The judiciary of Austria-Hungary is organized at two levels: Federal and State, both organized according to the Basic Law of Federal Courts of Justice, and the Basic Law of the Organization of the Judiciary of the States. These laws established a federal and independent judiciary.

Main characteristics of the legal and court system

The court system of Austria-Hungary is characterized by a dichotomy in the ordinary jurisdiction (for criminal and civil law ) and the courts of public law (for constitutional and administrative law).

The Austro-Hungarian follows the Germanic legal system. This is a civil law system based in comprehensive compendium of statutes, as compared to the common law systems. The Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (ABGB), of 1812 with modifications is the Civil Code of Austria-Hungary.

Criminal and civil procedures follow an adversarial model. All procedures are oral and public, even in civil affairs. There are normally no juries and judges sit as a panel in some courts. In special criminal and political offences trial by jury takes place.

The Basic Law on the General Rights of Nationals of 1867 followed by the 1920 resolutions abolishing censorship and establishing freedom of the press and the 1921 reform that granted protection to minorities within the states of Austria-Hungary, is the federal bill of rights.

Since political agreement over a bill of rights could not be reached, the "Basic law on the general rights of citizens" (Staatsgrundgesetz über die allgemeinen Rechte der Staatsbürger) of 1867 was uphold and left in place, being designated as constitutional law by the Federal Parliament.

Organization of the Courts

At federal level there are three supreme courts:

  • Federal Supreme Court of Justice, last resort appeal and judicial review of civil and criminal courts.
  • Federal Administrative Court, tries all kinds of cases which involve ex officio decisions by federal public officials or bodies and which are not dealt with by the Constitutional Court. Note that only the Constitutional Court has the authority to strike down laws.
  • Federal Constitutional Court, examines the constitutionality of laws passed by Federal Parliament, the legality of regulations by Federal ministers and other administrative authorities and finally alleged infringements of constitutional rights of individuals through decisions of the lower administrative courts. It also tries disputes between the federation and its member states, demarcation disputes between other courts and impeachments of the federal government (serving as State Court in that matter)

At state level there are three state courts and their inferior courts.

  • State Supreme Court of Justice, Courts of Appeal and Districts Courts.
  • State Administrative Court, Regional Administrative Courts and District Administrative Court
  • State Constitutional Court

For purposes legal jurisdiction each state is organized in judicial districts, that do not necessarily correspond to the administrative division.

Public Prosecution

The main task of the public prosecutor is the management of the investigation and representation and an indictment in criminal proceedings.

The public prosecution is organized at Federal, State and judicial district levels. The Federal Prosecutors Office is named and under the under the direction and supervision of the Federal Ministry of Justice. The States’ Ministry of Justice names and directs the State and District Prosecutors.

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