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Judicial Foundation and Legal Codification

The legal system of Morocco is based on a combination of canonical legal principles, including Muslim and Jewish traditions, and Civil Law traditions. The Moroccan Constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary. The major codifications of the law include the Civil Code of 1957; the Code of Civil Procedure, which was most recently revised in 1993; the Commercial Code of 1996; the Penal Code, which was revised in 1994; the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1959; and the Code of Personal Status of 1957-58, which was most recently amended in 2003.

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Judicial Structure and Court System

The Moroccan court structure was revised following independence in 1956 to create a more unified system of courts out of what had previously been several independent court systems. A law promulgated in 1965 was the final step in consolidating the system. The Communal and District Courts were established in 1974 to settle minor criminal offenses. These Courts are empowered to impose monetary penalties only and may not imprison offenders. There is not appeal from these courts. The 27 Sadad Courts are organized into separate Shari’a, Rabbinical, Civil, Commercial, Administrative, and Penal sections. The Shari’a and Rabbinical courts settle matters of personal status for members of their respective communities. The jurisdiction of the Sadad Courts extends to all criminal and civil offenses. All decisions made in criminal matters, and decisions made in civil matters in which the penalty exceeds DH300, may be appealed to the Regional Courts. The Regional Courts are subdivided into the same units as the Sadad Courts. Cases may be appealed from the Regional Courts to the Courts of Appeal, of which there are nine.

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Judicial Authority and Appointment of Judges

The administrative authority of the judiciary is vested in the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. The Council is composed of the Minister of Justice, the First President of the Supreme Court, the District Attorney of the King to the Supreme Court, and the President of the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court. The Appeals Courts, Regional Courts, and Sadad Courts each elect two members to the Supreme Council. The Council has disciplined numerous corrupt judges in recent years but scandals still rocked the profession in 2007, especially in northern Morocco where drug lords have bribed judges and prosecutors alike.

Judges are appointed by royal decree. Laws are published in the Bulletin Officiel.

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Supreme Court

The final court of appeal and the highest Moroccan court is the Supreme Court, located in Rabat. The Supreme Court is subdivided into five chambers: Constitutional, Penal, Administrative, Social, and Civil. The Constitutional chamber is composed of the First President of the Supreme Court, three judges appointed by the king, and three judges appointed by the president of the House of Representatives.

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Constitutionality of Laws – Judicial Review

The Constitutional branch of the Supreme Court is empowered to determine the constitutionality of legislation, excluding royal legislation. In addition, the Constitutional chamber is authorized to review the legality of election procedures.

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Special Bodies

In addition to the courts in the main judicial structure, there are a number of courts with specialized jurisdiction. These include the Social Courts, which function as labor courts and the Criminal Appeals Court, which hears cases related to the internal and external security of the state, and from which there is no appeal. However, the Special Court of Justice (CSJ) established in 1965 to deal with cases of official corruption was abolished in September 2004. It had become controversial because, controlled by the minister of justice, it was not independent and, sanctioning harsher penalties than the Penal Code, had in effect promoted a double standard of justice to wield against political opponents.

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Judicial Education and Profession

There are three main faculties of law in Morocco: the University Mohammed V Law School, the law school in the University Qarawiyine at Fès, and the Ecole Marocaine d’Administration at Rabat. A law promulgated in August 1996 governs the organization and functioning of the legal profession.

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Judicial Reform

Key reforms, initiated in 1997 and presently being implemented, include establishing a network of commercial courts and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, as well as providing more training and incentives for the judiciary staff. In his Speech of the Throne of October 12, 2001, the king stated his determination "to continue to reform the judiciary which ought to develop its human resources, mechanisms and codes so that it responds to the requirements of fairness and development through entrenching the sovereignty of law, transparency and impartiality at the level of issuing and implementing rulings in order to spread the spirit of confidence which gives incentive to investment."

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