Monday. 04.12.2023

The different courts of justice in Finland

Hammer justice books

The Finnish legal system consists of different instances of court. There are District Courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. To many laymen the differences between these courts come as a slight surprise, so in this article we look at the differences of Administrative Courts and the Supreme Administrative Court.

The Administrative Court is the usual place to appeal decisions of public authorities such as immigration office residence permit decisions or social insurance institution’s revised decisions. The Administrative Court does not require a permission to appeal, meaning that everyone has a right to be heard on the decision regarding them in an independent court.

The Administrative Court evaluates the case strictly on the basis of the law and case-law, where for example a clear mistake made by an authority would by default be good grounds for success in the Administrative Court. It would be good to understand the role of the Administrative court as an outside expert looking in to the issue to decide whether the law was actually being followed in a certain case, such as the one being brought to the Administrative Court.

The Administrative Court does not aim to produce new case-law, meaning binding guidelines to other courts on how to interpret the law in similar situations. The court then only tries to solve a single issue with the intent of following the letter of the law as closely as possible.

The Supreme Administrative Court requires the granting of permission to appeal and this permission is only granted in cases legally unsolvable just by the letter of the law, in which answering would produce new and relevant case law

Naturally, if the decision of the Administrative Court is unsatisfactory or detrimental to the person concerned, it becomes topical to think about the possibility of appealing the decision of the Administrative Court to the Supreme Administrative Court.

Bringing an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court is not as simple as to the Administrative court. The Supreme Administrative Court, like the higher common courts, requires the granting of a permission to appeal. Getting this permission to appeal is not a default position: the Supreme Administrative Court grants the permission to appeal in cases and issues where it deems that the legal question in the case is important enough and answering it would produce new and relevant case-law.

Gaining the permission to appeal therefore requires having a case which is legally significant and unsolvable just by the letter of the law. Just being dissatisfied with the decision of the Administrative Court is not enough to be the entry ticket to the Supreme Administrative Court. In practice, without the assistance of an expert, it is very difficult for a lay person to know whether obtaining an appeal is likely or even possible in the present case.

It is important to notice that even if the permission to appeal would be granted it does not point in the direction of a favorable decision. The permission to appeal only means that the case has a legal question in it that the higher court deems important to answer.

The one appealing the decision of a lower court would be smart to ask a legal counsel whether even after the permission to appeal there is any sense in appealing. The job of a legal counsel is to seek the benefit of their client, whether that benefit in that case would be not to appeal the decision. It is also good to note that even a good request for appeal can be dismissed if the legal importance of the case is not pressed in the right way.

Therefore working on a good foundation is essential. If something has been already been accepted as being true by lower courts, it is hard to convince the higher courts of the case being otherwise without risking one's credibility. This is why it is always recommended to seek legal counsel.

*Jalmari Männistö is Associate Trainee at Autio Associates.

The different courts of justice in Finland