The Courts of Justice System
The Courts of Justice are classified into three levels consisting of Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The Courts of Justice have developed effiency in handling cases into four ways, i.e., the increase of the number of courts; the establishment of new divisions andbranches of courts; the establishment of the specialized courts; and the effort to promote ADR by setting up the Alternative Dispute Resolution Office.
1.COURTS OF FIRST INSTANCE
Courts of First Instance are categorized as general courts, juvenile and family courts and specialized courts. The general courts are ordinary courts which have authorities to try and adjudicate criminal and civil cases. Those courts are : Civil Courts, Criminal Courts, Provincial Courts and Municipal Courts (Kwaeng Courts).
In courts of general jurisdiction, except the Municipal Courts, at least two judges form a quorum. An appeal against a judgment on bothquestions of law and, subject to some conditions, questions of fact or an order of the courts lies to Courts of Appeal. With respect to the administration of the Provincial Courts and Municipal Courts, a regional Office of the Chief Justice together with a regional Administrative Office of the Courts of Justice headed by the Chief Justiceof that region is responsible for the courts in the region to some extent. In the case where the office of the regional Chief Justice becomes vacant or in the case of the Chief Justice’s inability to perform official duties, the President of the Supreme Court will appoint a judge to perform the duties of such Chief Justice. The regional Chief Justice is regarded as a judge of any court in his or her region with power to try and adjudicate any case of the courts in that region or render dissenting opinion after axamining the file of such case. When it is necessary, the regional Chief Justice has power to order a judge of the court in his or her region upon the latter’s consent to work temporarily for not more than three months in another court. The Chief Justice, however, must immediately inform the President of the Supreme Court of such order.
In Bangkok Metropolis Civil Courts
Under Thai Law, the plaintiff must bring a civil case to the court where the cause of action arises or where the defendant is domiciled. Where an immovable property is involved, the plaintiff has to bring a lawsuit to the court where such property is situated, or where the defendant is domiciled. In Bangkok, courts of first instance dealing with civil cases are the Civil Court, the Bangkok South Civil Court, the Thon Buri Civil Court, the Min Buri Provincial Court, the Taling Chan Provincial Court and the Phra Khanong Provincial Court, depending on a district where the cause of action arises or where the defendant is domiciled. Before 1977, the Civil Court was the only court adjudicating civil cases in Bangkok; yet the high increase of caseload in the Civil Court led to the setting up of the other civil courts in Bangkok. For disputes on civil matters occurring outside the territorial jurisdiction, the Civil Court has discretion either to try and adjudicate those cases or to transfer them to the court having territorial jurisdiction.
As regards criminal cases, the court in a district where an offence has been committed, alleged or believed to have been committed, or where an accused resides or is arrested, or where an inquiry official conducts an inquiry, has jurisdiction over the cases. In Bangkok, courts of first instance handling criminal cases are the Criminal Court, the Bangkok South Criminal Court, the Thon Buri Criminal Court, the Min Buri Provincial Court, the Taling Chan Provincial Court and the Phra Khanong Provincial Court depending on a district where an offence has been committed, alleged or believed to have been committed, or where an accused resides or is arrested or where an inquiry official conducts an inquiry. Like the Civil Court, the reason to establish other criminal courts in Bangkok was to alleviate the workloads of the Criminal Court. Also, the Criminal Court has a discretion either to try and adjudicate criminal cases arising outside its territorial jurisdiction but was brought before it or to transfer them to the court having territorial jurisdiction.
Municipal Courts (Kwaeng Courts)
There are 5 Municipal Courts in Bangkok Metropolis : the Bangkok North Municipal Court, the Bangkok South Municipal Court, the Thon Buri Municipal Court, the Dusit Municipal Court and the Pathumwan Municipal Court. The primary function of Municipal Courts is to dispose of small cases quickly with minimum formality and expense. The jurisdiction of these courts covers both criminal and civil cases. Criminal cases fallen in the jurisdiction must deal with the criminal offence punishable with a maximum of three years imprisonment, or fine not exceeding 60,000 baht or both. For civil cases, the amount of claims must not exceed 300,000 baht. The proceeding in Municipal Courts is emphasized on the speedy trial; therefore, the trial is more simple and oral judgment or summarized judgment may be issued. In other Provinces Provincial Courts Provincial Courts exercise unlimited original jurisdiction in all general civil and criminal matters within their own districts which are generally the provinces themselves. For the purpose of expansion of services of the court to the distant area, some provinces may have more than one Provincial Court. For example, in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, there are three Provincial Courts, i.e., the Nakhon Ratchasima Provincial Court, the Sikhio Provincial Court and the Bua Yai Provincial Court. Where a case within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Court is brought to the Provincial Court, the latter has to transfer the case to the former. Each Provincial Court has a Chief Judge who is the head and responsible for the judicial work of the court. The Director of the Administrative Office of such Provincial Court under the supervision of the Chief Judge is responsible for administrative work of the court.
Natavee Provincial Court
Municipal Courts (Kwaeng Courts)
The detail of Municipal Courts in other provinces is the same as Municipal Courts in Bangkok Metropolis explained above.
The Juvenile and Family Courts
The Juvenile and Family Courts consist of the Central Juvenile and Family Court, the Provincial Juvenile and Family Courts, and the Provincial Courts, Juvenile and Family Divisions. Two career judges and two lay judges, one of those must be a woman, constitute a quorum of the Juvenile and Family Courts. An appeal against a judgment or order of the Juvenile and Family Courts lies with the Courts of Appeal. Due to the fact that at present the Courts of Justice are independent from the Ministry of Justice, while the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection is under the Ministry of Justice, it is appropriate to improve the law on the establishment of and the procedure in the Juvenile and Family Court to be in line with the power and duties and the new structure. In addition, it is appropriate to improve the provisions on rights protection, welfare and practices for children, women and members of the family including the procedure in the Juvenile and Family Court to be in line with the Constitution, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women. The Juvenile and Family Court and Its Procedure Act, B.E. 2553 (2010) is thence enacted.
There are four specialized courts in Thailand, i.e. the Tax Court, the Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, the Bankruptcy Court and the Labour Courts. The establishment of the specialized court is to ensure that specific or technical problems will be solved by appropriate adjudicators. A judge of the specialized courts is appointed from a judge who possesses competent knowledge of the specific matters. A quorum of two specialized courts, namely, the Intellectual Property and International Trade Court and the Labour Courts consists of both career judges and lay judges. Lay judges are laymen recruited separately to work together with career judges in adjudicating cases. It should be noted that at present each specialized court has only the central court, except the Labour Courts which now consist of the Central Labour Court and the regional Labour Courts. By virtue of the law, the appeal against judgment or order of some particular specialized courts shall be submitted directly to the Supreme Court where several specialized divisions are established to deal with those types of cases specifically, namely, the Labour Division, the Intellectual Property and International Trade Division, the Tax Division and the Bankruptcy Division of the Supreme Court.
2.COURTS OF APPEAL
Courts of Appeal consist of the Court of Appeal and nine Regional Courts of Appeal. Most Regional Courts of Appealare located in Bangkok, except the Court of Appeal, Region II is in Rayong Province, the Court of Appeal, Region V is in Chiang Mai Province and the Court of Appeal, Region VIII is in Phuket Province. The Court of Appeal handles an appeal against a judgment or order of Civil Courts and Criminal Courts. Meanwhile the Regional Courts of Appeal handle an appeal against a judgment or order of the other Courts of First Instance located within their regions. According to the 2007 Constitution, Section 219 paragraph three prescribes that the Court of Appeal has power to try and adjudicate cases relevant to the election and revocation of the election rights in the election of local councils and local administrators. The jurisdictions of the Regional Courts of Appeal are consistent with the jurisdictions of the Courts of First Instance of Regions I - IX. Each Court of Appeal is headed by the President of the Court assisted by Vice-Presidents of the Court. At least three Justices form a quorum. Each Court of Appeal has a Research Justice Division consisting of research judges. The primary function of the Division is to assist justices of the Courts of Appeal by examining all relevant factual and legal issues of the cases, conducting legal researches and discussing with those justices to ensure uniformity and fair results.
3.THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court is the court of final appeal in all civil and criminal cases in the whole Kingdom. The Court consists of the President, a maximum of six Vice - Presidents, the Secretary and a number of justices. The President of the Supreme Court is also the head of the Courts of Justice. In the present system of the Courts of Justice, the President of the Supreme Court sits at the pinnacle in judicial and administrative structures. Like Courts of Appeal, the Supreme Court also has the Research Justice Division consisting of research justices. At least three justices of the Supreme Court form a quorum. The court may, however, sit in plenary session to determine cases of exceptional importance and cases where there are reasons for reconsideration or overruling of its own precedents. The quorum for the full Court is not less than half of the total number of justices in the Supreme Court. As a result of the 2007 Constitution, Section 219 paragraph four,
the Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions was set up in the Supreme Court to act as a trial court in a case where the Prime Minister, a minister, member of the House of Representatives, senator orother political official is accused of becoming unusually wealthy, committing malfeasance in office according to the Criminal Code, performing duties dishonestly, or being corrupted according to other laws. In trial, a member of the House of Representative or a senator is unable to claim the immunity provided in the constitution. The Supreme Court Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions must rely on the record of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and may Conduct an enquiry to obtain additional facts and evidence, as it deems appropriate, according to the procedure prescribed in the Organic Law on Criminal Procedure for Persons Holding Political Position B.E. 2542 (1999). The judgment becomes final except when new evidence emerges.
In such case, the appeal shall be filed with the plenary session of the Supreme Court. The quorum of this special division of the Court consists of nine justices of the Supreme Court who hold position of not lower than justices of the Supreme Court or senior justices of the Supreme court, and are elected by a plenary session of the Supreme Court justices on a case by case basis. A judgment will be made by a majority of votes; provided that each justice constituting the quorum will prepare the written opinion and make oral statement to the meeting before making decision. Orders and decisions of the Supreme Court Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions will be published and final.