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Judicial Foundation and Legal Codification

The legal system of Jordan is based on a combination of Civil Law traditions and Islamic legal principles. The Court Establishment Law of 1951 and the Constitution of Jordan, promulgated in 1952 and amended in 1974, 1976, and 1984, provide for an independent judiciary. The legal system is influenced by a variety of historical sources. Civil law derives from both Islamic law and the Egyptian Civil Code; family law obtains entirely from Islamic law. The major codifications of the law consist of the Civil Code, contained in Law No. 43 of 1976; the Code of Civil Procedure, contained in Law No. 24 of 1988; the Commercial Code, expressed in Law No. 12 of 1966; the Criminal Code, contained in Law No. 1487 of 1960; and the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1961. Laws are made public in the official Gazette.

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Judicial Structure and Court System

The Jordanian court system is structured into three broad categories of courts: Religious, Civil, and Special Courts. The Religious Courts are further subdivided into Shari’a Courts and tribunals for non-Muslim religious communities. The Shari’a Courts have jurisdiction over all matters relating to the personal status of Muslims and in instances when one party is non-Muslim but agrees to adjudication by the Shari’a Courts. A special court appointed by the Court of Cassation adjudicates disputes between two Religious Courts and between one Religious and one Civil Court.

The Civil Courts, which hear all civil and criminal matters not reserved for the religious courts, consist of a four-tiered hierarchy. First, the Magistrate Courts are empowered to hear all lesser civil and criminal matters. Their decisions may be appealed to the Courts of First Instance. The seven Courts of First Instance sit in chambers of three judges for criminal felony matters, and two judges for misdemeanor and civil matters. Their decisions may be appealed to the Courts of Appeal, which sit in chambers of three judges and may hear cases appealed from the Religious Courts. [6] At the apex of the judicial hierarchy is the Court of Cassation, which is composed of seven judges.

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Special Bodies

A number of Special Courts have specialized jurisdictions. The State Security Court, composed of both military and civilian judges, has jurisdiction over offenses against the state and drug-related crimes. The High Tribunal may interpret the Constitution at the request of the Prime Minister or leader of either legislative chamber. The Supreme Council, or the Special Council, interprets laws at the request of the Prime Minister and is empowered to try members of parliament accused of Penal Code violations. The Supreme Council is composed of the President of the Senate, three Senate members who are elected by the parliamentary body, and five judges who are selected from amongst the highest courts in order of seniority. The High Court of Justice hears private challenges to governmental acts.

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Judicial Education and Profession

Jordan currently has one law faculty, the University of Jordan, located in Amman. Prior to its formation in the last decade, Jordanian lawyers trained abroad, mostly in Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus and the United States. Law training in Jordan involves three years of schooling coupled with two years of practical experience in an attorney’s office.

All lawyers practicing in Jordan must be members of the Jordan Bar Association. The Association is presided over by a President and a ten-member council, all of whom are elected every two years. The Association organizes the interests of the legal profession and publishes both a compilation of Jordanian laws and a law publication that provides commentaries on legal issues and important Supreme Court decisions.

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