Organisation of justice – judicial system
Alongside the legislative and executive branches, the judiciary is considered to be the third pillar of government in a country under the rule of law. The Federal Constitutional Act (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz) provides that ordinary jurisdiction lies with the Federal Government. The judicial system is separate from the executive at all levels. Special rules exist for that area of administration of justice, which is carried out by judicial senates without instructions.
Apart from the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Austrian judiciary comprises the ordinary courts, the public prosecutor’s offices, the prisons (prisons and judicial prisons) and the probation service, which is mostly provided by a private institution:
- Ordinary courts are state institutions that decide on civil rights and obligations and on criminal charges following a formal procedure. They are established by law and are composed of independent and impartial judges who can neither be dismissed nor transferred and are only bound by the legal system.
- Public prosecutor’s offices are special bodies that are separate from the courts. Their main task is to represent the public interest in the administration of criminal justice. They direct the preliminary investigation, bring charges, and conduct the prosecution in criminal proceedings. Prosecutors are bodies of the ordinary courts.
- Prisons are responsible for the execution of custodial sentences and enforcement of measures.
- The probationary services are also part of the judicial system. They take care of persons with conditional sentences and prisoners released on probation. For the most part these tasks have been transferred to private associations, which, nevertheless, are under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The administration of justice is headed by the Federal Minister for Justice; She/he is attached to the Federal Ministry of Justice, which is one of the supreme administrative bodies of the Federal Government. The Federal Minister for Justice is a member of the Federal Government and has the political coordination, management and supreme supervision of all related services for her/his department.
In addition to the ordinary courts, Austria also has a Constitutional Court and an Administrative Court, as well as – since 1 January 2014 – administrative courts. At federal level, a Federal Administrative Court and a Federal Finance Court have been set up, each with its seat in Vienna, but also with field offices in other cities. In addition, a separate Land Administrative Court has been established in each Land. They are all not part of the judiciary in Austria.
Levels of ordinary jurisdiction
- District courts,
- Regional courts (also known as courts of first instance)
- Higher Regional Courts (also referred to as second-instance courts)
- Supreme Court
The Austrian Justice portal provides general information on the Austrian judicial system.
Is access to the database free of charge?
Yes, access to the Austrian Justice portal is free.
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