"Discussion Version"

of the

Constitution of Jurlandia

Chapter IV

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This "Discussion Version" contains hotlinks to the Explanatory Essay and other materials on this website and elsewhere.

This version breaks the document into five parts, corresponding to its five chapters.

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III


Chapter V


Article 1.

1. The judicial power of the Republic of Jurlandia shall be vested in the Judicial Branch, composed of the Supreme Court of Jurlandia and of Regional Appeals Courts and District Courts under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases and controversies arising under this Constitution or under treaties, legislation, regulations, ordinances, or any other provisions of law, and to all other legal obligations permitted under this Constitution. The judicial power shall include the power to impose criminal penalties and order civil remedies provided by legislation, and to declare the rights and obligations of parties under the law.

3. There shall be no other courts besides those established herein; but any person, group, organization, or entity may agree with any other to resolve any civil or commercial dispute by arbitration, and any such agreement shall be given effect by the Judicial Branch unless contrary to justice, public policy, or the law; additionally, administrative tribunals may make findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to legislation thereon, but such findings and conclusions shall be subject to judicial review.

4. Upon adoption of this Constitution, the Judicial Branch shall be reorganized to conform thereto, and shall henceforth be a unified judiciary, every judge of which shall decide every case or controversy properly before him or her according to all the law, including the constitutional law, applicable thereto. All cases and controversies already proceeding towards resolution may continue pursuant thereto, or may be held in abeyance, or may be otherwise disposed of, pursuant to the requirements of justice, any legislation specifically addressing this subject, and principles set forth by the Supreme Court.

5. The Judicial Branch shall have the final word on what the Constitution, and all rights and obligations thereunder, requires of the people of Jurlandia, its government, and any other person or entity subject to the jurisdiction of Jurlandia. If any person disagrees with the Supreme Court on any question of constitutional interpretation, that person may seek to persuade the Supreme Court by good argument, or may seek to amend the Constitution as provided in the Constitution.

6. By this Constitution, the people of Jurlandia explicitly command the Judicial Branch to defend their rights, privileges, and immunities under this Constitution.

Article 2.

1. The Chief Judge of the Supreme Court shall be the chief administrative officer of the Judicial Branch and the head of the Republic's legal profession, and shall carry out the policies and decisions of the Supreme Court relating thereto. Such policies and decisions may include provisions for judicial leaves of absence for health or other reasons, all disciplinary proceedings against District Court judges, and disciplinary proceedings involving suspensions for no longer than one month against Regional Appeals Court judges.

2. The Supreme Court shall supervise Jurlandia's legal profession, and shall set the qualifications for practice before all courts, provided, however, that nothing herein shall be construed to deny any person the right to appear personally to plead his or her own cause during any District Court trial or any administrative hearing. The Supreme Court may place reasonable restrictions upon that right in the interests of justice and the efficiency of such proceedings.

Article 3.

1. The Supreme Court shall consist of one Chief Judge and eight Associate Judges. Each shall be a citizen of Jurlandia, trained in the law, who is at least 35 years old.

2. The President shall nominate, and subject to the advice and consent of the Parliament shall appoint, all judges of Jurlandia. Supreme Court judges may serve in their respective offices until age 70. After 10 years of service, a Supreme Court judge who has attained the age of 60 may retire at a pension equal to the salary of a Supreme Court judge, including any increments thereof.

3. In all matters of law and all principles of judicial administration, including policies governing the legal profession, each member of the Supreme Court shall have an equal vote.

4. By this Constitution, the people of Jurlandia intend to create an independent Judicial Branch that owes its allegiance to the Constitution and to the principles of law in advanced constitutional democracies which undergird it and give it meaning. The people assert that nothing which has a history can be defined without reference to its history, and that the words and phrases composing their Constitution and other laws shall therefore be interpreted in light of the meaning given them by history, experience, and the wisdoms and usages of world civilization and international law.

5. In interpreting and applying this Constitution or any law made or treaty entered into under its authority, the Supreme Court and other courts shall look to the decisions of the courts of other countries having constitutions, laws, and treaties that are similar, in the relevant respect, to that of Jurlandia, but shall not be bound to adopt any particular interpretation. In following any decision or interpretation, a court shall adapt it to the needs of Jurlandia, taking into account this Constitution as a whole. Above all, a court shall not neglect the people's determination, expressed through this Constitution, to create and maintain a constitutional democracy in which the words and phrases of the law have integrity and communicate ascertainable standards of conduct.

Article 4.

1. Each municipality with a population of at least 100,000 shall be the seat of a Regional Appeals Court composed of at least five appellate judges. Each appellate judge shall be a citizen, trained in the law, who is at least 35 years old, and shall be appointed for a term of fifteen years.

2. Every appeal to a Regional Appeals Court shall be decided by a panel of three appellate judges. Case assignments shall be by random drawings. Each appellate region shall decide appeals from the judicial districts most conveniently located therein, which shall be determined from time to time by legislation.

Article 5.

1. Each municipality or other unit of local government with a population of at least 25,000 shall have a District Court, and other District Courts shall be established as needed to provide convenient access to justice; a District Court shall be a trial court of first instance. A District Court may have more than one judge. The location, areas of jurisdiction, and size of District Courts shall be determined from time to time by legislation. There shall also be no fewer that ten Roving District Judgeships, created pursuant to legislation, whose office holders shall not be permanently attached to any particular District Court but shall be available to hear and decide cases at the request of a District Court, as the interests of justice require, and as assigned by the Supreme Court. Each District Judge shall be a citizen, trained in the law, who is at least 30 years old, and shall be appointed for a term of seven years.

2. Each District Court shall comprise a Criminal Division, a Civil Division, a Family Division, a Minor Violations Division, and a Small Claims Division, but a judge may serve one or more divisions as assigned by the supervising judge of that district. The Chief Judge of the Supreme Court may appoint any district judge to serve as supervising judge of his or her district, and may appoint persons to serve as acting judges within a district. Such acting judges shall be citizens, trained in the law, who are at least 25 years old and serve under District Court supervision; they may serve as judges in the Minor Violations Division and the Small Claims Division, and may also be empowered by their district to issue warrants for the search and seizure of persons and things in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings. The determination whether cases shall be resolved in the Minor Violations Division and the Small Claims Division shall be made pursuant to legislation, but the Minor Violations Division may not impose any penalty greater than a fine equal to the average per capita monthly income, and the amount in dispute in the Small Claims Division may not exceed the average per capita annual income.

3. District Court adjudications that significantly affect the interests of parties, including issues of guilt or innocence and consequent penalties in criminal cases, and issues of rights or obligations and consequent remedies in civil cases, shall state the facts and legal conclusions on which they are based with sufficient specificity, under the circumstances, to meet the requirements of justice and judicial administration. The parties, and the people of Jurlandia, have a fundamental right to know how and why each significant judicial decision was reached, unless compelling countervailing interests involving personal privacy, good taste, and national security require otherwise. Cases arising in the Family Division involving the interests of children, including child-custody cases and prosecutions brought against minors, shall not require a public hearing or record; the privacy interests of families, and especially of children under the age of 16, shall be preserved unless compelling countervailing interests, including the curbing of official abuses, require otherwise; the purpose here is to protect children and families.

Article 6.

1. The appeal of a case decided by an acting district judge in the Minor Violations Division or the Small Claims Division shall be discretionary with the District Court; if an appeal is granted, the case shall be heard de novo by a District Court judge. The decision of a District Judge in any matter within those divisions shall not be appealable, except as herein provided.

2. Minor Violations Division or Small Claims Division cases may be appealed to the Regional Appeals Court if the District Court certifies that the case presents a substantial question of constitutional law, a substantial question of disputed law, or otherwise requires appellate review in the interests of justice or judicial administration. Notwithstanding, upon review, the Regional Appeals Court may issue a summary decision thereon.

3. All other cases decided by the District Court may be appealed to the Regional Appeals Court as a matter of right. The appellate court may also of its own initiative review any case it deems necessary under guidelines set forth by the Supreme Court. The appellate court may order written appellate briefs from the opposing parties, plus oral arguments at its discretion, before rendering its opinion on any question before it.

4. The decision of the appellate court shall state the grounds on which it is based, which may be factual or legal; the appellate court shall give due deference to the factual findings of the trial court, but may consider new facts pursuant to rules set forth by the Supreme Court. The appellate court may affirm, modify, remand, reverse, or vacate the lower court's decision, or make such other order as justice and judicial administration may require. Any appellate judge who participated in the disposition of the case may file a concurring or dissenting opinion.

Article 7.

1. Any party who disputes the decision of the Regional Appeals Court may seek review thereof by the Supreme Court of Jurlandia. The Supreme Court shall exercise its power of discretionary review in the interests of justice, the orderly development of Jurlandia's law, the need for decisional coherence among all appellate courts, and the necessity for resolving disputes that could otherwise foster constitutional crises between the Legislative and Executive Branches. The Supreme Court may also on its own initiative review any matter pending before a lower court, and may act on the basis of any petition for justice filed pursuant to any rules it may adopt. The Supreme Court may also appoint special representatives to hear complaints against judicial or law-enforcement officers, but only pursuant to statutory authorization.

2. The disposition by the Supreme Court of any case accepted for review shall be appropriate to the reasons for granting review. The opinions of the Supreme Court in all cases accepted for review shall state the grounds for reviewing the case, the bases of decision thereon, and the Order of the Court. Any Judge may file a dissenting or concurring opinion. An evenly divided Court shall leave the decision below undisturbed.

3. Decisions of the Supreme Court shall serve to instruct all lower courts on the law applicable to similar cases. The decisions of all District Courts, and the opinions of the Regional Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court (including concurring and dissenting decisions), shall be public records whose publication by conventional, electronic, or other means shall not be prohibited. At least one central library in every municipality with a population of 25,000 shall contain copies of all such decisions and opinions, plus copies of all legislation of Jurlandia adopted since the effective date of this Constitution. No person may be denied the right to review and obtain copies of such legislation and opinions, but a nominal fee for copies may be charged.

Article 8.

1. No judge may participate in any decision where his or her impartiality is in substantial dispute. All judges shall avoid conduct of any kind that involves, or reasonably appears to involve, improprieties that bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

2. A judge's remuneration from the Republic of Jurlandia may not be reduced during his or her term of office. No judge may accept remuneration from any source that would lead a reasonable person to question the judge's ability to render impartial justice with independence, courage, and vigor.

3. The Supreme Court may require all judges to decline memberships in certain kinds of organizations, to decline receipt of certain kinds of income, or to place certain kinds of property into a blind trust, if the interests of justice and fair judicial administration so require.

4. Nothing in this Article shall be construed to deny the Parliament the power to enact legislation on judicial administration, court procedures, and the obligations of judges and the legal profession, so long as these do not impair judicial independence and the prerogatives of the Judicial Branch to carry out its obligations towards the Constitution and towards those elements of law that transcend constitutions and legislation, including the principles of statutory construction and constitutional interpretation that undergird the concept of government under law.

See single-document versons of the Constitution of Jurlandia in English and Russian

English copyrights © 1991-1999 by Barnabas D. Johnson

Russian version copyrights © 1991-1999 by Lowry Wyman

Armenian copyright © 2001 by Barnabas D. Johnson

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