What is the structure and organisation of local courts dealing with commercial claims? What is the final court of appeal?


Pakistan Small Flag Pakistan

There are two types of courts dealing with commercial claims. On one hand are courts of general jurisdiction which have been established under the Civil Courts Ordinance 1962. This includes the Civil Court, the Additional District Court and the District Court which hear all civil claims. The High Court of each province exercises control and supervision over these subordinate courts.

On the other hand are courts of special jurisdiction that have been established under a special Act of Parliament. This includes for instance the Banking Courts established under the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finance) Ordinance, 2001 and the Consumer Courts in Punjab established under the Punjab Consumer Protection Act, 2005.

The Supreme Court sits at the top of this pyramidal structure. Since an appeal is not available as a matter of right under Pakistani law, it must be conferred by the relevant statute. Therefore, whether an appeal is available all the way up to the Supreme Court will depend on the forum and the relevant law.

Malta Small Flag Malta

Commercial claims generally heard and decided by the Superior Courts of Malta.

The First Hall of the Civil Court is divided in four sections which are: the Family Section, the Voluntary Jurisdiction Section, the Commercial Section and a section vested with general jurisdiction which is styled as the First Hall of the Civil Court. The First Hall of the Civil Court is generally vested with competence to determine claims of a civil and commercial nature, however any applications falling within the competence of the Civil Court and which relate to matters regulated by the Companies Act (for example bankruptcy proceedings, insolvency proceedings, winding-up proceedings, and unfair prejudice proceedings) are to be assigned to the Civil Court (Commercial Section).

As regards monetary claims, the Civil Court and the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its superior jurisdiction are vested with competence to hear and determine all monetary claims of an amount exceeding fifteen thousand euro (€15,000).

The Court of Magistrates (Malta) and the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its inferior jurisdiction are vested with competence to hear and determine all monetary claims of an amount not exceeding fifteen thousand euro (€15,000) and not below than five thousand and one euro (€5,001). As explained above, all monetary claims of an amount not exceeding five thousand euro (€5,000) are heard and determined by the Small Claims Tribunal.

The Court of Appeal (presided over by three judges) hears and determines all appeals from judgments of the Civil Court and the Court of Magistrates (Gozo) in its superior jurisdiction. Appeals from the inferior courts of Malta shall also be heard by the Court of Appeal however for the purpose of such appeals the Court of Appeal would be constituted by one judge only.

Additionally the laws of Malta provide for the establishment of specialised tribunals which determine commercial disputes of a special commercial nature. In this regard include the following:

(a) The Financial Services Tribunal which is set up by the Malta Financial Services Authority Act (Chapter 300 of the Laws of Malta) and is vested with the competence to determine disputes in relation to decisions made by the Malta Financial Services Authority;

(b) The Competition and Consumer Appeals Tribunal which is set up by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority Act and determines appeals from decisions, orders or measures of the Director General (Competition) and the Director General (Consumer Affairs) as provided in the Competition Act, the Consumer Affairs Act and any regulations made thereunder; and

(c) The Industrial Tribunal which is set up by the Employment and Industrial Relations Act and is vested with the competence to determine certain cases relating to a set of employment relations issues and all cases of alleged unfair dismissals from employment.

Singapore Small Flag Singapore

The State Courts comprise of the District Courts, Magistrates’ Courts and the Small Claims Tribunals. Permitted categories of claims not exceeding $10,000 (pursuant to the Small Claims Tribunals Act (Cap 308, Rev Ed 1998)) may be heard by the Small Claims Tribunals. Commercial claims not exceeding $60,000 and $250,000 may be heard in the Magistrates’ Courts and District Courts, respectively.

The Supreme Court of Singapore comprises of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Both these Courts may hear commercial disputes in excess of the State Courts’ jurisdiction. The SICC also constitutes a division of the High Court.

At the apex, the Court of Appeal hears appeals arising from the High Court and State Courts.

Russia Small Flag Russia

The system of commercial courts in Russia consists of four levels. The first instance courts are the courts of the regions of the Russian Federation, their total number is 85. Save for several exceptions (e.g. the Saint-Petersburg and Leningrad Region, the Nenetskiy Autonomous Circuit and some other) there is one such court in each republic, region, federally subordinated city, etc in Russia.

Decisions of the first instance courts may be appealed to one of the 21 Commercial Appellate Courts. Subsequently, cassation appeals may be filed with one of the 10 Circuit Commercial Courts. Since there are two cassation stages under the Commercial Procedural Code, second cassation appeal may be submitted to the Chamber on Economic Disputes of the Supreme Court.

Ultimately, decisions may be challenged on the very limited number of grounds (e.g. due to violation of certain fundamental rights and freedoms by lower courts’ decisions) before the Presidium of the Supreme Court (see Section 17).

In addition to this general structure of commercial courts, there is also the Intellectual Rights Court. That court acts as the first instance court in relation to specific categories of cases involving intellectual rights. The Intellectual Rights Court also considers cassation appeals against decisions of the first instance and appellate courts on intellectual rights disputes.

Spain Small Flag Spain

Since the creation of Commercial Courts (or Juzgados de lo Mercantil) in 2003, these courts have exclusive jurisdiction over a list of commercial matters set forth in the Basic Law on the Judicial Power including, amongst others, bankruptcy, unfair competition, antitrust, industrial property and intellectual property.

However, despite their name, Commercial Courts do not hear all commercial claims. Commercial matters not included in the abovementioned list are heard by First Instance Courts (or Juzgados de Primera Instancia), which have general jurisdiction over civil and commercial claims not attributable by law to other jurisdictional bodies.

The structure and organisation of First Instance Courts and Commercial Courts is similar. Each local court has one Judge or Magistrate and one Court Clerk (or Letrado de la Administración).

First Instance Courts are seated in the capital of the corresponding judicial district (or partido judicial), whereas Commercial Courts are seated in the capitals of the Spanish provinces. Smaller or less populated provinces may sometimes not have their own Commercial Court. In those cases, one of the First Instance Courts located in the capital of the province is empowered to examine the commercial matters which fall under the scope of Commercial Courts.

First Instance and Commercial courts’ resolutions may be appealed to the Provincial Court (or Audiencia Provincial), which also receives all commercial appeals in the province, with the final appeal court being the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court.

Indonesia Small Flag Indonesia

The general courts are organised in 3 levels. The court of first instance is the District Court. The District Court decision may be appealed to the High Court and the decision of the High Court may be appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decision is called a cassation judgement. These stages are defined as the ordinary legal remedies. In addition, the laws also empower the Supreme Court to adjudicate an extraordinary legal remedy, namely a judicial review against the cassation decision.

The grounds to file a judicial review lies on extraordinary circumstances, e.g. inter alia the finding of a new evidence that was not available before the issuance of a cassation judgment. In this regard, to ensure legal certainty for the winning party, the cassation judgment is considered as a final and binding judgment. Henceforth, the process of a judicial review will not hinder the execution of the cassation judgment. Nevertheless, if the judicial review process results in a different judgment, the cassation judgment will be overruled with restitution of the remedies obtained.

Germany Small Flag Germany

Commercial disputes usually start in the civil division of the regional court (Landgericht); in small claim disputes (where the amount in disputes is EUR 5,000 or less), the local court (Amtsgericht) has jurisdiction.

In general, cases in the civil division of the regional courts are dealt with by chambers of three professional judges but the chamber usually hears a case by one of its members acting as a judge sitting alone (Einzelrichter). Upon request of one of the parties, cases can also be heard by a special chamber for commercial matters consisting of one professional judge and two lay judges acting as “commercial judges” (cf. sec. 96 (1), 98 (1) GVG).

The competent court of appeal is either the regional court in matters before the local court or the higher regional court (Oberlandesgericht) in matters before the regional court. The Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof), as the final court of appeal, deals only with appeal proceedings on points of law.

Moreover, the Higher Regional Court of Cologne – as well as its associated Regional Courts in Aachen, Bonn and Cologne – and the Regional Court of Frankfurt on the Main have established special commercial law chambers allowing for oral hearings in English. A draft bill for a respective federal law has recently been submitted to Parliament.

Mexico Small Flag Mexico

Regarding commercial claims, in Mexico City, the local Court of Justice is composed of 73 civil courts, 26 small claims courts, 20 oral proceedings courts, and 11 Civil Courts of Appeals, each one of them composed of 3 Appeal Judges..

However, the final judgment in commercial proceeding is subject to an Amparo Directo, which constitutes a new proceeding regarding Constitutional violations, which is tried before the Federal Circuit Courts.

Greece Small Flag Greece

The structure of the Greek courts follows the rule of “two-instance jurisdiction”. That means that each commercial dispute shall be firstly introduced to the competent court of first instance (Court of Peace, Single-Member Court of First Instance, Multi-Member Court of First Instance). The party defeated on first instance (in whole or in part) is entitled to file an appeal against the judgment of the court of first instance, challenging both the legal and the factual grounds of the decision before the Court of Appeal. The decision of the Court of Appeal is final and enforceable. It can only be challenged before the Supreme Court; the Supreme Court does not however constitute a third level of jurisdiction, since it may examine only legal defects of the decision of the Court of Appeal.

Monaco Small Flag Monaco

Local courts are organized as follows:

  • First Instance Court depending on the value of the matter (above €4,600)
  • Appeal Court
  • Supreme Court

Hong Kong Small Flag Hong Kong

There are two levels of court dealing with civil claims of substance at first instance: the District Court (which has jurisdiction over claims of up to HK$1 million) and the Court of First Instance (“CFI”), which has unlimited jurisdiction. Large-scale commercial disputes are typically adjudicated in the CFI.

The Court of Appeal (“CA”) hears appeals from both the CFI and the District Court. The Court of Final Appeal (“CFA”) is the highest court in Hong Kong and is made up of local permanent judges and distinguished judges from England, Australia and New Zealand who serve as non-permanent judges. It hears appeals from the CA and the CFI.

Italy Small Flag Italy

Commercial disputes are treated in the first instance, like any civil litigation, by the ordinary court responsible for value, matter and territory (Giudice di pace or Tribunale). The decisions of the Giudice di pace can be challenged before the Tribunale which has territorial competence, while the decisions of the Tribunale can be challenged before the territorially competent Corte d’Appello . The appeal before the Corte di Cassazione can be lodged against the decisions of the court of second instance, but only for the matters of law strictly provided for by article 360 of the code of civil procedure.

Among the commercial disputes some subjects fall under the competence of the Tribunale delle Imprese, a section specializing in the field of business law established in the courts and courts of appeal which are located in the capital of each region, with the exception of Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige and Sicily (where there are two locations) and Valle D'Aosta (where there are no offices, as the competence is in Turin).

The Tribunale delle Imprese has jurisdiction over disputes relating to legal proceedings concerning industrial property and unfair competition, employees’ inventions, protection of company secret information, compensation for expropriation of industrial property rights, disputes over copyright, disputes regarding agreements, abuse of dominant position and mergers, disputes relating to the violation of the antitrust legislation of the European Union.

The Tribunale delle Imprese is also competent to adjudicate disputes concerning: a) corporate relations, liability actions, opposition of company creditors related to several matters; b) the transfer of corporate investments or related rights; c) the shareholders' agreements; d) the liability actions brought by the creditors of the subsidiaries against the companies that control them; e) the reports concerning the subsidiaries pursuant to art. 2359, paragraph 1, n. 3) of the civil code, the companies exercising the management and coordination activities pursuant to art. 2497-septies of the civil code and the cooperative societies pursuant to art. 2545-septies of the civil code.

Ireland Small Flag Ireland

Claims (commercial or otherwise) with a value of up to €15,000 are dealt with by the District Court, while claims with a value of €15,000 - €75,000 are dealt with by the Circuit Court.

Claims with a value of over €75,000 fall to be dealt with by the High Court. Thereafter, if the proceedings satisfy the criteria for admission to the Commercial Court (as outlined at (1) above), they may be admitted to that List.

Decisions of the High Court / Commercial Court may be appealed, typically to the Court of Appeal. Decisions of the Court of Appeal are in many cases final however a further appeal to the Supreme Court is permitted in certain circumstances (see (17) below also).

Norway Small Flag Norway

Formally, commercial cases have to start in a local conciliation board. However, in most commercial disputes, the case can be brought directly to one of the about 60 district courts that handle all disputes in the first instance. Judgements from the district courts can be appealed to one of six regional courts of appeal. If leave to appeal is given, the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal.

Switzerland Small Flag Switzerland

Like many other jurisdictions, Switzerland has three instances – district, cantonal and federal level – with the highest instance being the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne. If the amount in dispute is less than CHF 30'000, the last court of appeal will be the cantonal court.

In the cantons of Zurich, Bern, St. Gallen and Aargau, commercial disputes usually skip the district level and have to be filed with the commercial courts on the cantonal level with the Federal Supreme Court being the appellate court.

Chile Small Flag Chile

The court system organisation dealing with commercial claims basically consists of single-judge trial courts, several intermediate appellate courts sitting in panels, and a single high collegiate court.

The first level comprises the first instance courts, which may include one or more districts.
First instance courts are divided according to the matter they know into civil courts, family courts, criminal courts and labour courts.

The second level comprises the Courts of Appeal, which act as second instance courts (normally they have jurisdiction over a region of the country or part of it).

The Supreme Court is the last level and it has jurisdiction over the whole national territory. The Supreme Court is divided into several courtrooms specialised in particular matters and it is only possible to file exceptional remedies before it.

Sweden Small Flag Sweden

Commercial disputes are administered by general courts, which are organised in a three-tier system; district courts, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the ultimate national court to which a commercial case can be appealed. Some commercial disputes have specific fora; most importantly those relating to maritime matters and patent or trademark matters. The former are administered by seven of the approximately 50 district courts and the latter exclusively by the Stockholm District Court. Finally, the Swedish Labour Court is the exclusive forum in matters governed by the Swedish Labour Disputes (Judicial Procedure) Act (Sw. lag om rättegång i arbetstvister).

Portugal Small Flag Portugal

The local Courts are arranged as follow:

  • First Instance Courts - allocated to districts and with material jurisdiction;
  • Court of Appeal – allocated to 5 districts which cover all national territory;
  • Supreme Court.

Constitutional Court – an appeal can be submitted to this court in specific situations and in order to argue the constitutionality of a law applied in a particular case.

UAE Small Flag UAE

The UAE consists of 7 emirates with each emirate having its own local courts. The courts are structured into 3 levels, the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation.

All appeals with the Court of Cassation are filed in the capital emirate of Abu Dhabi except for Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah which have their own Courts of Cassation.

The official language for all courts is Arabic and the courts obtain statements of parties that do not speak Arabic through interpreters on oath.

Saudi Arabia Small Flag Saudi Arabia

The Commercial Court is divided into circuits. Appeals from first instance tribunals of the Commercial Court go to the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal, but its involvement in commercial disputes is limited.

The specialized tribunals each have their own appeals tribunals.

Norway Small Flag Norway

Formally, commercial cases have to start in a local conciliation board. However, in most commercial disputes, the case can be brought directly to one of the about 60 district courts that handle all disputes in the first instance. Judgements from the district courts can be appealed to one of six regional courts of appeal. If leave to appeal is given, the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal.

United States Small Flag United States

Federal courts have a three-tiered system comprised of trial courts, known as “district courts”, intermediate Courts of Appeal and a final court of appeal, known as the Supreme Court.

Local state courts also generally have a three-tiered system comprised of a trial court, an intermediate “appellate” court and a final court of appeal, often known as the state’s Supreme Court.

Austria Small Flag Austria

In general, the Austrian civil court system has three instances. In the first instance, the competent court for civil and commercial disputes is either a district court (“Bezirksgericht”) or a regional court (“Landesgericht”) depending on the subject-matter and the value in dispute. It should be noted that commercial disputes are governed by the same procedural rules as civil law disputes.

District courts have jurisdiction in cases involving a value in dispute of up to EUR 15,000. Regional courts have jurisdiction over disputes exceeding EUR 15,000 as well as in all competition or intellectual property matters and with regard to specific statutes such as the Data Protection Act, irrespective of the amount in dispute.

In Vienna, two specialised commercial courts exist. One is the Commercial District Court Vienna and the other, the Commercial Court Vienna as regional court for commercial matters. Outside of Vienna, the above-mentioned ordinary courts decide as commercial courts.

Judgments of first instance may be appealed to either regional or higher regional courts depending on whether a district or regional court decided in the first place. A further appeal against that decision to the Austrian Supreme Court (“Oberste Gerichtshof”) is possible in limited circumstances (for more information please see question 17 below).

Japan Small Flag Japan

There are three levels of courts in Japan: the district courts, the high courts, and the Supreme Court. The district courts are local courts that function as the court of first instance for lawsuits. Generally speaking, there are no courts of first instance which deal specifically with commercial claims, but the district courts in large prefectures such as Tokyo and Osaka have courts that specialise in certain types of disputes, such as corporate, intellectual property, administration, labour and bankruptcy.

Decisions of the district courts may be appealed to the high courts. One branch of the Tokyo High Court specialises in intellectual property matters. Decisions of the high courts may be appealed to the Supreme Court, which is the final court of appeal.

United Kingdom Small Flag United Kingdom

A commercial claim should be made in the High Court if it is worth more than £100,000. The trial would be heard in the presence of one judge. If the verdict is contested, either party may seek permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal where traditionally cases will be heard by a panel of three judges (although recent reforms mean that cases can be heard by two judges). The final court of appeal is the Supreme Court where normally five Justices hear an appeal, but it can be more in special cases (such as the decision on whether Parliamentary consent was necessary to invoke Article 50 and start the BREXIT process, where all 11 sitting Justices heard the case).

Denmark Small Flag Denmark

In Denmark there are three level of courts. The Supreme Court (In Danish: Højesteret) is the uppermost court in Denmark and it deals almost exclusively with cases where important legal principles are considered. Further there are two High Courts (In Danish: landsret) functioning as appeal courts. As first instance there are 24 District Courts (In Danish: byret) spread out over Denmark. Further there is a Maritime and Commercial Court (In Danish: Sø- og Handelsretten) only dealing with certain disputes, for instance maritime disputes, EU trade mark cases and design cases. Furthermore, the Maritime and Commercial Court often hear cases where detailed knowledge on international commercial relations is of major importance.

All 24 District Courts in Denmark deal with commercial claims.

When a district court has handed down its judgment either party can appeal the judgment to the High Courts. As a general rule, a judgment of a High Court cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court. Generally speaking a case will only be heard by two courts, District and High Court. However, if the case is a matter of principle the Appeals Permission Board (In Danish: Procesbevillingsnævnet) may grant a party leave to appeal the judgment of the High Court to the Supreme Court

Yet, some cases are tried before the Maritime and Commercial Court as first instance. A case can be brought directly before the Maritime and Commercial Court or before a District Court which ex officio determines if it has jurisdiction to deal with the matter. If the District Court determines that it does not have jurisdiction but the case has international jurisdiction in Denmark, i.e the Danish courts have jurisdiction, the case will be passed on to the Maritime and Commercial Court. The Maritime and Commercial Court is the only specialised Danish court with regard to commercial disputes. A judgment handed down by the Maritime and Commercial Court can be appealed to a High Court or the Supreme Court. However, an appeal to the Supreme Court is only possible if the case is a matter of principle. The Supreme Court ex officio decides whether the conditions are fulfilled or not. If the conditions are not fulfilled the Supreme Court will dismiss the case and the appeal will then be heard in the High Court. The decision of the High Court may subsequently be appealed to the Supreme Court, again provided that the Supreme Court accepts this.

France Small Flag France

In first instance, the dispute can be brought either before civil courts (Tribunal d’instance and Tribunal de grande instance) or before commercial courts (Tribunal de commerce):

  • the Tribunal de grande instance has jurisdiction to hear civil claims where the claim value exceeds 10.000€ and when jurisdiction has not been expressly conferred to another court. It also has exclusive jurisdiction, irrespective of the amount of the claim, over certain types of disputes (for instance, intellectual property, enforcement of foreign judgments).
    In the regions where there are no commercial courts, the commercial chamber (in Alsace-Moselle) or mixed chamber (in the French overseas departments and territories) of the Tribunal de grande instance serve as a commercial court;
  • the Tribunal d’instance has jurisdiction to hear civil claims up to but not exceeding 10.000€ and other civil actions over which it has exclusive jurisdiction (such as attachment orders seizing wages or salaries (saisies des rémunérations du travail), elections, residential property leases, etc.);
  • the Tribunal de commerce has jurisdiction to hear disputes between traders (commerçants, defined as those who perform commercial acts as their usual activity), credit institutions, disputes regarding commercial companies and disputes concerning commercial deeds (such as promissory notes and bills of exchange) between parties of any kind.

The Commercial Court also has jurisdiction over insolvency proceedings.

Commercial courts are composed solely of non-professional judges (juges consulaires), essentially traders or managers of commercial companies, elected by current or former judges of the relevant Commercial Court.

In theory, the case is decided by a panel of three judges. In practice, however, a single judge often hears the case, unless either party requests that the case is heard by a full panel of judges.

The Courts of Appeal hear appeals on factual and legal issues lodged against all judgments which have been rendered by the lower courts. They are composed of professional magistrates.

The Commercial Court of Paris and the Court of Appeal of Paris have an international division, which has jurisdiction over all cases involving the interests of international trade. The main features of these international chambers are:

  • the possibility for parties, experts and foreign counsel entitled to plead before French courts to speak in English (although this is possible in theory, witnesses are seldom summoned and heard by French courts);
  • the possibility of submitting exhibits in English without any translation;
  • English-speaking judges, familiar with international law;
  • decisions rendered in French and translated into English.

The French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation), sitting in Paris, is the highest court in civil and commercial disputes. It reviews the judgments rendered by the lower courts on points of law only.

India Small Flag India

In India, the court of the District Judge is the highest court for each district and there are various courts subordinate to the court of the District Judge. Each state comprises of a number of such districts, and the court of the District Court in each district is subordinate to the High Court of that particular State (which may have a bench at more than one place in the said State).

Finally, the High Court of each state is subordinate to the apex court/final court of appeal in the country i.e. the Supreme Court of India. An appeal may be filed in the Supreme Court against a decision of the High Court, if the High Court certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law of general importance. However, additionally, the Supreme Court may also grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India.

Additionally, as stated above, there are various specialised tribunals/forums such as the NCLT, DRT, etc. which have been established under different statutory enactments. Any appeal against the orders passed by these Tribunals lies to their respective Appellate Tribunal.

Updated: August 29, 2018