The judicial system in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, consists of three degrees; the Court of First Instance as the first degree of litigation, the Court of Appeal as the second degree, and the Court of Cassation – Supreme -as the third and most supreme degree of litigation.
Each Emirate in U.A.E Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or any other has the right to promulgate its local laws and rules in respect of specific matters like local employees in the Emirate, lease & rent law, municipality, construction, central bank, real estate, court’s fees, health insurance law, provided that the local law of each emirate will not contradict with federal law that regulate same issue.
The legal structure in the UAE runs in two systems: the Federal Judiciary presided by the Federal Supreme Court as the highest judicial authority in the UAE and the local judicial departments at the local government level presided by supreme courts in Dubai, and supreme court in Abu Dhabi, all other emirates don’t have local supreme court so they rely on federal supreme court in Abu Dhabi.
At the federal level, Ministry of Justice supervise and manage courts and prosecution departments across the UAE. It appoints judges and licenses lawyers, experts and legal translators, it has a special department for inspection on judges, lawyers, advocates, experts, translators.
Articles 94 to 109 of the UAE’s Constitution describe the general principles of these two systems and leave the details to the discretion of local judiciaries. Each of the seven emirates maintain the right to choose either to participate in the Federal Judiciary or to maintain its own local judicial system. The emirates of Sharjah, Ajman Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain follow the federal judicial system.
However, at the local level, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Courts in Dubai and RAK Courts in Ras Al Khaimah maintain their own independent judicial departments, with jurisdiction in matters that were not assigned to the Federal Judiciary in accordance with the Constitution.
Article 105 of the Constitution allows by federal law, for all or part of a local emirate court’s jurisdiction to be referred to the federal courts of first instance. However, it is not possible for a local emirate court to take jurisdiction away from the federal court.
Federal laws define the circumstances in which appeals against judgments by the local judicial authorities in penal, civil, commercial and other cases may be made before the federal courts.
The Constitution explains that there are some disputes that must be heard at a federal level by the Federal Supreme Court and not at a local or emirate’s level. These are detailed in Articles 99 and 102 of the Constitution.
Further, the Federal Law No. 11 of 1973 regulates judicial relations between the emirates.
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has embarked on restructuring its local judicial system in 2006 by issuing Law No. (23) Of 2006 creating the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, under chairmanship of His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The Judicial Department, since its inception, has been keen on creating a defined and enhanced judicial system in relation to implementing judicial procedures in order to achieve justice when issuing judgments. Pursuant to the cited law.
Each court is headed by a chief justice who is supported in the performance of his/her duties by a group of full- time specialized judges and administrative staff. Each court comprises of separate judicial circuits according to the subject of the case; the civil circuits, the commercial circuits, the labor circuits, the criminal circuits and the personal status circuits, and others. Courts of first instance and appeal courts are distributed across Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region, whereas the offices of the Court of Cassation is at the capital Abu Dhabi.
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