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Court of First Instance

The Judicial Authority Law No. (8) Of 2023 came into force on the 2nd of October 2004. The law united the judicial justice and Sharia into one authority and called it the Courts. The Courts include the Court of Cassation, the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance. Each court has jurisdiction to consider and decide upon the matters referred to it pursuant to the law.

The Court of First Instance consists of a president and an adequate number of chairs and judges. It has circuits to consider cases of Hudood (limits), Qisas (retribution) Diyya (blood money), criminal matters, civil and commercial matters, personal status matters, inheritance, administrative disputes, etc. These circuits are formed by a decision issued by the Supreme Judiciary Council, and the judgments are issued by three members.

However, Article 12 of that law authorizes the Council to establish one or more circuits, whose rulings are issued by a single judge to adjudicate in cases specified by law.

According to the Law of Pleadings, a Court of First Instance formed by three judges is called a “Plenary Court”, while a Court of First Instance formed by a single judge is called a “District Court”. The Plenary Court is responsible for considering civil and commercial lawsuits and disputes, administrative disputes, lawsuits of unknown value, and personal and inheritance claims. It has sole jurisdiction over hearing bankruptcy, the composition of bankruptcy, possession claims, and other actions assigned to it under Law, irrespective of their value. It is also responsible for issuing judgements in the appeals referred to it against judgments delivered by the District Court or its summary judge.

The District Court has jurisdiction over all civil and commercial lawsuits and disputes. However, Family Law No. 23 of 2006 issued recently, provides for the jurisdiction of one or more circuits of the Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal (called the “Family Court”) over familial and inheritance actions and disputes. This Family Law authorizes the Family Court at the Court of First Instance, comprised of a single judge, to adjudicate disputes related to family and inheritance as specified by the Supreme Judiciary Council. In its Resolution No. 23 of 2006, the Supreme Judiciary Council specified the family claims and disputes that must be considered by the Court of First Instance consisting of a single-judge and named that court the “Family District Court”. It also specified the family claims and disputes that are considered by the Court of First Instance, consisting of three judges, and named it the “Family Plenary Court”. It is noteworthy that these actions and disputes were included under the general provisions relating to personal status disputes. However, the Family Law has excluded them and gave the Family Court the jurisdiction to hear them. The other personal status disputes remain under the jurisdiction of the Plenary Court.

It is noteworthy that there are execution judges in the Plenary Court, the District Court, the Plenary Family Court, and the District Family Court. According to the Jurisdictional Rules stipulated by law, each of these judges has the jurisdiction to supervise enforcement and adjudicate all substantive and summary disputes, and to issue decisions and orders related to enforcement. The decisions of the enforcement judge may be appealed before the competent Court of Appeal.

Furthermore, Criminal Procedure Law No. 23 of 2004 designated a three-judge Court of First Instance as the “Criminal Court”, that has jurisdiction over crimes and Hudod (limits), Qisas (Retribution) and Diya (blood money), as well as actions referred to it by the Public Prosecution. It also adjudicate misdemeanors committed by the press and other crimes specified by Law. According to the Law, a single-judge court of First Instance is named a “Misdemeanor Court”. It has jurisdiction over all misdemeanors and offenses referred by the Public Prosecution, except those committed by the press. Its judgments may be appealed before an appellate body at the three-judge Court of First Instance.