A Guide to Estonian Courts

A Guide to Estonian Courts

Updated on Wednesday 27th May 2015

A-Guide-to-Estonian-CourtsThe Estonian court system

The Estonian judicial system is enforced by the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and is one of the simplest systems in Europe. The judiciary regime is based on a three-tier court system formed by county courts and administrative courts that act as first instance courts, circuit courts that act as second instance courts and above all these there is the Estonian Supreme Court that serves as the highest court of general and administrative jurisdictions, but that also acts as a constitutional court.

Administrative and county courts in Estonia

There are two Estonian administrative courts separated into courthouses. The administrative courts are the Tallinn and the Tartu administrative courts. The Tallinn administrative court has two courthouses: Tallinna with 16 judges and Pärnu with 2 judges. The Tartu administrative court has the Tartu courthouse with 6 judges and the Jõhvi courthouse with 3 judges. Administrative courts judge cases that fall under the public law and apply the principle of investigation, which implies collecting evidence as well.

There are 4 Estonian county courts that rule in civil cases, criminal and misdemeanor disputes. As administrative courts, county courts are also divided into courthouses. The Estonian county courts are Harju, Viru, Pärnu and Tartu. Harju and Viru have 3 courthouses under their jurisdiction, while Pärnu has 5 and Tartu has 6 courthouses. County courts also have the Estonian Land Registry, registry divisions that keep the Commercial Register and a NGOs register, and probation supervision sections.

Circuit courts in Estonia

The Estonian circuit courts are appellate bodies that review the rulings of county and administrative courts. There are two circuit courts in Tallinn and Tartu. There are 43 judges in the circuit courts of Estonia that are divided like this:

  • -        The Tallinn circuit court has 29 judges;
  • -        The Tartu circuit court has 14 judges;

The Estonian Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in Estonia re-examines court rulings through cassation procedures. The Supreme Court in formed by 19 judges and it is constituted by the Civil Chamber, the Criminal Chamber, the Administrative Law Chamber and the Constitutional Review Chamber. It can rule in cases of:

  • -        Appeals  through cassation proceedings;
  • -        Requests against court rulings;
  • -        Constitutional revisions;
  • -        Court administration situations.

Arbitral tribunals in Estonia

Estonian arbitral tribunals can decide in cases of civil matters that haven’t been settled in court before. Arbitration is usually employed because it is less time consuming and cheaper than court settlements. The following disputes can be settled in arbitral tribunals:

  • -        Labor disputes;
  • -        Lease disputes;
  • -        Consumer complaints arguments;
  • -        Insurance conflicts;
  • -        Public procurement disputes;
  • -        Commercial and industrial disputes.


If you want details about the judicial system or need advice in litigation cases our lawyers in Estonia are here to help.  Contact us fo further information.