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Czechoslovakia: The Judiciary
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Government Structure > The Judiciary


The highest judicial organ at the federal level is the Supreme Court of Czechoslovakia. Supreme Court judges are elected by the Federal Assembly to serve ten-year terms of office. The Federal Assembly also selects a chairman and vice chairman of the Supreme Court. If the chairman is from the Czech Socialist Republic, the vice chairman must be from the Slovak Socialist Republic, and vice versa. The two republics must be represented by an equal number of Supreme Court judges.

Below the Supreme Court of Czechoslovakia are the Supreme Court of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Supreme Court of the Slovak Socialist Republic. Below the supreme court of each republic are regional and district courts. District courts (one in easch district) are the courts of general civil jurisdiction and limited criminal jurisdiction and are presided over by one professional judge and two lay judges (there are no juries in the Czechoslovak judicial system). Regional courts (one in each kraj) are located in the capitals of each of Czechoslovakia's ten kraje and in Prague. They function as appellate courts and also have jurisdiction over trials in serious criminal cases where imprisonment exceeding five years may be imposed. Regional and district professional judges are chosen by the Czech National Council and the Slovak National Council; lay judges are chosen by district national committees. The Supreme Court of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Supreme Court of the Slovak Socialist Republic serve as appellate courts for their respective regional courts and also hear petitions for breach of law against decisions by the lower courts. The supreme courts of the two republics decide in panels of three professional judges.

Petitions for breach of law against decisions of the republic supreme courts are heard in the Supreme Court at the federal level. In addition to serving as the nation's final court of appeals, the Supreme Court of Czechoslovakia examines the legality of decisions of the federal government and, in general, ensures the uniform interpretation of the laws. It also hears requests for recognition of foreign judgments in Czechoslovakia. The decisions of the Supreme Court emanate from "benches," which comprise the Supreme Court chairman and selected professional judges. The Supreme Court also acts as the final court of appeal in military cases, although below the Supreme Court level military cases are handled in military courts, which are distinct from civil courts. Another powerful arm of the judiciary is the Office of the Prosecutor. The general prosecutor, a federal officer, is appointed and removed by the president. In addition to the federal office, an Office of the Prosecutor exists for each republic. The republic office is administered by the republic Ministry of Justice. Prosecutors are responsible for supervising the observance of laws and legal regulations by public bodies and individual citizens. The Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for prosecuting both criminal and civil cases. Prosecutors may recommend modification or repeal of laws, and they have the right to summon citizens to appear before them.

Data as of August 1987

Last Updated: August 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Czechoslovakia was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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