Hungary Table of Contents
The district courts, labor courts, and military courts lay at the bottom of the judicial hierarchy. District courts were the courts of first instance in all disputes. Labor courts operated in Budapest and the counties, hearing cases on appeal from labor affairs arbitration committees and other extrajudicial entities dealing with labor matters. Military courts operated in garrisons and some military units, concerning themselves with military cases and other cases that affected national defense (see Military Justice , ch. 5). The Supreme Court heard appeals directly from the military courts.
County courts served as courts of first appeal for decisions of the district courts and the labor courts. The county courts also acted as courts of first instance in certain cases involving murder, willful homicide, and grave crimes against social property. These courts functioned as courts of first instance in civil suits of a certain magnitude directed against the state, government officials, or socialist enterprises.
The Supreme Court acted as the court of appeal for the county courts and the military courts. One of the judges of the Supreme Court or one of the court's judges working together with lay assessors (non-professional judges) could act as court of first instance for certain important cases. These decisions could then be appealed to a council of the Supreme Court. Councils of the Supreme Court specialized in military, civil, criminal, labor affairs, or economic cases. The Presidential Council of the Supreme Court heard appeals from these councils on points of law.
Professional judges and lay assessors presided over the courts. When courts on any level acted as courts of first instance, they consisted of a professional judge and two lay assessors, although the law provided for some exceptions. Courts hearing appeals consisted of three professional judges, with the exception of the Presidential Council of the Supreme Court, which was led by the council's president.
The Supreme Court could issue "guiding principles or decisions in principle" when guidance was necessary "in the interests of guaranteeing uniformity or on questions of legal interpretation." These decisions were binding on the lower courts. Other decisions of the Supreme Court were not binding, but they influenced the decisions of the lower courts.
The prosecutor general supervised observance of the law. This official, who was appointed by the National Assembly upon recommendation of the party's Central Committee, headed a hierarchy of prosecutorial offices organized on the county and district levels. The prosecutor general undertook criminal investigations and prosecutions and reviewed the legality of actions taken by governmental, social, and economic organs. Only the National Assembly, Presidential Council, and Council of Ministers were excluded from the authority of the prosecutor general.
Data as of September 1989