Strasbourg, 11 February 2008

CCJE/REP(2008)25
English only

Consultative council of european judges (CCJE)

Questionnaire for 2008 ccje opinion concerning the quality of judicial decisions: reply submitted by the delegation of Finland

Question 1

Is there a specific model to be followed in drafting judicial decisions?

Finnish procedural legislation contains provisions concerning the way of drafting of judicial decisions in civil, criminal and administrative matters.1 For example, the issues to be dealt with in a judgement are listed in special provisions of law. In addition, in criminal cases there are special forms issued by the Ministry of justice on which information relating to the individual punishment shall be recorded. This information is then entered into certain national databases to be used, for example, in the enforcement of the sentence.

For judgements delivered by District Courts see the following sections of the Finnish Code of Judicial Procedure:

      Chapter 24 — Court decision (165/1998)
      Decision of a District Court in a civil case
      Section 4 (165/1998)
      The judgement shall be accompanied with reasons. The statement of reasons shall indicate the circumstances and the legal reasoning underlying the judgement. In addition, the statement of reasons shall indicate how a contentious fact has been proven or how the proof has not been adequate.

      Section 7 (165/1998)
      (1) The judgement of a District Court shall be drawn up as a separate document. It shall contain:

        (1) the name of the court and the date of the judgement;
        (2) the names of the parties;
        (3) an account on the claims and responses of the parties, with the reasons for them;
        (4) a list of the persons heard for probationary purposes and the other evidence presented;
        (5) a statement of reasons for the judgement;
        (6) the legal provisions and authorities applied;
        (7) the operative part of the judgement; and
        (8) the names and titles of the members participating in the decision, and a statement of whether a vote has been taken on the judgement. If a vote has been taken, the opinions of the dissenting members shall be enclosed to the judgement.

      (2) The account to be contained in the judgement may be replaced, in full or in part, by annexing a copy of the application for a summons, the response or another document to the judgement, provided that the intelligibility of the judgement is not thereby compromised.

As far as Courts of Appeal are concerned, see the following sections in the Code:

      Decision of a Court of Appeal
      Section 15 (165/1998)
      (1) The judgement and final order of a Court of Appeal shall contain:

        (1) the name of the court and the date when the decision is handed down or made available to the parties;
        (2) the names of the parties;
        (3) an account of the decision of the District Court, for the relevant parts, and an account of the claims and responses of the parties in the Court of Appeal and their reasons;
        (4) a list of the persons heard for probationary purposes and the other evidence presented in the Court of Appeal;
        (5) a statement of reasons;
        (6) the provisions and authorities applied;
        (7) the operative part of the judgement or order; and
        (8 the names and titles of the members participating in the decision, and a statement of whether a vote has been taken on the decision. The opinions of the dissenting members, as well as the recommendation of the referendary, if different from the decision of the Court of Appeal, shall be enclosed to the judgement or final order.

    (2) The account of the decision of the District Court may be replaced, in full or in part, by annexing a copy of the judgement of the District Court to the judgement or final order of the Court of Appeal, provided that the intelligibility of the decision of the Court of Appeal is not thereby compromised. The reasons of the District Court, in so far as upheld by the Court of Appeal, need not be restated.
    (3) An instrument shall be drawn up of a judgement and a final order, to be signed by the members who participated in the decision. The referendary shall countersign the instrument. The court instrument to be issued to the parties shall be certified by the referendary or another official appointed to the task by the president.

Section 16 (165/1998)

    If the Court of Appeal does not change the reasons or the result of the decision of the District Court, the provisions in section 15(1)(5)—(7) need not be applied; a notification that the decision of the District Court has been examined and that no reason to change it has been found shall suffice. In this event, the decision of the Court of Appeal need not contain an account of the decision of the District Court. A copy of the decision of the District Court shall be enclosed to the decision of the Court of Appeal in full or for the part necessary.

Concerning criminal law cases, the Criminal Procedure Act, Chapter 11, stipulates as follows:

Section 6

      (1) The judgment of a district court is to be drawn up as an independent document. It

      is to indicate:

        (1) the name of the court and the date of the judgment;

        (2) the names of the parties;

        (3) an account of the demands and responses of the parties, with reasons;

        (4) a list of the persons heard for probationary purposes and the other evidence received;

        (5) the statement of reasons;

        (6) the provisions and authorities applied;

        (7) the operative part of the judgment; and

        (8) the names and positions of the members of the court and whether the

          judgment is the result of a vote. If a vote has been taken, the minority opinion is to be annexed to the judgment. (167/1998)

      (2) The account contained in the judgment may be fully or partially replaced by annexing a copy of the application for a summons, response or other document to the judgment, provided that the intelligibility of the judgment is not thereby compromised.

No corresponding provision can be found in the Code regarding the judgements of the Supreme Court. The structure of the judgements is considered by the Supreme Court in each individual case depending on the nature of the case.

Can each individual judge choose his own style of drafting his decision?

Within the limits mentioned above, individual judges may draft their decisions as they find appropriate. Of course, there is also some variance between decisions depending on the nature and scope of the matter and the complexity of the questions of fact and law which the court must decide.

The Finnish civil and criminal procedure has gone through remarkable reforms in the early 1990s. On this occasion, district court judges were provided training in the drafting of judgements. This resulted in a harmonisation of the structure of judgements in both civil and criminal cases. Courts of appeal were provided similar training in the late 1990's, which served to harmonise the structure of their decisions as well. The decisions of the Supreme Court also steer, to a certain extent, the drafting of judgements in lower courts.

Due to the independence of the judiciary the Ministry of Justice cannot give and has not given any instructions on drafting judicial decisions. Courts themselves may give guidelines to be followed in the court in question. Therefore, complete unity as to the style of decisions has not been reached nor even aimed at.

Question 2
Where the court is composed of more than one member, do judicial decisions have to be taken unanimously or a majority decision is equally effective and binding?

A decision may either be unanimous or the result of a vote. A majority decision is equally effective and binding as a unanimous one.

In a two or even more member panel, does the president or most senior judge have a second or casting vote?

If a consensus cannot be reached through discussion, a vote is taken. Votes are cast in reverse order of seniority, with the presiding judge casting the final vote. All votes carry equal weight in determining the result. See however, Chapter 23, Section 6 of the Code below.

The Code of Judicial Procedure stipulates the following on voting in civil law cases:

Chapter 23 — Voting (690/1997)
General provisions on voting
Section 1 (690/1997)

    (1) If the members of a court cannot reach a consensus in their deliberations, a vote shall be taken. (2) The vote shall be taken in the reverse order of seniority, with the least senior member expressing an opinion first and the most senior member last. However, if one of the members of the court serves as a referendary, he/she shall express an opinion first.

Section 2 (690/1997)

    (1) If there are Lay Judges in the composition of a District Court, the chairperson shall explain to them the issues that have risen in the case and the provisions applicable to the issues.
    (2) When a vote is taken, the Lay Judges shall express their opinions last.

Section 3 (690/1997)

      (1) An opinion shall be accompanied with reasons.
      (2) A member who merely concurs with an opinion already expressed need supply reasons only if these differ from what has already been stated.

Section 4 (690/1997)

      If a dispute arises as to how the vote should be taken or as to what is the result of the vote, a vote shall be taken on the same. In this event, the provisions on voting in civil cases apply.

Voting in civil cases
Section 5 (690/1997)

    (1) If several claims or a claim for set-off have been made in a civil case, separate votes shall be taken on each of them. The same applies if, concerning the same claim, there are several issues which have an effect on the decision of the case.
    (2) A member of the court shall express an opinion on each issue to be decided.

Section 6 (690/1997)

      In a vote, the opinion supported by the majority of the members shall prevail. In the event of a tie, the opinion supported by the chairperson shall prevail.

Section 7 (690/1997)

      A separate vote shall be taken on procedural issues.

Section 8 (690/1997)

      If the dispute concerns money or another calculable claim, and more than two opinions have been supported in a vote, with none of the opinions receiving the support referred to in section 6, the votes cast for the largest amount shall be added to those cast for the next largest amount, continuing, where necessary, until an opinion receiving the support referred to in section 6 is found.

Section 9 (690/1997)

      If a vote is taken in a civil case on whether an order on the enforceability of a threat of a fine is to be issued or a sentence of imprisonment passed, the provisions on voting in criminal cases apply.

Voting in criminal law cases is covered by the following stipulations of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1997;

Chapter 10 – Voting

Section 1

The following separate votes are to be taken in a criminal case, in the order

indicated:

      (1) will the charge be approved or rejected and how the act specified in the charge will be assessed under criminal law;

      (2) will the person who has been found guilty be sentenced or will punishment be waived;

      (3) will the court order, under chapter 7, section 6 of the Penal Code, that the earlier sentence covers also the offence now being heard;

      (4) what will be the type and the amount of the sanction; and

      (5) what will be the position of the court on other issues relating to the sanction.

Section 2

      In a vote, the opinion of the majority is to prevail. In the event of a tie, the opinion

      more lenient to the defendant is to prevail.

Section 3

      If more than two opinions have been supported in a vote and none of them has received the number of votes referred to in section 2, the votes for the opinion most unfavourable to the defendant are to be added to the opinion closest to it. Where necessary, this process is to continue until an opinion prevailing under section 2 is reached.

Section 4

      All members of the court are to express their opinions on all the issues to be resolved.

Section 5

      (1) A separate vote is to be taken on procedural issues. In this event, the provisions on voting in civil proceedings apply.

      (2) If the procedural issue relates to coercive measures, the provisions on voting in criminal proceedings apply.

Section 6

      The provisions on voting in civil proceedings apply to voting on a civil claim.

Question 3
Do judicial decisions have to deal with all points raised by the parties or their lawyers or is a synthetic or concise approach considered sufficient?

The issues to be dealt with in the judgements of District courts and Courts of appeal are explained above in point 1.1. The decision must respond to all claims and deal with all points raised to support those claims. In the event of disputed facts or points of law, the court shall provide the reasoning leading to its conclusions.

Question 4
In general terms, how is a first instance judicial decision drafted? For example, does the decision state first the factual background, followed by the evidence, its evaluation and finally the application of the legal principles to the accepted facts?)

Yes, it can be said description given in the question gives quite an accurate picture of a Finnish first instance judicial decision. The structure is normally the following: the claims of the claimant, reply of the respondent, presentation of evidence (written, witness testimonies), decision concerning the disputed questions including relevant legislation and reasoning, final conclusions. As far as criminal judgements are concerned, final conclusions, the sentence and possible damages are written on special forms confirmed by the Ministry of justice (see above Nr 1).

How in general terms is an appeal /supreme court decision drafted?

Structure of decision in appeal court and in the Supreme Court

Courts of appeal decide some 70 per cent of civil and criminal cases before them on the basis of documents (written procedure) and some 30 per cent by hearing the parties and witnesses. The core structure of the decision in both procedures corresponds to the list of issues to be dealt with explained in item 1.1. above.

In those decisions based on a re-hearing of the matter in the appeal court, the key production of evidence and the evaluation of this evidence inclusive of conclusions are recorded in the decision. This is usually not found in cases decided on the basis of written materials.
The structure of a court of appeal decision normally follows the following order: appeal of the claimant including motivations, response of the respondent including motivtions, presentation of evidence (written, witness testimonies), decision consisting of reasoning, final conclusions and relevant legislation. Should the case to be solved be of a simple and clear nature, the motivations in their briefest version include a short phrase "the Court of appeal has examined the legality of the District court decision and the Court has found no grounds for amending it" or "neither the decision nor the procedure/proceedings conducted/followed were erroneous and the legal protection of the parties, when taking into consideration the nature of the case, does not require a further examination of the appeal/the proceedings to be continued. In such cases the final conclusion states that the decision remains in force or the District court decision is not amended.

Should the case to solve be more complex in its nature, it has been customary to handle each issue/question separately in the motivations/reasoning. Sometimes and to the extent it is seen appropriate, a decision contains an account of the background and of the questions to be decided by the Court. This is followed by the consideration of each question including when necessary the relevant legislation, possible questions on interpretation of law, facts and presentation and evaluation of evidence and final conclusions.

Appeal courts themselves have given guidelines for the drafting of decisions in various kinds of situations. These guidelines or instructions are not binding on individual judges, however. The main concern is that a judicial decision is drafted so that it is in accordance with law and justice. The decision should also be logical, understandable, clear, comprehensive, credible and transparent. Of course, the particulars of each individual case have an impact on the drafting of the decision.

What has been stated in the last three sentences of the chapter above, applies also to decision delivered by the Supreme Court. A Supreme Court decision normally follows the following order: appeal, reply, summary of decisions of lower courts and decision consisting of reasoning and final conclusions.

The manner and style of drafting of judgements in the Supreme Court has been strongly developed during the last two decades. An important milestone has been the year 1980 when a new system for appeal cases in the Supreme Court was introduced. This system included the demand of a special leave for appeal granted by the Supreme Court as a prerequisite for any further handling of the appeal. In consequence, the number of cases to be dealt with by the Supreme Court could be cut down and the court was enabled to focus its activity on drafting precedents fulfilling higher qualitative demands than earlier. The way of drafting of a precedent depends of the nature of each individual case as presented above.

Nowadays the Supreme Court deliveries 100-150 such precedents each year. The reasoning of the decisions of the Supreme Court can be of a substantial length and comprise of many-sided motivations. These can include e.g. the government's bills and other preparatory work and reflect even different viewpoints in the general discussion concerning the development of the society. One can note that the earlier criticism which was sometimes presented by law professors against the alleged defective reasoning in the Supreme Court decisions has almost totally ceased.

In the Supreme Court judgements, the decisions of lower courts are usually not summarised in a separate chapter. Instead they are annexed to the Supreme Court decision as such.

Is the appeal in your country by way of rehearing the case or not?

As stated above, Courts of appeal conduct a hearing in some 30 per cent of cases. A hearing is usually conducted in cases in which the facts of the matter are disputed and require the parties and witnesses to be heard. A request from a party to conduct a hearing and the grounds to the claim both have a measure of significance when deciding on whether a hearing shall be held. As a rule, a hearing shall be held whenever one is requested.

Since 2003 the Courts of appeal have to been able, when certain conditions are fulfilled, "to screen" (a new term introduced in the Code) cases brought to them. During this screening procedure the court decides whether further proceedings/hearings are needed at all. If not, the judgement of the District court shall remain in force.

The Code of Judicial Procedure stipulates the following on oral hearings in a Court of Appeal:

Chapter 26 — Hearing of an appeal in the Court of Appeal (165/1998)
Main hearing

Section 13 (165/1998)

      (1) In the main hearing in the Court of Appeal, the parties, witnesses and expert witnesses are heard orally and other information is admitted.
      (2) The main hearing may be restricted to cover a severable part of the case that is being appealed.

Section 14 (165/1998)

      (1) A main hearing shall be held in the Court of Appeal, if a party to a civil case or the injured party or the defendant in a criminal case so requests.
      (2) However, a main hearing need not be held for the reason referred to in paragraph (1), if

        (1) in a civil case amenable to settlement, the opposing party has admitted the appellant’s request for a change;
        (2) in a criminal case only the appellant has requested a main hearing and the case is decided in accordance with the appeal;
        (3) the person requesting a main hearing has been satisfied with the decision of the District Court and the decision is not changed to his/her detriment;
        (4) the appeal is manifestly ill-founded;
        (5) only a procedural matter is to be decided in the case; or
        (6) the holding of a main hearing is for another reason manifestly unnecessary.

      (3) The provisions in paragraph (1) and in paragraph (2)(1) and (2)(3)—(6) apply, in so far as appropriate, also when hearing an appeal lodged in a petitionary matter.
      (4) If the Court of Appeal rejects the request of the appellant or the respondent for a main hearing, he/she shall, where necessary, be reserved an opportunity to supplement the appeal or the response for this reason.

Section 15 (165/1998)

      (1) The Court of Appeal shall hold a main hearing regardless of whether one has been requested, if a decision on the matter turns on the credibility of the testimony admitted in the District Court or the findings of the District Court in an inspection, or on new testimony to be admitted in the Court of Appeal. In this event, the evidence admitted in the District Court shall be readmitted and the inspection carried out again in the main hearing, unless there is an impediment for the same.
      (2) If the evidence referred to in paragraph (1) cannot be readmitted in the main hearing, the decision of the District Court shall not be changed for that part, unless the evidence for a special reason is to be assessed differently. However, a decision on a charge may be changed in favour of the defendant of a criminal case.

Chapter 30 — Appeal from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court (104/1979)
Section 20 (104/1979)

      (1) Where necessary, the Supreme Court shall hold an oral hearing where the parties, witnesses and expert witnesses may be heard and other information admitted. The oral hearing may be restricted to a part of the case on appeal.
      (2) The Supreme Court may also order that the hearing of a party, a witness or an expert witness be arranged in another court.

Section 21 (104/1979)

      (1) The parties may be invited to the oral hearing under threat that the case may be heard and decided regardless of their absence. However, the provisions in chapter 12 of this Code and in chapter 8 of the Criminal Procedure Act on the obligation of a party to appear in the continued hearing of the case apply to a party whose hearing in person is deemed necessary by the Supreme Court. In the invitation, the party shall be notified of the threat under which he/she is to appear in the oral hearing. (690/1997)
      (2) If a party who has been obliged to appear under threat of a fine is absent or a person who has been ordered brought to the court cannot be found or the invitation to the oral hearing cannot be served on the party, the case may, where necessary, be decided regardless of the absence of the party. In this event, the threat of a fine shall not be ordered enforceable.

The Supreme Court conducts, when necessary, an oral hearing where the parties, witnesses and expert witnesses may be heard and other information admitted. The Supreme court has a wide discretion as far as the organization and extent of oral hearings are concerned. As the precedents of the Supreme Court are focused on legal issues, it is not often that oral hearings play a central part in this decision making. The annual number of oral hearings has been quite limited, approx. 10-15. Hearings are organised before a five member panel in a manner determined by each individual case.

Question 5
Is there a difference in the way a judgement is drafted according to the subject matter (civil, criminal, administrative)?

The structure of decisions in civil and criminal cases is very much alike. As stated above, the structure and substance of the decision depends on the nature, scope and complexity of the case as well as its other particulars.

Before Courts of appeal the drafting procedure in civil and criminal cases depends on whether the matter is decided in written procedure or after a hearing.

When a matter is decided on the basis of documents, a referendary or one of the judges prepares a decision proposal in writing and also presents this to the panel of judges. The presiding judge then oversees a discussion of the proposal, in which it may be approved, modified in respect of reasoning or outcome, or voted on. In simple and straightforward cases, the decision is drafted in final or near-final form upon conclusion of the discussion. In more complex cases, drafting takes place in part after deliberation on the decision. The final decision is reviewed by each member on the panel of judges.

In cases decided after a hearing, the judges deliberate on the decision. In simple cases, the decision is issued to the parties after deliberation. Otherwise, the decision is drafted on the basis of the deliberation. The panel of judges often together review a draft decision prepared by one of the members or by the referendary and make the necessary modifications. The final decision is then dispatched to the parties in writing.

In the Supreme Court the deliberations of the justices take place on the basis of a memorandum prepared by a referendary. The memorandum is an analysis of the case and the norms to be applied: it focuses on the nature of the legal issues to be solved, the applicable legal rules, earlier precedents, opinions presented in legal writings etc. In addition, the memorandum also includes the referendary's proposal for a judgement. In most cases, deliberations take place only once and the judgement is further elaborated and finalized but the justices as a desk-top work. Complicated cases may require a series of deliberations where the judgement is gradually built up. Sometimes an oral hearing focusing on certain points of the case is arranged after the first deliberations.

The Code of Judicial Procedure , Chapter 30 includes the following stipulation:

Section 20 (104/1979)

      (1) Where necessary, the Supreme Court shall hold an oral hearing where the parties, witnesses and expert witnesses may be heard and other information admitted. The oral hearing may be restricted to a part of the case on appeal.

      (2) The Supreme Court may also order that the hearing of a party, a witness or an expert witness be arranged in another court.

See also points 1.1. and 4.

Question 6
Could you describe precisely how the decision is transmitted to the parties?

In District Court, in cases where the decision is issued on the same day as the hearing, the judgement is announced to the parties and subsequently dispatched to them in writing. Otherwise, the judgement is dispatched to the parties in writing.

It is only rare that a decision of a Court of appeal is handed down to the parties on the same day after an oral hearing. On the contrary, it is quite common that the decision is dispatched to the parties about one month after the final deliberations. If the decision is made without an oral hearing, the decision is always sent to the parties by mail. However, lawyers or their assistants usually go to the court personally to obtain their copy from the registry.

Decisions of the Supreme Court are always issued in writing. They are mailed to the parties but can also be obtained from the registry of the court.

The Code of Judicial Procedure includes following stipulations on this matter:

Chapter 24
Section 13 (165/1998)

      (1) The parties shall be issued with copies of the judgement in the form of a court instrument.
      (2) A copy of a judgement of the District Court shall be certified by the chairperson, a legally trained member or an official appointed to the task.
      (3) A copy of the judgement of the District Court shall be available to the party in the court registry

        (1) within two weeks, if an intent to appeal has been registered in the case; and
        (2) within thirty days, if possible, in other events, counted from the date when the judgment was handed down or made available to the parties.

Section 17 (165/1998)

      (1) The decision of the Court of Appeal shall be handed down after the conclusion of the court’s deliberations or made available to the parties in the registry of the Court of Appeal. A decision that has been handed down shall be dated on that day; a decision available in the registry shall be dated on the day when it is made available.
      (2) A judgement and a final order shall be issued within 30 days of the conclusion of the main hearing. If, for a special reason, the decision cannot be issued within the said period, it shall be issued as soon as possible. In any event, the deliberations shall take place immediately after the conclusion of the main hearing or, at the latest, on the following weekday.

Section 18 (165/1998)

      (1) The Court of Appeal shall deliver copies of its decision to all parties who have exercised their right to be heard in the Court of Appeal.
      (2) A copy shall be delivered to the defendant in a criminal case also when he/she has not exercised his/her right to be heard in the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Appeal has changed the decision of the District Court for the part of the defendant. A copy shall be delivered to the public prosecutor who pursued the charge even when he/she has not exercised his/her right to be heard in the Court of Appeal.

Chapter 30
Section 27 (104/1979)

      A judgement and decision of the Supreme Court shall be dated on the day from which it is available to the parties. However, a decision by which a request for leave to appeal is rejected or ruled inadmissible may be dated on the day it was presented by the referendary, as provided in the Rules of Procedure of the Supreme Court. It may be provided in the Rules of Procedure that also a decision which is to be annexed to a letter of appeal may be dated on the day it was presented, as may be a decision by which a case has not been finally decided or of which notice is given only by letter.

Is the judicial decision binding only on the specific litigants or does it affect the public in general?

As a rule, judicial decisions are only binding on the parties of the litigation. That means that the old principle sententia jus facit inter partes is followed, however not without exceptions. In some cases the binding effect of a judgement extends to third parties, like successors post rem judicatam and even pendente lite. Some bankruptcy situations and partnerships are also governed by special rules. Class action, which is nowadays introduced in Finnish legislation in a restricted extent, is a special case as well. And then, of course, res judicata inter omnes is applied as far as judgements regarding status under family are concerned.

Does your country acknowledge a difference in judicial decisions in personam and in rem?

The Finnish legal system does not in general operate with these concepts.

Question 7
How is a judicial decision enforced in your country?

The enforcement of judicial decisions does not fall under the domain of the law courts themselves. Enforcement is seen to by the executive authorities, which form an administrative branch of its own under the Ministry of justice and is governed by the Execution Code. Nowadays there are 22 local Execution offices in Finland. Executive authorities are provided executive assistance by the police as necessary.

Does your country allow for contempt proceedings against a litigant who does not comply with a decision/order of the court?

If a party fails to comply with an obligation imposed on him/her in court, the executive authorities ensure the enforcement of the order appearing in the decision. A party may appeal against enforcement pursuant to provisions concerning appeal procedure in enforcement. The appeal is dealt by a District court in the first instance.

Question 8
Are judicial decisions handed down/announced in open court?

Decisions are announced in open court. Legislation governing the publicity of legal proceedings contains provisions on the cases in which derogation from the rule is permitted and the conditions thereto. Derogation from the principle of publicity is a rare occurrence.

In Finland hearings are mainly open to public and also the decision is announced in open court. A copy in writing is given out in connection with the announcement or later. In complex cases District court judgements can be handed down in writing in the court registry without announcement in open court. The Supreme Court hands down decisions only in writing and so are most of the decisions of appeal courts.

Written decisions are handed down to the parties mostly within a certain time after the hearing. In that case the main rule is that anybody (not involved in the case) may ask and receive a copy of the decision. See also the relevant legislation below.

Code of Judicial Procedure
Chapter 24, District court decisions in civil cases
Section 13 (165/1998)

      (1) The parties shall be issued with copies of the judgement in the form of a court instrument.
      (2) A copy of a judgement of the District Court shall be certified by the chairperson, a legally trained member or an official appointed to the task.
      (3) A copy of the judgement of the District Court shall be available to the party in the court registry

        (1) within two weeks, if an intent to appeal has been registered in the case; and
        (2) within thirty days, if possible, in other events, counted from the date when the judgment was handed down or made available to the parties.

Section 17 (165/1998), Appeal court decisions

    (1) The decision of the Court of Appeal shall be handed down after the conclusion of the court’s deliberations or made available to the parties in the registry of the Court of Appeal. A decision that has been handed down shall be dated on that day; a decision available in the registry shall be dated on the day when it is made available.
    (2) A judgement and a final order shall be issued within 30 days of the conclusion of the main hearing. If, for a special reason, the decision cannot be issued within the said period, it shall be issued as soon as possible. In any event, the deliberations shall take place immediately after the conclusion of the main hearing or, at the latest, on the following weekday.

For judgements in criminal law cases in District courts, see Criminal Procedure Act:

Section 7

      (1) The deliberations of the court are to take place immediately after the conclusion of the main hearing or, at the latest, on the following day. The judgment is to be handed down after the conclusion of the deliberations. However, only the statement of reasons and the operative part of the judgment need be handed down, unless a more complete account of the contents of the judgment is needed. If the judgment is the result of a vote, an indication of the same is to be made when the judgment is handed down.

      (2) If in an extensive or complex case the deliberations or the drawing up of the judgment so require, the judgment may be made available in the court registry within 14 days of the conclusion of the main hearing. If, for a special reason, the judgment cannot be made available within this deadline, it is to be made available as soon as possible. The parties present at the conclusion of the hearing are to be notified of the time when the judgment will be available.

      (3) When the charge is dismissed or rejected without arranging a main hearing, the order or the judgment are to be made available without delay in the court registry. In this event, the court is to notify the parties of the date of the decision well in advance of that date.

Can the public/journalists be excluded?

Decisions are public to all, except for the possible restrictions stipulated in the Act on the Publicity of Court Proceedings. The publicity of legal proceedings and decisions is a central principle which seeks to increase public trust in the courts and to control the activities of the courts. It also plays an important role in ensuring fair trial and legal protection.

If so on what grounds?

On the motion of a party or for another specific reason, the court may decide that the hearing shall be held in full or in part without the presence of the public when

      (1) open proceedings could endanger the external security of the State or impair the relations of the State with another State
      (2) material to be presented involves particularly sensitive information about an individual’s private life, health, disability or social welfare;
      (3) material that is confidential under law will be disclosed during proceedings;
      (4) open proceedings could endanger the safety of an applicant seeking for asylum or that of his relative
      (5) the person accused of a crime is below the age of 18 and a closed hearing would not be against public interests considered very important.
      (6) a person below the age of 15 or a person whose legal capacity has been restricted is heard.

The court may also decide that the hearing shall be held, when necessary, without the presence of the public when e.g. one is under the obligation during the hearing to disclose information or to present an object or a document for examination which one may otherwise refuse to disclose or present, or one is under the obligation to answer a question which one may otherwise refuse to answer, or when the document to be presented contains a communication between the defendant and a person who is related to him/her in the manner referred to in chapter 17(20) of the Code of Judicial Procedure or contains information of which a person referred to in section 23 of the mentioned chapter may not testify in court or information which a person referred to in section 24 may refuse to disclose.

Question 9
To what extent do judicial decisions in your country take into account personal data protection legislation (i.e. publication of litigants’ names, other personal details etc)?

According to the Act on the Publicity of Court Proceedings, the Court may order certain personal data classified. However, the case must meet the prerequisites listed in the Act. The identity of the victim may be ordered classified in a criminal case involving particularly sensitive information on an individual’s private life. The same applies also for the identity of an applicant seeking for asylum, unless it is clear that disclosing such information does not endanger the applicant’s or his next of kin's safety.
Question 10
Are judicial decisions available to persons or authorities other than the litigants themselves?

Yes. The principle of publicity of legal proceedings also entails that decisions are public except in situations in which the publicity of the decision may be restricted to the extent and on the grounds provided for in legislation governing the publicity of legal proceedings.

If so, on what terms and prerequisites?

Decisions are public as a rule. Publicity may be restricted to the extent and on the grounds provided for in legislation governing the publicity of legal proceedings. A reform of this legislation has only recently been implemented in Finland.

According to the Act:

The court shall decide that trial documentation be held classified insofar that it contains

      1) information which could endanger the external security of the State or impair the State’s international relations
      2) sensitive information on a person’s private life, health or matters relating to his/her social welfare,
      3) information about the victim in criminal cases if the disclosure of such information would offend the victim’s rights or his relatives.
      4) information on psychiatric examination of the accused etc.,
      5) information on negotiations of the court

Question 11
Are judicial decisions published/available on the internet?

The case law of the Supreme Court is published on the internet. Courts of appeal publish on the internet those decisions of theirs with precedent value. District courts and administrative courts publish selected decisions on the internet. Decisions on publication are taken on the basis of the social significance, general publicity and precedent value and other relevant factors.

If so, are all decisions available or only appeal or supreme court cases?

See above.

Question12
Is a system of evaluation of quality of justice in force in your country?

Due to the independence of the judiciary and as we lack a separate Council for the judiciary, the evaluation of the quality of justice is the sole competence of the courts themselves. The appellate system can be seen, among other things, as a method of evaluation of justice. The precedents of the Supreme Court may serve this purpose as well.

No general system of evaluation of the quality of justice is in place in Finland. However, the courts within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal of Rovaniemi launched a project concerning the evaluation of the quality of adjudication in courts of law in 1999. A set of indicators for evaluating the quality of the administration of justice in courts, prepared by judges, prosecutors and attorneys at law in collaboration, is in place in the Rovaniemi court of appeal district. It has given rise to discussion among the judiciary on evaluation, its necessity and substance. The matter is also addressed in the training of judges.

The project has published a booklet on the main principles of evaluation and proposed quality benchmarks (Evaluation of the Quality of Adjudication in Courts of Law, Principles and proposed Quality Benchmarks, March 2006). The quality benchmarks have been used in a pilot project, the final report of which will be published shortly.

The following answers are drafted on the basis of the Rovaniemi project.

Question 13
Does this evaluation include/envisage the evaluation of the quality of judicial decisions?

See answers above.

Question 14
If your country does evaluate the quality of judicial decisions by means of a specific system, could you specify the latter:

legal basis:

See point 12 above.

identification of the agencies that are responsible for the process:

See point 12 above.

parameters that are evaluated:

According to the Rovaniemi quality project the following issues are paid attention to:

      1) the decision are just and lawful
      2) the reasons for the decision have convinced the parties, legal professionals and legal scholars of the justness and lawfulness of the decision
      3) the reasons of the decisions are transparent
      4) the reasons of the decisions are detailed and systematic
      5) the reasons of the decisions can be understood
      6) the decision has a clear structure and is linguistically and typographically correct
      7) the pronouncement of the decision has been understood

methods by which each parameter is evaluated:

According to the Rovaniemi project the following methods or their combinations can be mentioned:

      1) self evaluation by the judges,
      2) peer review and surveys done by different interest groups or expert group evaluation (e.g. a group comprising a judge, an attorney, a prosecutor, a law professor and a PR and communications professional)
      3) statistical information: statistics on appeal rates (number of appeals over number of decisions open to appeal), statistics of overturn rates, statistics of complaints filed with the oversees of legality.

Question 15
What are the advantages and disadvantages discussed in your country as far as the evaluation of quality of justice is concerned?

There should be more debate on this topic. Quality requirements have indeed risen, leading to an ongoing need to develop the operation of the courts. The advantages and disadvantages have not been specified, however.

Question 16
In the opinion of the judiciary in your State, which factor could help to improve the quality of decisions?

The key factors would be adequate resources, basic and further training of judges, the steering significance of case law and jurisprudence, ongoing discussion of the proper standard of the quality of justice, quality indicators and benchmarking methods for the administration of justice. One should not forget, however, the meaning of an adequate pay, the meaningfulness and challenging nature of the work, pleasant colleagues and co-workers, proper facilities and equipment, and the esteem of court work.

Question 17

Is a system of evaluation of quality of each of the following in force in your State:

      - professional performance of police? Yes

      - professional performance of public prosecution services? No

      - professional performance of lawyers? No, a working group has been established to plan an evaluation model.

      - enforcement of judgements? Yes

      efficiency of ministry of justice services in general? Yes and no

      quality of legislation? Yes

Under their new remuneration system, the police and prosecution service have performance-related pay, meaning that part of the salary is determined on the basis of personal performance and ability. This involves evaluation of professional skills, productivity, responsibility and teamwork skills, for example. No similar evaluation applies to judges, although competence and performance are evaluated in annual performance appraisals. The new remuneration system introduced for enforcement employees also includes performance-related pay necessitating the evaluation of individual performance. The same applies to the staff of the Ministry of Justice, although the efficiency of the Ministry’s services as such is not subject to evaluation. Evaluation of the quality of legislation is a topic of debate at present and efforts have been made to improve the standard of this evaluation.

1 These replies cover only decisions in civil and criminal law cases adjudicated by general courts of law. Decisions made by administrative courts and special courts, like Labour court, are not dealt with. However, the principles followed by general courts are applied, to a great extent, also by administrative courts and special courts.



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