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Judicial organization

Portugal has two separate constitutionally defined jurisdictions: civil and administrative (art. 209 and following of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic). The jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court (in matters of juridical-constitutional nature) and of the Court of Auditors (verification of the legality of public expenses and judging of the accounts submitted to it by law) are also foreseen, as well as arbitral courts and magistrate courts.


Judicial Division

The judicial division of the national territory, in which the civil jurisdiction is essentially based, includes, by decreasing order of scope, in the judicial districts (Oporto, Coimbra, Évora and Lisboa), in the judicial circles (58) and in the district jurisdictions (233), the smallest of the circumscriptions, inspired in the administrative council.

Civil Jurisdiction

In the first of these two jurisdictions (civil), the civil and criminal common courts are the law courts, which also have jurisdiction over all subjects not attributed specifically to any other jurisdictional order. The courts are organized into three instances, from the hierarchically superior and covering more territory to the hierarchically inferior and territorially more limited: the Supreme Court of Justice (national competence), the five courts of Appeal (one per judicial district and two in the judicial district of Oporto) and the 227 jurisdiction courts (first instance).

While there are exceptions, the Supreme Court (both Justice and Administrative ones, infra) functions as a true last instance body, with the courts of first instance functioning as entry points.

In the first instance, law courts take on one of three categories, depending on the subject and the value of the action: courts of generic competence, specialized competence (criminal instruction, family, minors, work, trade, maritime and execution of sentences) or specific competence (civil, criminal or mixed jurisdictions; criminal or civil courts, civil or criminal small instance courts).

Civil jurisdiction is mainly ruled by Law no. 3/99, of January 13th (Organization and operation of the Law Courts), regulated by Decree-Law no. 186-B/99, of May 31st. There are also some relevant regulations in the Civil Procedure Code.

Administrative Jurisdiction

The second jurisdiction (administrative) covers the 10 administrative and tax (first instance) courts, the two central administrative courts (North and South) and the Supreme Administrative Court (covering the entire country). This jurisdiction is mainly ruled by the Statute of the Administrative and Tax Courts and by the Procedure Code for Administrative Courts.

Jurisdiction conflicts between courts are resolved by a Conflict Court, regulated by law.

For further information, please contact Eva Jorge by phone +351 217 906 220 or email