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The Finnish Court System

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published on 4 May 2021 | reading time approx. 4 minutes




International jurisdiction

The Brussels I Regulation No. 1215/2012 determines, which courts of the EU Member States have jurisdiction to decide on a civil and commercial dispute where there is an international element.

 

According to the Brussels I Regulation persons domiciled in a Member State may be sued in the courts of another Member State only by virtue of the rules set out in Sections 2 to 7 of Chapter II of the Brussels I Regulation. Therefore generally the courts of the Member State, where a person is domiciled have the right to investigate claims against the person.
  

Structure

Three main types of courts exist in Finland. The general courts, administrative courts and special courts. The general courts deal with all types of applications and civil and criminal matters. The administrative courts deal with administrative disputes by reviewing the decisions of government authorities. Special courts have a specific function and deal only with certain types of disputes. The special courts comprise of the Market Court, the Labour Court, the Insurance Court and the High Court of Impeachment.

 

In general, the decision of a court of first instance may be appealed at least once. In some cases, a further stage of appeal is available in a domestic court, meaning that a decision may be appealed twice. The requirements for a second appeal are set very high and usually involve cases with precedence value.

 

The stages of appeal are as follows:

  1. General courts:  District Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court
  2. Administrative courts:  Administrative Court, Supreme Administrative Court
  3. Special courts:  Market Court, Supreme Administrative Court, Insurance Court (no appeal as it is the court of highest instance), Labour Court (no appeal as it is the court of highest instance), High Court of Impeachment (no appeal as it is the court of highest instance)

Legal costs

Legal costs have been the subject of public discussion in recent years to their increase. Legal costs are the direct costs resulting from litigation. These may be split into court fees and extrajudicial fees.

 

Courts charge a variety of fees depending on the legal action in question. The fees may vary from 86 Euro for a summary judgement from a District Court to 6.140 Euro for a public procurement case with a value over 10 million Euro in the Market Court.

 

Extrajudicial costs consist of lawyers’ fees, witnesses’ fees and other expenses borne by each party.
  

Obligation to bear costs/reimbursement of costs

In the Finnish legal system, the parties do not necessarily strictly bear their own costs. The factors which determine which party shall ultimately pay the legal costs depend on the type of the court proceedings and the outcome of the proceedings.
  

General courts

With regard to general courts, the court shall determine which party bears the legal costs. The general rule is that the losing party shall bear all the legal costs, including the extrajudicial costs of the opposing party. Costs may sometimes be allocated amongst the parties in situations where there is no clear “winner”, e.g. where the plaintiff’s demands have been accepted only partially. In these cases, it is typical that each party shall bear their own extrajudicial costs and the plaintiff shall bear the court fees.
 

Administrative courts

The general rule in the administrative courts is that each party bears their own extrajudicial fees. The reason for this is that the opposing side is a governmental authority, such as the tax administration, with substantial resources to litigate. However, a few exceptions exist. Where a decision is brought for review on a clearly unfounded basis, the governmental authority’s extrajudicial costs are born by the appellant. In addition, where the appellant is successful and the court considers it to be unreasonable to bear their own costs, the governmental authority may be obliged to cover said costs. This relates in particular to errors made by governmental authorities.

 

The court fees are borne by the appellant if the action is not successful. No court fees are charged if the action is successful.
  

Special courts

The rules which apply to the general courts also apply to the special courts.

 

Average duration of legal proceedings

The average duration of legal proceedings depends largely on the case in question and the court. There is no definitive answer to the question, how long a legal proceeding can last. For example, the average duration in the Helsinki District Court is significantly longer than other District Courts due to the higher volume of cases in handling in the Helsinki District Court.

 

In general, legal proceedings in Finland are quite long. The durations of legal proceedings are usually the highest in Helsinki. A typical civil matter may take 1 to 1,5 years in the Helsinki District Court. Administrative Matters in the Helsinki Administrative Court take 5 to 12 months on average, depending on the type of the case under review. Appeals may take several years.

 

Provisional legal protection

Provisional legal protection is available with regard to processes in all of the courts of Finland.
  

Recognition and enforcement of European titles and foreign arbitral awards

The Brussels I Regulation No. 1215/2012 provides that a judgment given in a Member State shall be recognised in other Member States without any special procedure being required. Finnish courts do not review judgments given by another Member State. This applies to civil matters which have been initiated after 10 January 2015.

 

This means that an application for enforcement of a judgment given by another Member State shall be filed directly to the Enforcement Office. A legally valid decision from a competent court of a Member State must be attached to the application for enforcement.

 

Mediation

Judicial mediation is available as a process in civil and petitionary matters in the general courts. It acts as an alternative to a full-length trial. The mediator is usually a different judge than the judge, who would decide on the matter in a trial. The mediator’s function is to reach an amicable solution in the matter. The mediator may use an expert assistant where this is required due to the nature of the case in question.

 

Mediation is completely voluntary, and the consent of both parties is required to initiate the proceedings. The matter must also be suitable for mediation. The court decides whether to initiate mediation or not. The parties must also consent to mediation. The decision to initiate is usually made at the start of the court proceedings.

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