret, protect the private or family life of a person, maintain the confidentiality of messages or in the interests of a minor or the administration of justice.

        The participants in proceedings have also other procedural rights provided for in the Code of Administrative Court Procedure.

        These principles derive from national law (legislations or/and case-law) as well as European law (Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Law of the European Communities, especially case law of the European Court of Justice ).

      • 34. Judicial impartiality

        In Estonia justice is administered solely by the courts. No one has the right to interfere with the administration of justice. Acts which are directed at disturbing the administration of justice are prohibited in courts and in the vicinity thereof. The main guarantees for independence of judges are: judges shall be appointed for life and may be removed from office only by a court judgment.
        Criminal charges against a judge of a court of the first instance and a court of appeal may be brought during their term of office only on the proposal of the Supreme Court en banc with the consent of the President of the Republic. Criminal charges against a justice of the Supreme Court may be brought during his or her term of office only on the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice with the consent of the majority of the membership of the parliament. Judges shall not be employed other than in the office of judge, except for teaching or research.

        A judge shall not be: 1) a member of the Parliament or member of a rural municipality or city council; 2) a member of a political party; 3) a founder, managing partner, member of the management board or supervisory board of a company, or director of a branch of a foreign company; 4) a trustee in bankruptcy, member of a bankruptcy committee or compulsory administrator of immovable; 5) an arbitrator chosen by the parties to a dispute.

        Judges shall be appointed to office on the basis of a public competition (see topic 12). Upon assuming office, a judge shall take the following oath: “I swear to remain faithful to the Republic of Estonia and its constitutional order. I swear to administer justice according to my conscience and in conformity with the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and other Acts.” A first instance court judge’s salary is a sum which equals to four average salaries in Estonia in the previous year, for the circuit court judges the basis is 4,5 and for Supreme Court justices 5,5 average salaries in the state according to official statistics. In addition to a salary, judges shall receive additional remuneration for years of service as follows: 1) as of the fifth year in employment as a judge – 5 per cent of the salary; 2) as of the tenth year in employment as a judge – 10 per cent of the salary; 3) as of the fifteenth year in employment as a judge – 15 per cent of the salary.

        A person who has been employed as a judge for at least fifteen years has the right to receive a judge’s old-age pension when he or she attains the pensionable age. The amount of a judge’s old-age pension shall be 75 per cent of his or her last salary.

        As to the impartiality, a judge must perform his or her official duties in an impartial manner and without self-interest and shall comply with service interests also outside service. The participants in proceedings have the right to submit objections against the judges hearing their matter if they have doubts in judge's impartiality.

        A judge cannot participate in the hearing of a matter and shall be removed if he or she is directly or indirectly personally interested in the outcome of the matter or if other circumstances give reason to doubt his or her impartiality.

        A judge shall be removed if: 1) he or she has participated in a previous hearing of the matter as a witness, expert, interpreter, translator or representative; 2) he or she is a relative (parent, child, adoptive parent, adoptive child, brother, sister, grandparent or grandchild), the spouse or a relative by marriage (spouse's parent, child, adoptive parent, adoptive child, brother, sister, grandparent or grandchild) of a party or other participant in the proceeding;

        Persons who are related to each other by blood or by marriage as shall not be included in the same panel of a court.

        A judge who participates in the hearing of a matter in the court of first instance cannot participate in the hearing of the matter in the circuit court or Supreme Court. A judge who participates in the hearing of a matter in a circuit court cannot participate in the hearing of the matter in a first instance court or the Supreme Court. A judge who participates in the hearing of a matter in the Supreme Court cannot participate in the hearing of the matter in a county, city or circuit court.

      • 35. Possibility to rely on the new legal arguments in the course of proceedings

        The participants in proceedings have the right to submit petitions of challenge and applications and submit reasons and considerations related to all questions which arise in the course of the hearing of the matter in court during the main trial until the main hearing is closed. The other party has the right to ask to be given time to answer the newly-raised arguments, which may mean the main hearing is cancelled and will take place later.

        The other parties (the agency, official or other person performing administrative functions in public law who issued the administrative act or took the measure against which an action or protest is filed; the parties to a public law contract; a third person if the rights or freedoms of the person which are protected by law may be adjudicated in the hearing of the matter; to a public law contract) also have the right to bring new evidence, raise new legal arguments and/or submit new petitions (or withdraw submitted petitions).
        In other words, parties have equal rights during court procedure.

        In the first instance an administrative court hears a matter to the extent requested in the action or protest. An administrative court is however not bound by the wording of an action or protest. A person filing an action or protest may amend a request set out in the action or protest until the summations in an administrative court if the rest of the participants in proceedings consent to the amendments or if the court deems the amendments purposeful.

        A participant in a proceeding is presumed to consent to the amendments of a request set out in an action or protest if the participant does not contest the amendments of the request or indicates in a document submitted to the court or in the oral hearing of the matter that the participant is bound to the amended action or protest.

        If in an appeal new evidence is submitted which was not submitted in the court of first instance or the hearing of new witnesses is requested, the appeal must set out the reasons why the evidence could not be submitted or the witnesses heard in the administrative court of first instance. A circuit court can take into consideration new evidence, which was not submitted to the court of first instance if the court finds that the evidence was not submitted for good reason. Claims which were not filed in the court of first instance cannot be filed in a circuit court. If during the preparation of a matter a circuit court finds that the evidence verified by the administrative court of first instance and the additional evidence submitted by the participants in the proceedings is not sufficient for the just adjudication of the matter, the court may propose to the participants in the proceedings that they submit additional evidence, or collect evidence on its own initiative.

        The Supreme Court verifies on the basis of an appeal in cassation whether the circuit court and the court of first instance have observed the provisions of court procedure and applied the law correctly. A judgment of the Supreme Court is based on the facts established by the judgment of a lower court. The Supreme Court cannot establish facts, which constitute the cause of an appeal. The Supreme Court is not bound by the limits of the appeal and the judgment can automatically be annulled in the case of a serious violation of a provision of court procedure by the lower courts, such as if:
        1) the matter was adjudicated by a court (judge) who pursuant to law did not have the right to adjudicate the matter;
        2) the decision of the court concerns a person who was not summoned to court pursuant to the requirements of law;
        3) the judge has not signed the judgment or any of the judges has not signed the judgment or the judgment has been signed by judges (a judge) who were (was) not designated in the judgment;
        4) the minutes of the court session are not included in the file concerning the matter.

      • 36. Persons allowed to intervene during the main hearing

        The persons who can be involved are the following:

        1) a third person if the rights or freedoms of the person which are protected by law may be adjudicated in the hearing of the matter;
        2) an agency or official exercising supervision;
        3) a representative of a state or local government agency.

        An administrative court may involve above mentioned persons to provide an opinion with regard to a matter.

        A third person may also file an appeal or an appeal in cassation if he or she is not pleased with the judgement of previous instance.

      • 37. Existence and role of the representative of the State (“ministère public”) in administrative cases

        There is no special representative of the state, who represents the interests of the state and can submit pleadings in cases concerning administrative law. State authorities are involved in cases only as parties to the case or persons involved to the case as agencies or officials exercising supervision or somehow connected to the matter as representatives of state or local government.

        A protest against an administrative act or measure may be filed with an administrative court by an agency or official to whom the corresponding right is granted by law. There are no time-limits as to the filing of the protest.

      • 38. Existence of an institution or a person with a role analogous to the French "Commissaire du gouvernement"

        The Chancellor of Justice (also called as Legal Chancellor, has also functions of an ombudsman) is in his or her activities an independent official who reviews the legislation of general application of the legislative and executive powers and of local governments for conformity with the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and the Acts of the Republic of Estonia. The Chancellor of Justice analyses proposals made to him or her concerning the amendment of Acts, passage of new Acts and activities of state agencies, and, if necessary, presents a report to the Parliament.

        If the Chancellor of Justice finds that legislation of general application, in full or in part, is contrary to the Constitution or the law, he or she shall propose to the body which passed the legislation that the legislation or a provision thereof be brought into conformity with the Constitution and the law within twenty days. Everyone has the right of recourse to the Chancellor of Justice in order to have his or her rights protected by way of filing a petition to request verification whether or not a state agency, local government agency or body, legal person in public law, natural person or legal persons in private law performing public duties adheres to the principles of observance of the fundamental rights and freedoms and to the principles of sound administration.

        If the body which passed legislation of general application has not brought the legislation or a provision thereof into conformity with the Constitution or the law within twenty days after the date of receipt of a proposal of the Chancellor of Justice, the Chancellor of Justice shall propose to the Supreme Court that the legislation of general application or a provision thereof be repealed. However these issues concern the constitutionality review and not administrative jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

      • 39. Termination of court proceedings before the final judgment

        If a person filing an action or protest fails to eliminate the deficiencies (see the requirements in point 23) within a specified term, the administrative court shall, by a ruling, return the action or protest to the person filing the action or protest.

        An administrative court terminates proceedings by a ruling:
        1) if the matter does not fall within the competence of an administrative court;
        2) if the person who filed an action or protest discontinues the action or protest and the court accepts the discontinuance;
        3) if an administrative act against which an action or protest is filed has been repealed, or an unissued administrative act has been issued, or a suspended administrative act has been executed or a measure taken, except if the person who filed the action or protest applies for the hearing of the matter;
        4) if there is a decision in the same matter which has entered into force or if the discontinuance of an action or protest in the same matter has been accepted by a court ruling;
        5) upon the death of the person who filed the action, or the death of the individual, or legal person in private law against whom the action was filed, if the legal relationship under dispute does not allow legal succession, or upon the dissolution of a legal person without legal succession;
        6) if the participants in the proceedings settle and the court approves the settlement.

        If proceedings are terminated, a person has no further recourse to the court in the same matter.
        An appeal may be filed against a ruling on termination of proceedings.

      • 40. Role of the court registry in serving procedural documents

        All the documentation presented by one party to the court is forwarded to the other party.

      • 41. Duty to provide evidence

        It is presumed, that parties provide all evidence needed for adjudication. Though, according to the principle of investigation, an administrative court is required to establish the facts relevant to the matter and, if necessary, collect evidence on its own initiative for such purpose.

      • 42. Form of the hearing

        The hearing is oral and public (see also answer to p. 33). A court may declare that a session or a part of it be held in camera in order to maintain a state or business secret, protect the private or family life of a person, maintain the confidentiality of messages or in the interests of a minor or the administration of justice. The district courts and the Supreme Court can adjudicate matters without court hearing (in written proceedings) when the court finds it possible and where the parties have not requested a court hearing.

        The parties or witnesses in prison do not have to come to the court, there are certain cameras and monitors in prisons and in courtrooms that let the person communicate with the court and vice versa.

        All parties to the case are free to participate in the court hearing. The hearing is conducted by the judge (or judges, if the case is being solved by several judges as is at circuit court and Supreme Court level). As court hearings are public, all citizens are free to participate in the hearing. As the witnesses who are going to testify at the hearing cannot participate in the hearing before the testimony is given, the judge asks the hearing is opened whether there are no witnesses-to-be among the public. If there are none, everyone is free to stay. If there are people, whom one party has brought to the court to testify, they are sent out to wait in the court-house. If the judge satisfies the application to listen to the witnesses, the witness is sent in.

      • 43. Judicial deliberation

        A judgment of an administrative court shall be pronounced in the court room or made public in the court office within 20 days after the end of court session (in the Supreme Court the judgments are made public no later than within thirty days after the hearing took place). The courts make judgments on behalf of the Republic of Estonia. If the judgment is made by collegial body, judges shall resolve differences of opinion which arise in the adjudication of a matter by majority vote, unless otherwise provided by this Code. In a circuit court and in the Supreme Court, the judge in charge of preparation of the matter shall give his or her opinion first, unless he or she is the presiding judge in the matter, and voting shall continue according to seniority in office, starting with the most junior judge. Upon an equal division of votes, the vote of the presiding judge decides the matter. The presiding judge shall vote last. A judge does not have the right to abstain from voting or to remain undecided. The judge who maintains the minority position does not have the right to abstain from voting on any subsequent difference of opinion. He or she shall accept the opinion of the majority in the previous vote. A judge who maintains a minority position may present a dissenting opinion. In Estonia the judges who remained in minority in circuit court or Supreme Court may write their dissenting opinions and they are made public.

        Judicial deliberations are taken place in the presence of only by judges, the advisers and practicants are allowed to take part in the deliberations on special consent. The disclosure of discussions which take place during the deliberations of judges is prohibited. A judge shall not disclose discussions which take place at the time the decision is made. The duty of confidentiality of deliberations applies for an unspecified term and remains in force also after termination of the service relationship. If a retired judge does not comply with the duty of confidentiality or the duty of confidentiality of deliberations, his or her judge’s pension may be reduced by not more than 25 per cent as a disciplinary punishment. The pension shall not be reduced for longer than one year.

        After a judgment of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court is signed by all the justices in the panel, a copy of a judgment shall be served on the participants in the proceedings in the office of the Chamber, or at their request, shall be sent to them by post within five days after the judgment is made. (The date of a judgment is the date on which it is signed.) At the end of the court session, the court shall communicate when and where the judgment shall be pronounced or made public. If the participants in the proceedings so desire, they may receive copies of a court judgment or court ruling from the court office after the judgment or ruling is pronounced or made public. A copy of a court judgment or court ruling shall be immediately sent to the agency or official or other person performing administrative functions in public law who issued the administrative act or took the measure against which an action or protest was filed, and to the person who filed the protest. The date of a court judgment is the date on which the judgment is made public.

    • C. JUDGMENT

      • 44. Grounds for the judgment

        The grounds of the judgment are given in details. The aim is: the judgment has to be lawful and grounded. The parties and the public have to understand, why the court made a particular decision. From the beginning of 2006, the judgment can be made without grounds on condition, that both of the parties have declared at the hearing they won’t appeal the judgment. Presumably those cases are going to be very rare.

        A court judgment shall be lawful and reasoned. Upon making a judgment, a court shall evaluate the evidence, decide which facts are established, which Act or legislation established on the basis of an Act applies in the matter and whether the action should be satisfied. If several complains are filed in a matter, the court shall make a judgment concerning all of them. judgment shall consist of an introduction, descriptive part, statement of reasons and conclusion. The introduction of a judgment sets out the name of the court making the judgment, the names of the judges, the time of the court session, the time and place the judgment is made, the number of the matter, the names of the parties and their representatives.

        The descriptive part of a judgment shall set out the action, the reasons therefore and the objections of the other party. If it is a judgment of a higher court the judgments of previous courts will be described. The statement of reasons of a judgment shall set out the facts established by the court, the conclusions reached on the basis thereof, the evidence on which the conclusions of the court are based and the Acts which were applied by the court. In a judgment, a court shall substantiate its reasons for not agreeing with the allegations of a party or another. A court shall analyse all gathered evidence in a judgment. If a court disregards any evidence, it shall justify this in the judgment.

        The conclusion of a judgment shall set out the position of the court concerning the satisfaction of an action or not, wholly or partially, and the procedure and term for appeal/cassation against the judgment except if it is a Supreme Court judgment. If a party requests that the court divide the legal costs, the court shall indicate how the legal costs are divided in the decision. Spelling and calculation mistakes in a court judgment may be corrected before the court judgment is made public.

      • 45. Applicable national and international legal norms

        The reference norms are mainly acts, laws and regulations of the state, but also case-law (mostly decisions of the Supreme Court). The constitution is being referred to quite often. The courts are using more often international norms, Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Starting from 1. May 2004 the regulations and directives of the European Union and the case law of the ECJ is quite often referred to. Personal conviction of a judge is usually not used as a base for conclusions made in the judgment.

      • 46. Criteria and methods of judicial review

        A specific reviewal is reserved for the acts translating the exercise of discretionary powers by administrative authorities. If an agency, official or other person performing administrative functions in public law is authorised to act on the basis of discretion, a court shall also verify whether an administrative act was issued or a measure taken in adherence to the limits and purpose of discretion, the principles of proportionality and equal treatment and other generally recognised principles of law.

        In other cases, the court can find, whether other decisions, more respectful of citizens’ rights, were possible. The court cannot exceed the limits given by the application, though (for example if the court sees, that an act is unlawful but if the applicant has not contested it, the court cannot declare the particular act unlawful). The Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court tends to prefer teleological interpretation to the interpretation based on purely the text of legislation. If an administrative court sees that a law or a regulation, which is relevant in order to solve the case, is in contradiction with the constitution or European law, the court will not apply it and launches a constitutionality review control at the Supreme Court.

      • 47. Distribution of legal costs

        Legal costs are:

        1) state fees;

        2) costs essential to proceedings;

        3) security (in the Supreme Court by filing an appeal in cassation). Costs essential to proceedings are:
        1) fees for experts, interpreters and translators and compensation for witnesses;
        2) costs of obtaining documentary evidence and conducting inspections and on- the-spot visits of inspection of physical evidence;
        3) costs for legal assistance (an advocate who participates in a matter as a representative or the costs of another person who provides legal assistance); 4) postage and costs of serving summonses;
        5) costs relating to the publication of summonses and notices in the newspaper;
        6) wages which a participant in the proceeding does not receive due to absence from work, and travel and accommodation expenses and daily allowance.

        The principle is: the loser party pays both his or her and the winning party’s legal costs. If an appeal is satisfied in part, also in the case of adjudication of a dispute arising from an administration contract, legal costs shall be divided in proportion to the satisfied part of the appeal. There is one exception: the other party (against whom the application is filed) is a state or local government authority usually having lawyers on the pay-list. Therefore, if the state or local government authority wins the case and has legal costs, the court decides, whether hiring of a lawyer was inevitable.

        Secondly the court decides whether the amount paid on legal costs is in proportion to the complexity of the proceeding. The court has though the competence to diminish the amount of legal costs to be compensated or to decide to let each party pay for their own legal costs. A court may reduce the costs of an advocate who participates in a matter as a representative or the costs of another person who provides legal assistance if such costs are unreasonably high. For the payment of legal costs to be ordered, a list of legal costs and expense receipts shall be submitted to the court before the summations. If a list of legal costs and expense receipts are not submitted, payment of legal costs shall not be ordered.

        If a participant in a proceeding abuses the procedural rights of the participant by failing to appear in a court session without good reason or otherwise delays the proceeding in bad faith, the court may order the participant to pay a portion of the legal costs borne by the other participants in the proceeding. A third person bears the costs relating to the conduct of an assessment or an on-the-spot visit of inspection or the summoning of a witness as legal costs if the person has applied to the court for the performance of such procedural acts.

      • 48. Composition of the court (single judge or a panel)

        The principle is: the proceeding in a first instance court is decided by a single judge. The exception is in very difficult cases, where a party has requested it or where the judge has decided it would be more appropriate to decide the case by several judges. In that case there will be three judges who all have equal right and responsibility regarding the proceeding.

        In the circuit court (second instance) the case is generally decided by three judges.

        In the Supreme Court the case is usually also decided by three judges, but in difficult matters by all members of the Administrative Law Chamber (five judges) or if the case involves also constitutional matters even by all of the judges of the Supreme Court (19). At a reasoned proposal of a member of the Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court, a matter may be referred for hearing to the full panel of the Administrative Chamber (5 judges). A matter shall be referred for hearing to the full panel of the Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court also if the majority of the panel of the court hearing the matter wants to amend an existing opinion of the Administrative Chamber on the application of the law.

      • 49. Dissenting opinions

        Where the case is heard by several judges, the expression of individual judicial opinion is allowed. A judge who maintains a minority position may present a dissenting opinion which shall be made public together with the judgment.

        Dissenting opinion is also possible in the Supreme Court. The dissenting or concurring opinions of the Supreme Court justices are published together with the judgments and they are not very rare, especially in constitutional matters. In administrative matters the dissenting opinions are very rare (hardly ever) (see also topics 28, 43 and 50).

      • 50. Public pronouncement and notification of the judgment

        A decision made in administrative procedure is always delivered in writing.

        A judgment of an administrative court shall be pronounced in the court room or made public in the court office within 20 days after the end of court session. At the end of the court session, the court shall communicate when and where the judgment shall be pronounced or made public (see also topic 43). The time of making public of the judgment and any changes thereto shall be published at the website of the court immediately after the time is set.

        The court may prepare a judgment in electronic form in which case it shall bear the digital signature of the judge or be signed in another technically safe manner. If the judgment has been prepared in electronic form, the participants in the proceeding shall be given a printout.

        The judgments of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court are always delivered only in writing, they are never pronounced in public.

    • D. EFFECTS AND EXECUTION OF JUDGMENT

      • 51. Authority of the judgment. Res judicata, stare decisis

        Execution of a decision which has entered into force is mandatory for the participants in the proceedings and their legal successors.
        Facts which are established in one administrative matter by a court judgment which has entered into force shall not be contested in another administrative matter in which the same participants in the proceedings participate. The positions set out in a decision of the Supreme Court on the interpretation of the law are obligatory for the court conducting a new hearing of a matter.

        After the entry into force of a judgment or ruling, the participants in the proceedings or their legal successors shall not file the same claim on the same basis with a court.

        The judgments of the Supreme Court have in practice a precedent value, which exceeds the effects only for the parties. Thus the solution presented in the Supreme Court judgment can be used in other cases, where similar legal issues arise. The Supreme Court tends to refer to its previous judgments.

      • 52. Powers of the court in limiting the effects of judgment in time

        The court can decide upon the details of the effects of the judgment. A court may set a term for the execution of a court judgment, which begins to run upon entry into force of the judgment.

      • 53. Right to the execution of judgment

        The Code of Administrative Procedure prescribes that a decision shall be executed after it has entered into force. A court judgment shall be executed immediately in the cases provided by law (e.g. judgments concerning payment of public officials wage), or if the court has ordered the immediate execution of the judgment in the cases provided by law. Judgments requiring monetary payment are enforced by bailiffs. For the rest of the judgments there is no state authority to ensure the execution of the judgments. For a failure to comply with a precept contained in a court judgment, the court shall impose a fine of up to 100 000 Estonian kroons (6400 Euros) on the participant in proceeding at fault.

      • 54. Recent efforts to reduce the length of court proceedings

        Many of the administrative law cases are complex and time-consuming. The administrative bodies of judiciary, Ministry of Justice and judges themselves have contributed to fit to the time period which shall be considered as reasonable timeframe for adjudicating administrative law matters in the courts. Since 1st of January 2006 territorial reform of first instance courts (including administrative courts) entered into force. The reform united previous four first instance administrative courts into two (see above topic 1). These changes of courts administration have significantly relieved the overflow of applications in Tallinn administrative court and have reduced the average length of administrative court proceedings in first instance courts from 172 days in 2006 to 123 days in 2008.

        The laws do not envisage specific compensation to be awarded for loss caused by excessive delays in handling down judgments and/or to end the unreasonable time of a trial. Thus, there are several procedural ways foreseen to monitor the length of proceedings. E. g. if an administrative court postpones the hearing of a matter for a period longer than three months without the consent of the parties, a party may file an appeal against the ruling if the party finds that the hearing of the matter is adjourned for an unreasonably long period of time. A ruling of a circuit court concerning an appeal against such a ruling is not subject to appeal to the Supreme Court.

    • E. REMEDIES

      • 55. Sharing out of competencies between the lower courts and the supreme courts

        All of the matters are first being adjudicated in the first instance court. An appeal against the first instance court judgment is filed with the circuit court (second instance court); an appeal in cassation is filed with the Supreme Court. The first instance and appeal courts have the same functions.

        The Supreme Court only decides on the law and not any more on the facts of the case. There are no differences in substantial matters; such as for example certain cases can be heard in first instance form the Supreme Court etc. The only cases, where the Supreme Court is a court of first instance, are certain cases concerning constitutional matters: complaints against the decisions of electoral committee of the republic of Estonia or matters concerning the unlawfulness of a political party, etc.

      • 56. Recourse against judgments

        Estonia has a three-ring court system, where all of the judgments of lower courts are appealable. The Supreme Court has the capacity to decide whether to accept the cassation (to decide the case) or to reject it. The Supreme Court does not have to give grounds on such a decision, except refer to the relevant article in law which gives the Supreme Court such power of discretion (see also answer to p. 26). The Supreme Court’s decision only concerns implementation and interpretation of a law. The Supreme Court does not have the capability to decide about factual matters (does not evaluate evidence).

    • F.  EMERGENCY AND SUMMARY PROCEEDINGS / APPLICATIONS FOR INTERIM RELIEF

      • 57. Existence of emergency and/or summary proceedings

        The filing of an action or protest shall not prevent the execution or issue of an administrative act or taking of a measure against which the action or protest is filed unless otherwise provided by law.

        An administrative court may issue a ruling on the provisional protection of the rights of a person filing an action in all stages of proceedings at the reasoned request of the person filing the action or on its own initiative, if otherwise execution of a court judgment is impracticable or impossible. The judge hearing an interim relief is (can be) the same judge hearing the main proceedings.

      • 58. Requests eligible for the emergency and/or summary proceedings

        In order to issue a ruling on provisional legal protection, an application may be filed together with an action or after the filing of an action, or a challenge in mandatory pre-trial proceedings.

        An application for provisional legal protection shall be reviewed in written proceedings or at a court session. Submission of evidence and the opinions of other participants in the proceedings may be required only if this is possible without delay. Upon issue of a ruling on provisional legal protection, the public interest and the rights and freedoms of third persons shall be taken into account. The ruling may be conditional. The ruling on provisional legal protection enters into force as of the moment of communication.

        A court may annul or amend a ruling on provisional legal protection in all stages of proceedings at the request of a participant in the proceedings or on its own initiative.

        By a ruling on provisional legal protection, an administrative court may:
        1) suspend the validity or execution of a contested administrative act;
        2) prohibit the issue of a contested administrative act or taking of a contested measure;
        3) require an administrative authority to issue an administrative act being applied for or take a measure being applied for or terminate a continuing measure;
        4) apply other measures for securing an action specified in clauses

        An administrative court shall send a ruling on provisional legal protection promptly to the corresponding agency or official or other person performing administrative functions in public law for execution.

        A participant in proceedings may file an appeal against a ruling on provisional legal protection or a ruling by which an application for provisional legal protection is denied.

        A ruling of a circuit court concerning the appeal against such ruling is not subject to appeal if the ruling of a circuit court has the same outcome than that of the first instance court. According to the case law of the Supreme Court, if the circuit court overrules the first instance court ruling on provisional legal protection, an appeal in cassation to the Supreme Court has been made possible. If a ruling on provisional legal protection is issued in the first place by a circuit court, an appeal against the ruling may be in any case filed with the Supreme Court.

      • 59. Kinds of summary proceedings

        The summary jurisdiction proceedings do not differ depending on specific litigants. Upon issue of a ruling on provisional legal protection, the public interest and the rights and freedoms of third persons shall be taken into account.

  • III – NON-JUDICIAL SETTLEMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE DISPUTES

    • 60. Role of administrative authorities in the settlement of administrative disputes

      The disputes can be settled by administrative authorities or their supervisory bodies or commissions themselves in objection procedures. However, generally the objection procedure in the administrative authorities is not obligatory (in this respect there is a difference concerning the complaints of imprisoned persons – bearing in mind that such complaints are numerous the Imprisonment Act establishes a compulsory pre-trial procedure). Thus, one can address the administration or right away an administrative court.

      A person whose challenge is dismissed or whose rights are violated in objection proceedings has the right to file an action with an administrative court under the conditions and pursuant to the procedure provided by the Code of Administrative Court Procedure.

      Pursuant to the procedure provided for in the Code of Administrative Court Procedure, an action with an administrative court may be filed:
      1) for repeal of an administrative act or a portion thereof, the repeal of which has been applied for by a dismissed challenge;
      2) for issue of an administrative act, the issue of which has been applied for by a dismissed challenge;
      3) against a decision on a challenge if it violates the rights of a person regardless of the object of the challenge proceedings.

    • 61. Role of independent non-judicial bodies in the settlement of administrative disputes

      There are no independent bodies to settle administrative disputes in Estonia. The functions of the Chancellor of Justice have been described before under p. 38. The Chancellor of Justice can also settle some disputes concerning the equal treatment of persons. Everyone has the right of recourse to the Chancellor of Justice for the conduct a conciliation procedure if he or she finds that a natural person or a legal person in private law has discriminated against him or her on the basis of:
      1) sex;
      2) race;
      3) nationality (ethnic origin);
      4) colour;
      5) language;
      6) origin;
      7) religion or religious beliefs;
      8) political or other opinion;
      9) property or social status;
      10) age;
      11) disability;
      12) sexual orientation, or
      13) other attributes specified by law.

      If the parties agree on an agreement by the Chancellor of Justice, the agreement can be challenged in administrative courts only in procedural questions (if the conciliation procedure by the Chancellor of Justice has been unlawful).

    • 62. Alternative dispute resolution

      The alternative is an application to the administrative body itself, see answer to p. 60.

  • IV – ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE AND STATISTIC DATA

    • A. FINANCIAL RESOURCES MADE AVAILABLE FOR THE REVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE ACTS

      • 63. Proportion of the State budget allocated to the administration of justice

        Court system’s budget per inhabitant in Euros is 21,74 (2009) millions – total budget for court system is 28,8 million Euros for 1,3 million Estonian inhabitants. Unfortunately, it is not possible to specify the figure for administrative justice.

        The total budget of first and second instance courts in 2009 is 25 million Euros (0,41 per cent of the state budget. The budget of the Supreme Court in 2009 is 4,1 million Euros (0,07 per cent of the state budget).

        The first and second instance courts are financed from the state budget through the budget of the Ministry of Justice. Courts of the first instance and courts of appeal are administered in co-operation between the Ministry of Justice and the Council for Administration of Courts. The Supreme Court, being an independent constitutional institution, administers itself and is financed directly from the state budget.

      • 64. Total number of magistrates and judges

        There are altogether 244 judges in Estonia:
        155 of them work in four county courts, 27 in the two administrative courts, 43 in the two circuit courts and 19 in the Supreme Court.

      • 65. Percentage of judges assigned to the review of administrative acts

        There are altogether 44 administrative law judges (27 of them in first instance courts, 12 in circuit courts, and 5 of them in the Supreme Court). Therefore the percentage of judges assigned to the judicial review of activities of administrative authorities is about 18 per cent.

      • 66. Number of assistants of judges

        Judges are helped by law clerks assisting the judges in preparing and hearing of matters. In addition, a law clerk of the Supreme Court generalises the judicial practice (both of the Supreme Court and of the first and second court instances), participates in the preparation of cases for proceeding by giving opinions upon examining applications for proceedings and drafting reasoned judgments.

        The number of legal assistants (law clerks) in 2009 is:
        16 in the first instance courts (per 27 judges);
        6 in the circuit courts (per 12 judges)
        9 in the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court (per 5 judges).

        The law clerks must have higher academic education in law (e.g. master degree in law).

      • 67. Documentary resources

        All courts have libraries containing Estonian laws, the Estonian national law journals “Juridica”, legal textbooks in Estonian and foreign languages. The Supreme Court’s library is also equipped with books and journals in foreign languages.

        There is a legal information department integrated into the structure of the Supreme Court. This unit facilitates the unification of judicial practice and ensures the accessibility of relevant legal information. The legal information department systematizes and analyses court rulings and judgments and statistics, and co-ordinates the rendering of opinions on draft legislation. In 2006 the Supreme Court started to form a specialized working group of legal analysts (the group currently consists of four officials for civil, criminal, administrative law and constitutional review matters) to systematize and analyze court rulings and judgments of the lower courts and compose written analytical texts in order to help the courts to promote uniform application of laws. The areas of annual analysis will be defined in close collaboration with justices of the court. Those analytical materials are published on the website of the Supreme Court and are made available also to other judges via judicial training intranet site.

      • 68. Access to information technologies

        All the work in the courts is computerized.

        Judges obtain the following information over the Internet:
        All Estonian laws (also their previous redactions as well as consolidated versions of the laws currently in force);
        All court judgments (all of the judgments of the Supreme Court, all of the judgments of lower courts since 2001);
        All legal acts of the European Union and ECJ case-law;
        International conventions, contracts etc.

        Other materials which the judges find necessary for adjudication. All of the computers in the courts have internet connection. Every member of the court staff has a personal computer.

        There are file management systems, databases about judgments in subject matter and forms for decisions. The judges use computer programmes in writing their decisions.

      • 69. Websites of courts and other competent bodies

        The Ministry of Justice has launched a special court portal at www.kohus.ee . There is information available about the activities of the first and second instance courts; the homepage is administered and information is updated by the Ministry of Justice. Through the kohus.ee portal it is possible to move to the Supreme Court web-page www.riigikohus.ee/ .

        The relevant websites of administrative jurisdictions of Estonia are the following:
        Tallinn Administrative Court: www.kohus.ee/38410
        Tartu Administrative Court: www.kohus.ee/38412
        Tallinn Circuit Court: www.kohus.ee/38414
        Tartu Circuit Court: www.kohus.ee/38416

        The web-pages display the times of court hearings (court hearings diary), internal rules of the court and of the court offices, and other public information for people, who are involved in proceedings as well as for general public. For example, the Supreme Court’s press releases are addressed specially to general public and journalists. As of 1 January 2009 all state and local government authorities and legal persons in public law have to keep electronic documents registers, as provided by the Public Information Act. Therefore the court portal also contains public register of court judgments and rulings, applications for court proceedings and other correspondence.

        All the Supreme Court reasoned judgments are available free of charge on the web-site of the court. Decisions of the Supreme Court are organized, systematized (alphabetical table of matters) while presented on the web-page. Additionally, there is also general information about the judicial system of Estonia, proceedings, state fees, how to write a petition to a court, the list of court sessions, etc.

    • B. OTHER STATISTICS

      • 70. Number of new applications registered every year

        The total number of registered applications for review in administrative courts in 2007-2008:

            2007 2008
        First instance courts Incoming applications 2552 2736
        Circuit courts Incoming appeals 1102 1161
        Supreme Court Application for proceedings in administrative matters 745 716
          Total 4583 4613

      • 71. Number of cases heard every year by the courts or other competent bodies

        The total number of administrative cases resolved in lower courts and matters adjudicated in the Supreme Court 2007-2008 (bearing in mind that there is a system of granting a leave for appeal):

          2007 2008
        First instance courts 2651 2678
        Circuit courts 1032 1047
        Supreme Court 93 93
        Total 3596 3577

      • 72. Number of pending cases 

        Cases pending before lower courts at the end of the year:

          2007 2008
        First instance courts 931 912
        Circuit courts 342 401
        Total 1273 1313

        The figures for the Supreme Court at the end of the year:

          2007 2008
        appeals in cassation 120 96
        matters not yet adjudicated 29 43

      • 73. Average time taken between the lodging of a claim and a judgment

        In 2008, it took 123 days for an Estonian administrative court to reach a decision in an administrative matter, whereas in 2007 the length of a first instance administrative court proceeding was 144 days.

        In 2008 the Ministry of Justice introduced a new time indicator to provide further information about how Estonian judicial system manages its flow of cases, how efficiently the courts deal with backlogs – estimated average disposition time of the cases still pending before the court at certain time period (at the end of a year for example). Accordingly, at the end of 2008, the estimated length of proceedings of pending cases before Estonian administrative courts was 132 days.

      • 74. Percentage and rate of the annulment of administrative acts decisions by the lower courts

        The outcomes of administrative matters in the first instance administrative courts in 2007 – 2008

        2007
        Ruling
        Judgment
        Total
        To deny on some other basis
        44
        1
        45
        To dismiss
        40
        756
        796
        To terminate a proceeding due to discontinuance
        212
        2
        214
        To terminate a proceeding on some other basis
        98
        4
        102
        To terminate a proceeding concerning settling of a claim extra- judicially
        45
        2
        47
        To terminate a proceeding as the parties have achieved an agreement
        70
        1
        71
        To terminate a proceeding because of expiry of term and failure to restore the term
        89
        1
        90
        To satisfy
        207
        288
        495
        To satisfy in part
        3
        84
        87
        To return as not belonging to the jurisdiction of an administrative court
        162
         
        162
        To return on some other basis
        111
         
        111
        To return because of failure to rectify deficiencies
        355
         
        355
        Data not available
         
         
        76
        Total number of cases adjudicated in 2007
        1436
        1215
        2651

        2008
        Ruling
        Judgment
        Total
        To deny due to lack of right of appeal
        25
         
        25
        To deny on some other basis
        29
        2
        31
        To dismiss
        33
        725
        758
        To terminate a proceeding due to discontinuance
        131
        1
        132
        To terminate a proceeding on some other basis
        94
        1
        95
        To terminate a proceeding concerning settling of a claim extra- judicially
        44
         
        44
        To terminate a proceeding as the parties have achieved an agreement
        61
        1
        62
        To terminate a proceeding because of expiry of term and failure to restore the term
        104
         
        104
        To satisfy
        174
        296
        470
        To satisfy in part
         
        69
        69
        To return as not belonging to the jurisdiction of an administrative court
        229
         
        229
        To return on some other basis
        292
         
        292
        To return because of failure to rectify deficiencies
        284
         
        284
        Data not available
         
         
        83
        Total number of cases adjudicated in 2008
        1500
        1178
        2678

      • 75. The volume of litigation per field

        From all administrative cases solved in first instance administrative courts in 2008, there were:
         26,5% applications lodged by prisoners concerning the conditions of their imprisonment, applications to establish the unlawfulness of measures taken by notaries or bailiffs or other liberal professions, cases of extradition;
         8% applications concerning property reform (restitution);
         6% tax law cases
         5% civil service matters
         54,5% other matters.

    • C. ECONOMICS OF ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE