The judicial and legal system of modern Austria is heavily rooted in historical practice. Joseph II effectively introduced the principle of equality before the law in 1781. But it was the constitution of the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy, promulgated in 1867, that laid out the basic structure of a judiciary and legal system that carried over into both the First and Second Austrian Republics. Judges were, and are, nominated by ministers of justice and confirmed by heads of state. Their duty is to interpret the law as it is written, not based on what individuals or government authorities claim it says. They are removable from office only after a judicial investigation and can be transferred only for disciplinary reasons or as part of some institutional reorganization.
   Today’s highest court in Austria is the Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof), which came into being under the First Republic but was inoperative after 1933. The Second Republic re-created it to protect the constitutional rights of citizens, especially from abuse of authority. Administrative courts (Verwaltungsgerichtshof), first created in the Austrian lands in 1875, initially hear and often adjudicate such complaints. If the case revolves around basic constitutional issues, it may move on to the constitutional court specifically charged to prevent abuses of power and authority.
   Criminal proceedings take place at several levels. The 1867 structure brought back into practice trial by jury, a custom with a long ancestry in the Germanic legal tradition. This arrangement was reintroduced in 1951. In very serious cases, juries pronounce guilt or innocence; the panel of judges presiding over the case determines what punishment is called for. Purely civil suits are usually handled at courts in administrative districts (Bezirke) or at the provincial level. A High Court (Oberster Gerichtshof), which first came into use in 1850, sits as the final appellate court in both civil and criminal cases.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.


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  • Judiciary — Ju*di cia*ry (?; 277), a. [L. judiciarius, fr. judicium judgment: cf. F. judiciare. See {Judicial}.] Of or pertaining to courts of judicature, or legal tribunals; judicial; as, a judiciary proceeding. Bp. Burnet. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • judiciary — ► NOUN (pl. judiciaries) (usu. the judiciary) ▪ the judicial authorities of a country …   English terms dictionary

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  • judiciary — noun Etymology: judiciary, adjective, from Latin judiciarius judicial, from judicium Date: 1787 1. a. a system of courts of law b. the judges of these courts 2. a branch of government in which judicial power is vested • judiciary adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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