Judiciary of Italy

Italian Court system

In Italy, judges are public officials and, since they exercise one of the sovereign powers of the State, only Italian citizens are eligible for judgeship. In order to become a judge, applicants must obtain a degree of higher education as well as pass written and oral examinations. However, most training and experience is gained through the judicial organization, itself. The potential candidates then work they way up from the bottom through promotions.[1] Italy's independent judiciary enjoys special constitutional protection from the executive branch. Once appointed, judges serve for life and cannot be removed without specific disciplinary proceedings conducted in due process before the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura. The Ministry of Justice handles the administration of courts and judiciary, including paying salaries or constructing new courthouses. The Ministry of Justice and that of the Infrastructures fund and the Ministry of Justice and that of the Interiors administer the prison system. Lastly, the Ministry of Justice receives and processes applications for presidential pardons and proposes legislation dealing with matters of civil or criminal justice.

The structure of the Italian judiciary is divided into three tiers:

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Glossary of key terms

Note: There exist significant problems with applying non-Italian terminology and concepts related to law and justice to the Italian justice system. For that reason, some of the words used in the rest of the article shall be defined.

Judicial stream

Civil courts

Justice of the Peace

The Justice of the Peace is the court of original jurisdiction for less significant civil matters. The court replaced the old Preture (Praetor Courts) and the Giudice Conciliatore (Judge of conciliation) in 1999. This court presides over lawsuits in which claims do not exceed €5,000 in value or €15,000 in certain circumstances.


The Tribunale is the court of general jurisdiction for civil matters. Here, litigants are statutorily required to be represented by an Italian barrister, or avvocato. It can be composed of one Judge or of three Judges, according to the importance of the case.
When acting as Appellate Court for the Justice of the Peace, it is always monocratico (composed of only one Judge).

Divisions and Specialized Divisions

Giudice del Lavoro (Labor Tribunal): hears disputes and suits between employers and employees (apart from cases dealt with in administrative courts, see below). A single judge presides over cases in the Giudice del Lavoro tribunal.
Sezione specializzata agraria (Land Estate Court): the specialized section that hears all agrarian controversies. Cases in this court are heard by three professional Judges and two lay Judges.
Tribunale per i Minorenni (Family Proceedings Court): the specialized section that hears all cases concerning minors, such as adoptions or emancipations; it is presided over by two professional Judges and two lay Judges.

Court of Appeal

The Court has jurisdiction to retry the cases heard by the Tribunale as a Court of first instance and is divided into three or more divisions: labor, civil, and criminal.

Court of Cassation

Criminal courts

Courts of first instance

Appellate courts


  1. Guarnieri, Carlo (1997). "The judiciary in the Italian political crisis". West European Politics.
  2. In the constitutional review this position should be increasingly assimilated, in the event of litigation of judicial acts, as a mere ex officio defense "in the interest of the law" ( ... ) . Indeed, more and more frequently the Government does not intervene and, in fact, the duel is fought before the Court between the "real" contenders: Buonomo, Giampiero (2007). "Nuovi sviluppi in tema di conflitto tra Stato e Regione su atti giurisdizionali incidenti sull'insindacabilità". Diritto&Giustizia edizione online.   via Questia (subscription required)
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