Jurisdiction - Italy
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1 Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court (for example an employment labour court)?
- 2 Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction (i.e. these are the courts which have responsibility for such cases) how can I find out which one I should apply to?
- 2.1 Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts (for example district courts as lower courts and regional courts as higher courts) and if so which one is competent for my case?
- 2.2 Territorial jurisdiction (is the court of city/town A or of city/town B competent for my case?)
- 2.2.1 The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction
- 2.2.2 Exceptions to the basic rule
- 18.104.22.168 When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court?
- 22.214.171.124 When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)?
- 126.96.36.199 Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise?
- 3 Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address?
1 Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court (for example an employment labour court)?
Certain civil disputes must be brought before specialised courts. Disputes in agricultural matters are dealt with by specialised divisions of the ordinary courts, and disputes in business and corporate matters are dealt with by the commercial court (tribunale delle imprese). Other specialised courts are the juvenile court and the court for cases concerning public waters. In all other cases, civil actions are heard by the ordinary courts, which may however follow special procedures, for example in labour disputes and tenancy disputes.
2 Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction (i.e. these are the courts which have responsibility for such cases) how can I find out which one I should apply to?
The competent court is identified on the basis of territorial jurisdiction — the ‘ordinary forum for natural persons’ (foro generale delle persone fisiche) is the court of the defendant’s place of residence; or on the basis of the value of the claim — according to which the claim will be heard either by the justice of the peace (giudice di pace) or by the general court (tribunale)); or on the basis of the matter at issue — certain cases will be tried by particular courts regardless of their value: for example, applications seeking the annulment of a marriage will be considered by the general court sitting with a panel of judges.
2.1 Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts (for example district courts as lower courts and regional courts as higher courts) and if so which one is competent for my case?
There is no hierarchical relationship between courts: there are only courts with different jurisdictions. According to the value of the claim, the case will be heard in the first instance by the justice of the peace or by the general court. The general court sits with a single judge or with a panel of judges depending on the subject‑matter. Appeals against judgments given at first instance are usually heard by the courts of appeal (corti d’appello). In some cases, however, proceedings have to be commenced in the court of appeal (cases where the court of appeal has ‘functional’ jurisdiction (competenza funzionale), for example in applications seeking the annulment of an arbitration decision). As a rule a case will be handled by the court of first instance of the place of residence of the defendant.
2.2 Territorial jurisdiction (is the court of city/town A or of city/town B competent for my case?)
To establish which court of first instance has territorial jurisdiction, you need to check the city of residence or domicile of the defendant, which as we have seen is the ‘ordinary forum for natural persons’, or identify the court of another place where the courts may have alternative jurisdiction in the particular class of case, such as, for disputes concerning contractual obligations, the court of the place where the obligation was incurred.
For some disputes there are special courts with exclusive jurisdiction. In consumer cases the court with jurisdiction is the court of the place of the consumer’s residence or domicile, and in cases concerning real property rights and evictions or repossessions the court with jurisdiction is the court of the place where the property is located.
2.2.1 The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction
For natural persons the court with jurisdiction is usually that of the defendant’s residence (residenza), domicile (domicilio) or, if both are unknown, place of abode (dimora). If the defendant has no residence, domicile or place of abode in Italy, or if the abode is unknown, the competent court is that of the claimant’s place of residence.
For legal persons, the court with jurisdiction is that of the place where they have their head office or (at the claimant’s choice) an establishment and a representative authorised to act on their behalf. Partnerships without legal personality, associations and committees have their headquarters in the place where they habitually carry on their activities.
2.2.2 Exceptions to the basic rule
Exceptions to the ordinary forum rule are those courts having exclusive competence, for example in consumer cases, where the court having jurisdiction is that of the consumer’s place of residence.
In some cases there is a choice between the ordinary forum and an alternative one. For example, alongside the ordinary forum for natural or legal persons, the claimant may also choose to proceed in another court optionally provided for in cases involving entitlements against specified persons (diritti di obbligazione): in such cases the claimant may opt for the ordinary forum or apply to the court of the place where the obligation arose (the originating event may be contractual or non-contractual), or to the court of the place where the obligation has to be performed (Section 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure).
This occurs when a court has exclusive jurisdiction. One example is the court where the immovable property is located, in the case of evictions or disputes regarding property rights; another is consumer disputes, where the competent court is always that of the consumer’s place of residence.
Except where there is mandatory jurisdiction (for example territorial jurisdiction in cases concerning immovable property), the parties may together agree on a different forum (Section 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure).
3 Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address?
According to the nature of the dispute, jurisdiction will lie with the ordinary courts, which hear cases on personal rights and entitlements, or with special courts that handle legitimate interests in dealings with the public authorities or other specific matters (e.g. an administrative court, a court of public accounts, or a tax court).
Within the ordinary court system, the subject‑matter of the dispute will determine whether the case will come before a specialised division or judge. For example, disputes relating to companies are heard by the commercial court.
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Last update: 02/05/2017