08 September 2015

Foreign Legal Word Of The Day

In Italy, the highest appellate court (equivalent to our U.S. Supreme Court) is called the Corte Suprema Di Cassazione (commonly translated Supreme Court of Cassation). It is required to issue formal written explanations for its rulings by law, what we would call a court's "opinion".  These opinions are called legal "motivazioni" in Italian.

Unlike U.S. appellate court opinions, however, a motivzioni would generally not have broad precedential effect, and instead, merely resolved the case before it.

Also unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, cases in the Court of Cassation in Italy and most other civil law countries have as many judges as a large U.S. intermediate court of appeals and panels of subject matter specialists within the Court handle particular disputes.  In Italy, the Supreme Court of Cassation has 350 judges.  The high profile case of a U.S. woman convicted of murder and then acquitted on appeal to the Court of Cassation in this case was heard by a five judge panel.

The Court of Cassation lacks jurisdiction over questions of "public law" including appeals from administrative tribunals.  These questions are appealed to the Council of State (Consiglio di Stato).

Like U.S. appellate courts, the Court of Cassation must defer to the fact finding made in the lower courts.  In Italy, and most civil law countries, this fact finding will have been made by the intermediate court of appeal called a "court of second instance" which can receive new evidence as well as reviewing the factual and legal determinations of the "court of first instance" in which the original trial was conducted.

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