Finland - Judicial system

There are three levels of courts: local, appellate, and supreme. The municipal courts of the first instance are staffed in each case by a magistrate and two councilors. Each of the 6 appellate courts is headed by a president and staffed by appellate judges. In certain criminal cases these courts have original jurisdiction. The final court of appeal, the Supreme Court (Korkeinoikeus), sits in Helsinki. There are also the Supreme Administrative Court, a number of provincial administrative courts, and some special tribunals. The administration of justice is under the supervision of a chancellor of justice and a parliamentary ombudsman.

The judiciary is independent form the executive and legislative branches. Supreme Court Judges are appointed to permanent positions by the president and are independent of political control. They may retire at age 63; retirement is mandatory at age67. Supreme Court Justices appoint the lower court judges.

Finland has a special office known as the Ombudsman that is common to most Nordic judicial systems. According to the constitution, an ombudsman is independent official elected by the parliament from the legal field who is charged with "overseeing the courts of law, other public authorities and public servants in the performance of their official duties as well as public employees and other persons in the exercise of public functions...In discharging his or her duties, the Parliamentary Ombudsman shall also oversee the implementation of Constitutional rights and international human rights." The Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman investigate complaints by citizens regarding the public authorities, conducts investigations, and may intervene in matters of his or her own initiative. This important institution assists citizens in navigating the often-Byzantine bureaucratic maze of the social welfare state and provides greater accountability and transparency in the enormous Finnish public sector.

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