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Understanding the Courts

In order to fully protect the rights of the people, modern states shall not only fulfill the fundamental rights entitled by the Constitution, but also provide judicial relief when the rights of the people are wrongfully damaged by others.

A court is where to protect people’s rights via trials. People could file a lawsuit to a court claiming their rights, when private disputes arise. Also, when being prosecuted under criminal charges, people shall be tried by a court in accordance with the law. It is the court to decide whether the charged is innocent or guilty. In other words, a non-guilty defendant will be declared innocent by the verdict of the court, while a guilty one will be punished through a court decision. On the other hand, civil servants subject to discipline shall be transferred and tried under the Disciplinary Court. The Disciplinary Court shall ensure the rights of national public servants to litigation and clarify the administrative responsibilities of the charged public servants. Moreover, people having disputes with regard to public laws or with the dissatisfaction against the administrative dispositions could bring an administrative lawsuit to the administrative court, on the purpose of revoking an unlawful administrative disposition or requesting the administrative authority to render an administrative disposition. In conclusion, the above-mentioned matters indicate the main functions of a court to guarantee the protection of the rights of the people. 

The contents of the courts at all levels in Taiwan (R.O.C.) and the affairs which the courts hear are briefly explained as follows:

(I) Ordinary Courts

A. District Courts

Picture of Taiwan Penghu District Court

Taiwan (R.O.C.) currently has 20 district courts, which are located in Taipei, Shilin, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Nantou, Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Ciaotou, Pingtung, Taitung, Hualien, Yilan, Keelung and Penghu. In addition, there are Fujian Kinmen District Court and the Fujian Lienchiang District Court in Fujian Province. The district courts are the courts of the first instance for civil and criminal litigation, election, Civil Servants recall lawsuits, social order maintenance proceedings, and state compensation incidents, etc. It also handles non-litigation cases such as notarization, lodgment and civil compulsory enforcement, bankrupt, and consumer insolvency.

B. High Courts

Picture of Taiwan High Court

Republic of China (Taiwan) currently has one Taiwan High Court (in Taipei) which includes four branches located in Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Hualien. Also, there is Fuchien High Court Kinmen Branch Court in Fujian Province. The High Court is the court of the second instance for general civil and criminal cases, hearing the cases of appeal or filing motions to setting aside court rulings against the judgment, and rulings which are decided by the district court. In addition, according to the law, the High Court is the first instance court of the litigation of presidential and vice presidential election and recall, offenses against internal and external security, and offenses of interference with relations with other states.

C. The Supreme Court

Picture of the Supreme Court

   At present, the national Supreme Court is located in Taipei City where the central government is located. The Supreme Court exercises jurisdiction over the appeals from judgments of High Courts or their branches as courts of first instance in criminal and civil cases; appeals from judgments of High Courts or their branches as courts of second 31 instance in civil and criminal cases; appeals from rulings of High Courts or their branches; extraordinary appeals or any other case as specified by laws. The Supreme Court is the court of last instance which reviews the law and does not investigate facts. Therefore, not all cases can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Only cases in which the law mandates a third-instance reason can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

(II) Administrative Courts

A. District Court Administrative Litigation Divisions

Picture of Taiwan High Administrative Court

In order to facilitate the general public to file a lawsuit, since September 6, 2012, each district courts have set up an administrative litigation division to hear the matters of traffic adjudicative motion of objection which is originally heard by the ordinary courts, and the matters of the summary proceedings of administrative litigation which is s originally decided by the Higher Administrative Court, compulsory enforcement of administrative litigation, preventive proceeding, preservation of evidence, definite court costs and expenses, petition for returning guaranty money and petition for changing lodged property, and lodging the matters of petition for detention from February 5, 2015, to complete the administrative relief system.

B. High Administrative Courts

There are currently three high administrative courts in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung in Taiwan (R.O.C.). After the administrative litigation division in each district court is established, the high administrative courts hear the first instance of the ordinary litigation proceedings, and from July 1, 2020, they hear the first instance of procedures on urban planning review as well. Also, they accept and hear both motions and appeals filed in the summary proceedings, the traffic adjudication litigation proceeding, and the matter of petition for detention.

C. The Supreme Administrative Court

Picture of the Supreme Administrative Court

    The Supreme Administrative Court is located in Taipei City to hear appeals from the ordinary litigation proceedings and procedures on urban planning review. In addition, when there is a need to ensure the unification of court legal opinions, the Supreme Administrative Court can also hear the matters of the summary proceedings and the traffic adjudication litigation proceeding of appeals or appeals against court rulings, which is transferred from the High Administrative Court.

(III) The Intellectual Property and Commercial Court

Intellectual property rights are international, rapid, technical and professional. In order to protect intellectual property right, especially on July 1, 2008, the Intellectual Property Court was set up on 3F, No. 7, Sec. 2, Xianmin Blvd., Banqiao Dist., New Taipei City. It is responsible for hearing relevant intellectual property cases.

The Intellectual Property Court is a professional court that hears civil, criminal and administrative litigations. According to Article 3 of Intellectual Property Court Organization Act, the Intellectual Property Court deals with matters over first instance and second instance civil actions, second instance criminal actions, first instance administrative actions, and compulsory enforcement for the protection of intellectual property rights and interests, and other cases prescribed by law or determined by the Judicial Yuan to be within the jurisdiction of the Intellectual Property Court. Its level is positioned at the high court level; the corresponding Prosecutors Office is the Intellectual Property Branch of the High Prosecutors Office.

The first instance of the civil cases accepted by the Intellectual Property Court shall be decided by a single judge; the second instance cases shall be heard by three judges; an appeal against a judgment or a ruling by the Intellectual Property Court may be appealed to the Supreme Court. As for the first instance of the criminal cases involving intellectual property, the cases are still under the jurisdiction of the district courts; however, the second instance is under the jurisdiction of the intellectual property court; the third instance is still under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Moreover, the first instance jurisdiction of administrative litigations that related to intellectual property is the intellectual property court; an appeal against a judgment or a ruling by the Intellectual Property Court may be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court.

Moreover, aiming at providing an exclusive jurisdiction with consistency, efficiency, appropriateness, and expertise for major commercial cases, measures such as the new establishment of commercial court, revision of the Intellectual Property Court Organization Act to the “Intellectual Property and Commercial Court Organization Act(will be effective on July 1, 2021),” and merging the commercial court and the intellectual property court into the “intellectual property and commercial court” have been taken. Besides, the court has split into Intellectual Property Chamber and Commercial Chamber to hear cases separately, thus enhancing and ensuring the practice of exclusive jurisdiction.

Ranked at the level of High Courts, the Commercial Court applies the "two levels and two instances" trial system and hears major commercial cases stipulated in Paragraph 2, Article 2 of the Commercial Case Adjudication Act; furthermore, commercial judges can be selected from those who hold commercial expertise below: lawyers, researcher fellows of the Academia Sinica, or public servants. Through this epoch-making new adjudication system, not only can the major commercial cases be settled expeditiously and professionally, but the business environment in Taiwan can be improved to make our country more competitive.

(IV) Disciplinary Court

Located in Taipei City, the Disciplinary Court hears disciplinary cases against judges, prosecutors, and public servants in general. After the amendment of the Public Functionaries Discipline Act on June 10, 2020, the proceeding of disciplinary cases against public servants has been changed to the “one level and two instances” trial system, and a collegial panel of three judges presided by the most senior member is in charge of hearing the cases in the first instance; However, presided by the president of the Disciplinary Court, a five-judge collegial panel reviews cases in the second instance. On the other hand, due to the amendment of the Judges Act on July 17, 2019, the Disciplinary Chamber of the Judiciary is placed under the organization of the Disciplinary Court and has altered its trial system from “one level and one instance” to “one level and two instances.” A collegial panel consisting of 2 expert lay judges and 3 professional judges is responsible for reviewing cases of the first instance; however, the second instance cases shall be reviewed by a collegiate panel composed of the president of the Disciplinary Court as the presiding judge, along with four associate judges including two judges of the Supreme Court, one judge of the Supreme Administrative Court, and one judge of the Disciplinary Court. The aforementioned systems have all become effective since July 17, 2020

 (V) Juvenile and Family Courts

Picture of Taiwan Kaoshiung Juvenile and Family Court

The juvenile proceedings and family proceedings are closely related to the rights of children, juveniles and women. The administration of Juvenile Justice aims to protect the sound growth of juveniles. The hearing of family proceedings is also for the purposes to improve the family structure and to mediate family relationship. It is very different in nature from ordinary civil and criminal cases. There are many commonalities in juvenile and family proceedings, in addition to legal professional treatment, it must also be combined with social work, psychology, counseling, psychiatry and other fields in order to deal with appropriate, professional, and integrated. Therefore, the establishment of a special agency to deal with juvenile and family proceedings, it is easier to integrate social resources for common use.

Taiwan (R.O.C.) established the Taiwan Kaohsiung Juvenile and Family Court on June 1, 2012 (The rest areas do not have juvenile and family court, therefore the cases were heard by the juvenile and family departments in district court). The division-chief judge and judges of the juvenile and family courts (departments) shall be professionally trained and appointed by Judicial Yuan. There also set professionals such as juvenile investigation officer, juvenile probation officer, family matters investigation officer, psychology technologist, psychology counselor, etc.

(VI) If a party refuses to accept the judgment of a court, he/she could seek remedies through appeals.

The civil and criminal cases are heard by ordinary courts, and ordinary courts adopt "three-level and three-instance" system. The system so-called "three-level" refer to the three levels in the courts including the district court, the high court and the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the "three-instance" system refers to the first instance that civil and criminal cases are firstly heard in the district courts; the second instance that the party who disagree with the judgment of the district court can appeal or file a motion to setting aside court which rulings to the high court; and the third instance, which is the final instance, that the party who disagree with the judgment of the second instance can appeal or file a motion to setting aside court which rulings to the Supreme Court. This is so-called "three-level and three-instance" system.

In addition, the administrative litigation is heard by the administrative court. Since September 6, 2012, the administrative litigation has been replaced by a "three-level and two-instance" system. In addition to the Supreme Administrative Court and the High Administrative Court, the administrative litigation divisions have been set up in the district courts. The so-called "three-level" means that after the administrative litigation divisions of the district courts were established, the Administrative Court has three levels, including the Supreme Administrative Court, the High Administrative Court and the Administrative Litigation Division of the District Court, which are responsible for hearing administrative litigation. The so-called "two-instance" means that the first trial of the instance of summary procedures and urban planning review procedures are heard by the administrative litigation divisions of the district courts, and the second instance of those cases are heard by the high administrative court which is the court of final appeal. In addition, the first instance of ordinary proceedings is heard by the High Administrative Court, and the second instance is heard by the Supreme Administrative Court which is the court of final appeal.

  • Release Date : 2019-11-06
  • Update : 2021-07-14