The Portuguese Constitution defines the principles that form the basis of the legal system and the functioning of the courts in Portugal. Thus, the courts are competent to administer justice for any individual that brings a case before the justice. The courts mission is to safeguard the rights and legally protect the citizens’ interests, to prevent the breach of the rules and regulations in order to keep the democratic legislative system and resolve public and private disputes.
The courts are independent bodies and the decisions issued by them are binding on all public and private entities and prevail over those of other public bodies.
The oral proceedings are held in public, unless the court decides otherwise by written motivated to safeguard the dignity or morals or to ensure proper operation resolution.
In the civil jurisdiction, the common courts in civil and criminal matters are the courts of ordinary jurisdiction, organized in three instances, by hierarchy and by the territory covered:
- the Supremo Tribunal de Justiça (National Court),
- tribunais da Relação (regional courts),
- tribunais judiciais de comarca (courts of first instance).
Firstly, the ordinary courts assume one of the following three categories, depending on the case and the amount in dispute:
- courts with generic competence,
- courts with specialized competence (criminal matters, family law, labor law, commercial law, maritime and enforcement of penalties),
- courts with specific competition (judgments in civil, criminal or mixed cases; civil or criminal trials; civil judgments or criminal offenses).
The administrative jurisdiction is represented by the administrative and tax courts (first instance), the central administrative courts (for north and south territories) and the Supreme Administrative Court (with national jurisdiction). Jurisdictional disputes between courts are resolved by the Court of Conflicts, as regulated by the law.
The Constitutional Court has the main task to analyze the constitutionality or legality of laws and regulations and the constitutionality of the legislative omission.
The Court of Auditors is the highest body to judge the legality of public expenditure and the review of accounts in order to comply with all the legal requirements.
The courts of ordinary jurisdiction are the common courts in civil and criminal matters and can exercise jurisdiction in all matters not assigned to other courts of higher levels. The courts of ordinary jurisdiction include the Supremo Tribunal de Justiça, the courts of second instance (usually regional courts) and the courts of first instance (usually district courts).
Administrative and tax courts are charged with resolving disputes in administrative and tax matters. Supreme Administrative Court, the central administrative courts, administrative courts and tax courts, is part of this category.
The Courts of Magistrates exercise the jurisdiction in civil matters with a value not exceeding 5,000 Euro.
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