Features - A Guide to the Lithuanian Legal SystemBy Elona Norvaisaite, Published on December 17, 2001
Elona Norvaisaite is a reference librarian at the Law and Political Sciences Reading Room of the Information Center of the National Library of Lithuania.
The most recent version of this article is available at http://www.llrx.com/features/lithuanian2.htm. You will be automatically redirected to that page shortly.
- 1. The Lithuanian Legal System
- Types of Legislation
- The Court System
- 2. Sources of Law
- 3. Lithuanian Courts and Case Law
- The Constitutional Court
- The Supreme Court
- Case Law, Court Rulings, Decisions
- 4. Parliamentary Information
- 5. Presidential Information
- 6. Government Information
- 7. Local Authorities Information
- 8. Lithuania and European Union
- 9. Legal Education
- 10. Legal Profession
- 11. Law Libraries
- 12. Law Journals
- 13. Law Textbooks, Monographs
- 14. Law Dictionaries
- 15. Legal Publishers
- 16. Legal News
- 17. Legal Centers and Other Organizations
The Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublika) is an independent democratic state. The foundation of the social system is enforced by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania adopted in 1992 by referendum, which also establishes the rights, freedoms, and duties of citizens. Under that law, sovereign state power is vested in the people of Lithuania and is exercised by the Seimas (Parliament), the President of the Republic, the Government, and the Courts.
The Lithuanian legal system is principally based on the legal traditions of continental Europe. Naturally, during Soviet occupation, the Lithuanian legal system was significantly altered to conform to that of the USSR. Since 1990, however, the legal system has been reformed to meet the demands of the vast social and economic changes brought about by a return to democracy and a free market economic system. In view of Lithuania's goal to accede to the European Union, a central priority of these on-going reforms is the harmonization of Lithuanian law with that of the EU.
In the Lithuanian legal system, the principal body of law is statutory.
Substantive branches of the Law are codified in codes, e.g.,
The legal and regulatory system includes the following:
- the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania - (Lietuvos Respublikos konstitucija);
- constitutional laws (konstitucinis istatymas);
- laws (istatymas);
- resolutions (nutarimas) of the Seimas (the Parliament) and Government (Vyriausybe)
- decrees of the President (dekretas);
- acts (isakymas, aktas, etc.) of other governmental institutions and local municipal authorities.
All regulatory acts, including laws, must be in compliance with the Constitution. All international treaties and conventions must be implemented in Lithuania, however, the ones ratified by the Seimas enjoy priority over local laws, meaning that their provisions prevail in case of inconsistency with Lithuanian national legal acts enforced either at the moment of ratification of such treaty or convention or later. A law enters into force upon its promulgation by the President (or in some cases-the Chairman of the Seimas) and its publication in the Valstybes zinios (the Official Gazette).
The Lithuanian court system consists of common courts, dealing with civil and criminal matters: the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, district courts and local courts. In the beginning of 1999, the system of specialised administrative courts was established to investigate administrative litigations. The latter system consists of the following courts: the Highest Administrative Court, the Higher Administrative Court, district administrative courts.
Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Seimas, while judges of the Court of Appeals are appointed by the President upon approval by the Seimas. Judges of the district and local courts are appointed by the President.
The doctrine of precedent was not acknowledged in Lithuanian law. Nevertheless, the Senate of the Supreme Court, in order to promote equitable decisions, analysed court practice and adopted recommendations, which, however, were not binding on the courts as in common law countries. Now Lithuanian stare decisis is in process of development as from April 1998 interpretations of law in the published decisions of plenary sessions or chambers of the Supreme Court must be taken into consideration by other courts, governmental and non-governmental institutions.
The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania is not a part of the court system, but is an independent judicial body with the authority to determine whether the laws and other legal acts adopted by the Seimas are in conformity with the Constitution, and whether the legal acts adopted by the President and the Government conform to the Constitution or laws.
Legal acts of Lithuania are officially published in the Valstybes zinios (the Official Gazette) (1993-), which is issued twice a week by the Publishing House of the Seimas.
Lithuanian legislation of the period 1992-1993 was published in the official publication called Lietuvos Respublikos Seimo ir Vyriausybės zinios. In 1990-1992 the official publication was called Lietuvos Respublikos Auksciausiosios Tarybos ir Vyriausybes zinios.
The Publishing House of the Seimas publishes a collection of Lithuanian legal documents - Lietuvos Respublikos Seimo dokumentu rinkinys (1991- ), which includes basic laws of Lithuania, decrees of the President, and the rulings and decisions of the Constitutional Court.
Another main publisher of official texts is the Legal Information Centre of the Ministry of Justice.
Legal Information Center (TIC) at the Ministry of Justice regularly publishes Codes of the Lithuanian Republic and various collections of Lithuanian legal acts, a subject index to legal acts by the title: Lietuvos Respublikos istatymu ir kitu teises norminiu aktu rodykle.
The full text of the Lithuanian laws is available in the database of the Seimas entitled Legal Acts of Lithuania. The database contains legal acts of the Seimas, the government, and other executive bodies and institutions.
In addition, the government resolutions (vyriausybes nutarimas) can be found at the Government homepage, and the acts (isakymas) of Ministries can be searched at the internet sites of the relevant ministry.
The Database of Legal Acts Register developed in the commercial database LITLEX provides free information (not full-text) on Lithuanian laws.
The Legal Information Retrieval System LITLEX-Internet is being developed by The Legal Information Center of the Ministry of Justice. The commercial database provides the full-texts of Lithuanian laws. The texts of laws are only in Lithuanian. The database is available only to subscribers.
The monthly Parliamentary Records – the Official Gazette in English, was available to subscribers from 1992 to 1999. There is no paper copy any more, so all the translations of the laws in English can be retrieved from the database of the Seimas.
Acts of Law Regulating the Activities of the Banks of Lithuania is published 3 times per year by the Bank of Lithuania and is currently available to subscribers.
Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania: approved by the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania in the Referendum on 25 Oct., 1992. - Vilnius : Publ. House of the Seimas, 1993. – 134 p.
A great amount of Lithuanian laws in English can be retrieved from the database of the Seimas - Legal Acts of Lithuania.
The Legal Information Center of the Ministry of Justice provides a useful list of some basic Lithuanian laws in English.
Not all the amendments and supplements to the legal acts are translated into English.
At present Lithuanian Codes have no full text translations into English. An extract with several chapters of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania in English can be found at the Juvenile Justice Programme website.
The Department of Courts at the Ministry of Justice gives an extensive overview of the Judicial System of the Republic of Lithuania in English.
The Constitutional Court was established in 1993. It is not a part of the Lithuanian judicial system. Its status and the procedure for the execution of its powers are defined in the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania. The decisions of the Constitutional Court on issues assigned to its jurisdiction by the Constitution are final and may not be appealed.
The Supreme Court contains the Civil Cases Division, the Criminal Cases Division and the Supreme Court Senate. The Supreme Court is the only cassation instance for effective court decisions, judgments and rulings. The Supreme Court forms the uniform judicial practice for the application of laws.
The Constitutional Court annually publishes Lietuvos Respublikos Konstitucinio Teismo nutarimai ir sprendimai (Rulings and decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania) (1994-).
The Supreme Court periodically publishes the bulletin Teismu praktika (Judicial Practice) (1995-). The bulletin contains proposed and approved rulings by the chambers of judges or the plenary session of the Supreme Court. The courts, state and other institutions as well as other subjects while applying the same laws have to take into account the interpretations on the application of the laws provided in such rulings. In addition, the bulletin contains overviews of caselaw in specific categories of cases approved by the Senate of the Supreme Court.
Free Internet Sources
The full text of the rulings (nutarimas), decisions (sprendimas) and conclusions (sprendimas) of the Constitutional Court since 1993 presented by the year are available at the Court’s official internet site – http://www.lrkt.lt/.
The rulings (nutartis) of the Supreme Court divided according to the civil and criminal cases and the bulletin Teismu praktika (Judicial practice) can be searched from the Supreme Court’s official website – http://www.lat.litlex.lt/.
The Constitutional Court publishes the Rulings and decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania (1994-) in English.
The rulings of the Supreme Court and the overviews of caselaw have no translations into English.
Free Internet Sources
The Parliament of Lithuania, the Seimas, is one chamber parliament. The Seimas consists of 141 MPs who are elected for a four-year term. The Seimas elects its Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons.
The internet site of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania provides actual information of the Seimas; the information about it’s work and history; members and parliamentary groups; committees and commissions; public and international relations. There you can find a list of the latest legal acts. The Constitution of The Republic of Lithuania and the Statute of the Seimas are presented in the website’s section “Legal acts”. The legal acts of Lithuania database can be searched free.
The monthly issue "Parliamentary Mirror" (1998-) can be found in The Seimas internet site in pdf format. It presents a brief review of the main laws adopted by the Seimas, covers visits of foreign guests to Lithuania, their meetings with Lithuanian parliamentarians, ministers and politicians, gives short summaries of press conferences, presents the opinions of the position and the opposition about principal political and economic issues, as well as urgent problems of home and foreign policy of the country.
The President is the head of state and performs all duties that he or she is charged with by the Constitution and the law. The citizens of the Republic of Lithuania elect the President of the Republic of Lithuania on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot for a five-year term. More information about the legal framework of the office of the President you can find at the President of the Republic of Lithuania internet site.
The Government is the highest authority of executive power. It is comprised of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers. The President of the Republic of Lithuania, with the approval of the Seimas, appoints the Prime Minister.
Ministers are appointed by the President of the Republic on the nomination of the Prime Minister.
From the Government of the Republic of Lithuania internet site you can find the Programme of the Government, the government resolutions, the drafts of the legal acts (only in Lithuanian) and other legal material prepared by various ministries.
Several websites maintain lists of the Lithuanian ministries and their departments and offer English access:
Lithuania is divided into 10 regional administrative districts or counties, with county governors appointed by the cabinet of ministers.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania (choose - European Union)
European Law Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (only in Lithuanian)
Every law school issues it's own law journal which have their own internet sites.
The Vilnius University Law Faculty publishes the scientific periodical research papers "Teise" - "Law". The legal articles from these research papers have summaries in English or sometimes in German or Russian. The English internet version provides summaries of the latest volumes of the issue.
The Law University of Lithuania publishes the scientific journal “Jurisprudencija” – “Jurisprudence” (previous titles "Mokslo darbai" and "Kriminaline justicija"), newsletters of conferences and monthly newspaper of the University. The internet version of the journal "Jurisprudencija" with the summaries of articles in Lithuanian and in English starting from volume 15 can be found at the internet address – http://www.ltu.lt/mokslinev.html).
Vytautas Magnus University School of Law publishes the scientific journal "Teises Apzvalga" - "Law Review". The "Law Review" is a journal of commercial and international law. The first issue was published in 1999. The “Law Review” English internet site address – http://teise.vdu.lt/apzvalga/eng/index.htm).
Other Lithuanian periodical legal publications – "Teises problemos" (“The Law Problems”), ”Verslo ir komercine teise” (“Business and Commercial Law”), “Justitia” have no websites.
Conception of the state ruled by law in Lithuania: summary of the research report presented for habilitation: field: social sciences, Law / Alfonsas Vaisvila; The Law University of Lithuania, 2001. - 50 p.
International legal status of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the years 1918-1994 / Jarosław Sozański. - Riga, 1995. - 215 p.
Constitution as a legal base for a system and functions of organs of the state: the 4th Baltic-Norwegian Conference on Constitutional Issues, Tallinn, March 1996 / Estonian Academy of Sciences. - Tallinn : Estonian Academy Publ., . - 152 p.- ISBN 9985-50-126-8.
Konstitucine justicija = Constitutional justice: the present and the future. - Vilnius : Lietuvos Respublikos Konstituc. Teismas, 1998 . - 487 p.
Legal conditions for developing small and medium-sized business in Lithuania / Ruta Brazauskiene, Saulius Brazauskas; translated from the Lithuanian by Aldona Matulyte. - Vilnius : Eugrimas, 1999. - 143 p. - ISBN 9986-752-45-0.
Vilnius International Commercial Arbitration (VICA): rules, costs, arbitrators / Lithuanian Lawyers' Association. - Vilnius : Lietuvos teisininku d-ja, 1997. - 80 p. - ISBN 9986-9166-0-7.
Lithuania / by Dalia Mikeleniene and Valentinas Mikelenas. - The Hague : Kluwer Law International, 2000. - 166 p. - (International Encyclopaedia of Laws. Civil Procedure).
English - Lithuanian
Anglu-lietuviu kalbu teises zodynas = English-Lithuanian law dictionary / Olimpija Armalyte, Lionginas Pazusis. - Vilnius : Alma Littera, 1998. - 524 p. - ISBN 9986-02-492-7.
Mokomasis anglu-lietuviu kalbu teises terminu zodynas / Vita Bitinaite. - Vilnius : Eugrimas, 1998. - 231 p. - ISBN 9986-752-15-9
Mokomasis anglu-lietuviu kalbu teisetvarkos zodynas / Lietuvos teises universitetas. - Vilnius : LTU Leidybos centras, 2001. – 127 p.- ISBN 9955-442-42-5.
German - Lithuanian
- Vokieciu-lietuviu, lietuviu-vokieciu kalbu teises terminu zodynas = Deutsch-litauisches, litauisch-deutsches juristisches Wörterbuch / E. Volungeviciene. - Vilnius : Zodynas, 1995 . - 284 p. - ISBN 9986-465-22-2
The main legal publishers in Lithuania are:
The Publishing House of the Seimas “Valstybes Zinios”
Tel.: (+370 2) 396 303
Fax.: (+370 2) 396 304
Publishing Department of the Legal Information Centre
Tel.: (+370 2) 612 806; 623 650
Fax.: (+370 2) 621 523
Tel.: (+370 2) 790 859
Fax: (+ 370 2) 790 984