The Judicial system of Greece is the country's constitutionally established system of courts.
The Greek National School of Judges (ESDI) is an educational institution based in Thessaloniki, supervised by the Minister of Justice. It was established on the basis of Law 2236/1994, with the task of selecting, educating and training those intended to be appointed to positions of judicial officers of the Council of State, the Court of Auditors, administrative, civil and penal courts and public prosecutors, as well as the continuous training of judges already in service. Its operation began in 1995 and its attendance lasts one year. In order to be admitted into the School, law school graduates must first complete their internship, gain their license to practice and then pass examinations for their admission.
Promotions and placements are regulated by judicial boards while the Counsel of Ministers appoints the Presiding Judges of the two Supreme Courts.
According to the Constitution, there are three categories of courts: civil courts, penal courts and administrative courts. The supreme court of the civil and penal justice is the Court of Cassation, while the supreme court of the administrative justice is the Council of State. Hence, Greek judges belong to one of these two branches. Consequently, an administrative judge is not entitled to judge a penal or civil case, while a civil judge is entitled to judge a civil or penal case but not an administrative one.
Civil cases are judged:
Crimes are judged as follows:
The Court of Cassation examines writs of certiorari against the final decisions of the ("mixed" or not) Courts of Appeals and it can order the rehearing of a case by the lower court, if it concludes that the lower court violated the law or the principles of the procedure.
The judicial control of an administrative act goes either on its merits or not. The administrative acts of the first case are appealed against with the legal remedies of the recourse or of the suit and they belong to the jurisdiction of the Administrative Courts (of First Instance and of Appeal), while all the other administrative acts are appealed against with the legal remedy of the writ of annulment and they belong to the jurisdiction either of the Council of State or of the Administrative Court of Appeal.
The control of these acts has to do with matters of legality, namely whether they are issued in accordance with the Constitution and the laws. At second and final instance, the Council of State is always competent to judge these acts. The decisions of all the administrative courts may be appealed against with a writ of certiorari, which is judged by the Council of State.
The Chamber of Accounts is also a supreme administrative court, whose jurisdiction is limited in certain particular areas (e.g., disputes between the state and the civil servants concerning their pensions). Its decisions are irrevocable and out of the control of the Council of State.
According to the Greek judicial system every court is competent to judge the conformity, or lack thereof, of a legal provision with the Constitution. This judicial right constitutes the so-called "diffused" control of constitutionality, which is opposed to the "concentrated" control. The latter exists in most European countries, which have a Supreme Constitutional Court, such as Germany, Spain or even France, which has a Constitutional Council. Since there is no such court in Greece, all courts are deemed competent to decide upon the constitutionality of a legal provision.
The Supreme Special Court is not a "regular" and "permanent" court, namely it sits only when a case belonging to its jurisdiction arises. It dates back to 1927 when it was established after the Czechoslovak model. Its role is:
Consequently, it is the only court that can declare an unconstitutional legal provision "powerless" (not "null and void") and expel it from the Greek legal system, while the Supreme Courts can only declare it as "inapplicable" for the particular case. The decisions of the Supreme Special Court are binding for all courts, including the Supreme Courts.
At the outset of 2006, the prime minister of Greece, Kostas Karamanlis, included within the plans of the scheduled constitutional amendment the foundation of a Supreme Constitutional Court, which would take the jurisdiction of the Supreme Special Court. A supporter of the proposition had been the Minister for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works Georgios Souflias. However, shortly after the prime minister's announcement, an ardent debate broke out about the necessity of a Constitutional Court.
The government thus became ambivalent and, since any proposition never got a final form, it is not clear yet whether it entailed the concentration of the constitutional control to the Supreme Constitutional Court, replacing the present "diffused control" model of distributed legal liability of the courts, or would take a jurisdiction similar of the existing Supreme Special Court, consisting in the resolution of contradictions and disputes between the three Supreme Courts.
The Court of Justice of the European Communities considers the law of the EU superior to the national laws, including the national constitutions. This, however, applies where the European Council has expressly legislated in particular areas, this being where treaty provisions provide for secondary legislation in furtherance of the former. The Greek courts and, especially, the Council of State have avoided expressing themselves about the superiority of the Constitution or EU law.
In 2001, a new provision was added to the Constitution, according to which the owners of private mass media are not allowed to participate in public procurements. Both major parties, New Democracy (ND) and Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), agreed to this provision, aiming, according to those who proposed it, at promoting transparency. In 2005, Parliament passed a law, materialising the constitutional provision.
The European Commission reacted immediately and warned that this legal provision violates the EU law of competition. The Greek government answered that the law materialises the respective constitutional provision, which is superior to the EU law. An ardent supporter of this opinion was the professor of law and Minister for the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Nevertheless, the government receded and amended the law according to the European Commission's instructions, when the European Commission threatened to cut Community funds destined for Greece.
After the constitutional amendment of 2001, Supreme Courts decide on the constitutionality of a legal provision only in Plenary Session. By this amendment the Council of State Chambers were deprived of their competence to separately judge the constitutionality of a legal provision. Now the Chambers are obliged to submit the case to the Plenary Session of the Council of State.
Nonetheless one of the Chambers of the Council of State issued the Decision 372/2005 on a case including a problem of constitutionality, where instead of the case being submitted to the Plenary Session, it was withhold and then applied to the European Convention on Human Rights, thus annulling the administrative act. With this device the Chamber of the Council reinforced its competence without violating the Constitution and avoided a time-consuming procedure for the litigant.
According to the Constitution, the legal force of the international conventions is superior to the national laws but inferior to the Constitution.
Judiciaries of Europe
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