Greece Supreme Court Judicial & Court Structure
In Greece, the Constitution (see section E; Articles 87-100A in particular) firmly establishes the independence of the judicial system, by only allowing appointment of professional, permanent and irremovable full-time judges, enjoying full personal and functional independence. The degree awarding body for judges is the National School of Judges.
Appointment of judges is done through constitutional decree and they can be dismissed only through a juridical decision. Their promotions and demotions are solely decided by the Supreme Board of Justice of the civil and penal justice and by the Supreme Board of Justice of the administrative justice respectively. Interestingly enough, the presidents (all of which have a three year term limit) and the vice-presidents of the three Supreme Courts as well as the Prosecuting Attorney of the Court of Cassation are chosen by the Executive, i.e. the Cabinet.
The Constitution sets out 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. Logically, Greek judges can belong to either one of these two branches. It follows that; 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.
A case is heard at first instance, by the District Courts or the Courts of First Instance (depending on Suit Valuation), at the second instance, by the Courts of First Instance or the Courts of Appeal (also depending upon worth of the suit) and then by the Court of Cassation, when a writ of certiorari is filed against a final decision of the Court of Appeal. Court of Cassation’s decisions are irrevocable and it can also order a rehearing of the case by the lower court. Another type of court is the Chamber of Accounts, which is also a supreme administrative court, having a jurisdiction limited in certain particular areas (e.g., disputes between the state and the civil servants concerning their pensions).
The Supreme Special Court based in the Czechoslovak model is not a “regular” and “permanent” court but sits only when it is required to resolve disputes in jurisdictions or decisions between the Supreme Courts or between the courts and the administration, as well as electoral disputes
Like many other Civil Law countries, Greece recognizes the diffused control of constitutionality, which means that, every court is competent to judge the conformity, or not of a legal provision with the Constitution. The Supreme Constitutional Court, in Germany, Spain and France has the same ‘diffused right’. Technically as there is no such court in Greece, all courts are deemed competent to decide upon the constitutionality of a legal provision. There has been a long-standing debate in Greece as to the need of a constitutional amendment by which the Supreme Constitutional Court, will replace the Supreme Special Court.
So far, Greek courts especially, the Council of State have avoided commenting on the ‘imagined’ superiority of the Constitution or the EU law. Also, under the Greek Constitution, the legal force of the international conventions is superior to the national laws but inferior to the Constitution.