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The Council of State
The Hellenic Council of State (Symvoulio tis Epikrateias) is the Supreme Administrative Court of Greece. The Council of State, the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court (Areios Pagos) and the Court of Audit (Elegktiko Synedrio), which has jurisdiction on the audit of the expenditures of the State, local government agencies and other legal entities, are the highest courts in the nation.
The Greek Constitution establishes two jurisdictions, the administrative and the civil/criminal, which are organized in three instances: the courts of first instance (lower courts), the courts of appeals (higher, appellate courts) and the Supreme Courts. The Council of State is at the top of the hierarchy of ordinary administrative courts (administrative courts of first instance and administrative courts of appeal). The Council of State and the ordinary administrative courts decide on all matters of administrative - law disputes: money claims, the function of the civil service, social security claims, public works’ and supplies’ competitions, compensation claims against the State, challenges to the legality of administrative acts in general. The judgments of the Council of State provide the highest authority on legal precedent for the lower administrative courts and set the standards for the interpretation of the Constitution and the laws and for the advancement of legal theory and practice. Like all judicial decisions, the judgments of the Council of State provide the authority of “res judicata” and are subject to compulsory enforcement against the Public Sector, local government agencies and public law legal persons.
The Council of State of Greece is member of the Association of the Councils of State and of the Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions of the European Union, as well as of the International Association of the Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions. The Council of State places great importance on creating bonds with foreign Supreme Courts with the aim to exchange information and to enrich the judicial experience all over the world.
The Council of State is composed of the President, ten Vice-Presidents, fifty-three councilors, fifty-six associate councilors and fifty assistant judges who are involved in the exercise of judicial duties. The President and Vice-Presidents of the Court are chosen by the Cabinet, while councilors and associate judges are promoted to the respective rank by decision of the supreme judicial council on the Council of State and on administrative justice. The President, Vice-Presidents, councilors and associate judges of the Court are placed in their posts by presidential decree. Assistant judges are appointed by presidential decree following successful participation in the entrance and final examinations of the National School of Judges and Judicial Functionaries, where Law-School graduates receive special judicial training.
All judges enjoy functional and personal independence. In the discharge of their duties, judges are subject only to the Constitution and the laws; in no case whatsoever are they obliged to comply with provisions enacted in violation of the Constitution. The courts are bound not to apply a statute whose content is contrary to the Constitution. Judges are inspected by judges of a superior rank, as specified by law.
Petitions for judicial review (annulment) of enforceable acts of the administrative authorities for excess of power are heard in principle by the Council of State which decides in first and last instance. Certain categories of judicial review (annulment) cases fall under the jurisdiction of administrative courts, following a special provision by law, for reasons pertaining to their nature and their importance. On the contrary, it is the ordinary administrative courts that have the original competence to decide cases by exercising full jurisdiction, while the Council of State has the competence to hear petitions for reversal of final judgments reached by the appellate or first - and - last instance administrative courts in such cases. In certain categories of cases the Council of State has also the competence to decide cases by exercising full jurisdiction, either by virtue of an express constitutional provision (as in cases of licensing or in cases of downgrading of civil servants) or by virtue of a law issued upon constitutional authorization. Finally, the elaboration of all decrees of regulatory nature falls under the jurisdiction of the Council of State which has the competence to give an opinion concerning the legality thereof.
The Council of State exercises its jurisdiction in plenum for cases of special importance or in Sections. The competences of the Sections are determined by law; the Sections are presided by the Vice-Presidents and issue their rulings upon majority of the casted votes in formations of five (the Vice-President or his alternate and two councilors with rights of discussion and vote as well as two associate judges with rights of discussion) or seven judges (the Vice-President or his alternate and four councilors with rights of discussion and vote as well as two associate judges with rights of discussion) according to the importance of the questions posed. According to the Constitution, only the plenary session of the court may rule on cases raising issues of unconstitutionality of the applied laws. Petitions for temporary legal protection (injunctions and other interlocutory measures) are answered by the Court in formations of three judges whereby councilors as well as associate judges have rights of discussion and vote.
According to the Constitution, the sittings of all courts are public, except when the court decides that publicity would be detrimental to the good usages or that special reasons call for the protection of the private or family life of the litigants. Every court judgment is specifically and thoroughly reasoned and is pronounced in a public sitting. A law specifies the legal consequences ensuing and the sanctions imposed in case of violation of the preceding section. Publication of the dissenting opinion is compulsory. A law specifies matters concerning the obligatory entry of any dissenting opinion into the minutes as well as the conditions and prerequisites for the publicity thereof.
Supreme judicial council on the Council of State and on administrative justice
Promotions, assignments to posts, transfers, detachments, and transfers to another judicial branch are decided by the supreme judicial council on the Council of State and on administrative justice. This council is composed of the President of the Council of State and of members of the same Court chosen by lot from among those having served in it for at least two years, as specified by law. In the council participates also the General Commissioner of State for Administrative Justice, on issues relating to judges of ordinary administrative courts and of the General Commission. In the council also participate, without a right to vote, two judges of the branch concerned by the changes in the service status to which the changes in service status refer, who must be at least of the rank of Judge of Appeals or an equivalent rank and are chosen by lot, as specified by law. In the case of judgments concerning promotions to the posts of Councilors of State, as well as the selection of the members of the General Commissions of administrative courts, the supreme judicial council is supplemented by additional members, as specified by law. Should the Minister of Justice disagree with the judgment of the Supreme Judicial Council, he may refer the matter to the plenum of the respective highest court, as specified by law. The judge, whom the judgment concerns, has also the right of recourse under the conditions specified by the law.
Since November 2008 the Council of State has its own Regulation which was issued upon delegated authority and was published in the Government’s Gazette.
The secretariat of the Court is divided into ten sections and three independent offices. Since 2000 the Court’s secretariat is computerized and there is an electronic database containing the Court’s jurisprudence as well as jurisprudence of the Special Highest Court and of the ECJ.
The management of the organization, budgets, accounting, facilities of the Court is undertaken by the Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights. The Minister may delegate part of its competences to the President of the Council of State. The President of the Council of State may delegate further part of his administrative duties to judicial committees, which are constituted for a two-year term and are assisted in this work by the competent court secretaries.
Nikolaos Sakellariou, President of the Hellenic Supreme Administrative Court
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Council of State
... In giving up politics, I am happy that I bequeath to my country the Council of State."