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Judicial System

The general organization and functioning of the judiciary was established by the Constitution and by the 1968 Law on the Organization of the Court System. Overall responsibility for the functioning of the courts was vested in the Ministry of Justice, and the prosecutor general was charged with the general application of the law and the conduct of criminal proceedings.

To fulfill its responsibility for the functioning of the courts and the supervision of state marshals, state notaries, and the national bar organization, the Ministry of Justice was divided into six directorates: civil courts, military courts, studies and legislation, personnel, administration, and planning and accounting. In addition, the ministry included a corps of inspectors, an office of legal affairs, and the State Notary Office.

The court system included the Supreme Court, judet courts, lower courts, military courts, and local judicial commissions. The Constitution placed the judiciary under the authority of the GNA, and between assembly sessions, under the authority of the State Council. The Supreme Court, seated in Bucharest, exercised general control over the judiciary activity of all lower courts.

Members of the Supreme Court were professional judges appointed by the GNA to four-year terms of office. The Supreme Court functioned as an appeals court for sentences passed in lower tribunals and, in certain matters specified by law, could act as a court of first instance. It could also issue guidance, in the form of directives, on legal and constitutional questions for the judicial actions of lower courts and the administrative functions of government agencies. The Supreme Court was divided into three sections--civil, criminal, and military. A panel of three judges presided over each section. The minister of justice presided over plenary sessions of the entire court held at least once every three months for the purpose of issuing guidance directives.

In 1989 there were forty judet courts and the municipal court of Bucharest, which had judet court status. Each court on this level was presided over by a panel of two judges and three lay jurors, known as people's assessors, and decisions were made by majority vote. People's assessors were first introduced in December 1947 and were given additional legal status in 1952 by the Law on the Organization of Justice. Most of the people's assessors were appointed by the PCR or by one of the district bodies of the mass organizations.

Subordinate to the judet courts were various lower courts. In the city of Bucharest, these lower courts consisted of four sectional courts, which functioned under the supervision of the municipal court. The number of lower courts and their territorial jurisdiction were established for the rest of the country by the Ministry of Justice. Panels consisting of a judge and two people's assessors presided over courts on this level, and verdicts were based on majority vote.

Military courts were established on a territorial basis, subdivisions being determined by the Council of Ministers. The lower military tribunals had original jurisdiction over contraventions of the law committed by members of the armed forces; the territorial military tribunals exercised appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the lower units. In certain situations specified by law, cases involving civilians could be assigned to military courts. At each level, the military courts, when acting in the first instance, consisted of two judges and three people's assessors. In appeals cases on the territorial level, the courts consisted of three judges only. As in the civil courts, decisions were reached by majority vote (see Law and Order , ch. 5).

In 1968 the GNA enacted a law establishing a system of judicial commissions to function as courts of special jurisdiction in the state economic enterprises and in localities. These commissions were designed as "an expression of socialist democracy" to provide for the increased participation of working people in the settlement of problems involving minor local disputes and local economic issues.

The Office of the Prosecutor General ( Procuratura, see Glossary) exercised general supervision over the application of the law and the initiation of criminal proceedings. Elected by the GNA for a five-year term, the prosecutor general exercised supervisory powers that extended to all levels of society, from government ministers down to ordinary citizens. Procuratura subunits were hierarchically organized and included offices in each judicial district plus the prosecutor's military bureau.

Data as of July 1989

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