Judicial Foundation and Legal Codification
The legal system of Lebanon is based on a combination of Civil Law, Islamic, and Ottoman legal principles, and the laws of the Lebanese legislature. Article 20 of the Lebanese Constitution guarantees that the judiciary is founded as an independent entity, subject only to the law. Decree Law No. 7855 of 1961, which is known as the Judicial Organization Law, governs the structure and function of the judiciary.
The legal system is governed by a series of specialized codes of law. These include the Code of Obligations and Contracts of 1932, which is the primary source for civil law; the Code of Civil Procedure, contained in Decree Law No. 90 of 1983; the Code of Commerce of 1942; the Penal Code, originally formulated in Decree Law No. 340 of 1943; and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Judicial Structure and Court System
The judiciary is comprised of ordinary and exceptional courts. The ordinary courts are arranged in a hierarchy, and they are subdivided into criminal and civil departments. At the base of the structure are the Courts of First Instance. These Courts are organized into chambers of three judges each, although a single judge may adjudicate civil cases of lesser value and minor criminal cases. Judgments from the Courts of First Instance can be appealed to the Courts of Appeal, which have both appellate and original jurisdictions over felonies. There are six Courts of Appeal, one located in each district (Mohafazat). They are presided over by a First President, or Chief Judge, with supervisory and administrative duties, and comprise a Public Prosecution Department headed by an attorney general.
Judicial Authority and Appointment of Judges
The Supreme Judicial Council, headed by the First President, or Chief Justice, of the Court of Cassation, is in charge of judicial appointments, transfers, training and disciplinary actions. Additional members of the Council include the Attorney General of the Court of Cassation, the head of and an inspector from the Judicial Inspection Board, and three justices appointed by decree who serve two-year appointments. Laws are published in the official Gazette and cases are published in the Lebanese Judicial Review, a publication of the Ministry of Justice.
Decisions of the Courts of Appeal may be appealed to the Court of Cassation, or Supreme Court. This body, situated in Beirut, is presided over by a First President and also comprises a Public Prosecution Department. In addition to hearing appeals from the lower courts, the Court of Cassation adjudicates disputes between exceptional and ordinary courts, or between two types of exceptional courts.
Constitutionality of Laws – Judicial Review
The Constitutional Council, created in 1990, judges the constitutionality of governmental acts and adjudicates election disputes.
The Council of the State, established in 1924, is empowered to try disputes between individuals and the state. The Shari’a Courts, which settle matters of personal status, are divided into Sunni and Shi’a units. The Ecclesiastical Courts, composed of various Christian and Jewish divisions, settle matters of personal status for individuals from their respective communities. In addition, there are several other courts with specialized jurisdiction, including the Labor Court, Land Court, Customs Committee, Military Courts, and Juvenile Courts.
Judicial Education and Profession
There are four principal faculties of law in Lebanon. The Bar Association of Lebanon was first organized by the Decree of February 6, 1919. The most recent statute governing its organization, promulgated in January 13, 1945, organizes the profession into two Bars in Tripoli and in Beirut. A president, elected for a two-year term, and a 12-member panel, elected for three-year terms, head each Bar Association. All practicing lawyers must be registered in the appropriate Bar.