The Estonian court system has three instances
The Estonian court system consists of four county courts, two administrative courts, two circuit courts and the Supreme Court. County courts and administrative courts are the courts of first instance; circuit courts are courts of appeal and the Supreme Court in Tartu is the court of cassation and also the court of constitutional review.
The Ministry of Justice governs county, administrative and circuit courts. The minister is advised by the Council of Administration of Courts, led by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is separate from the courts of first and second instance and it has a separate budget and structure. In addition, some tasks concerning the entire court system are also in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, including selection of judges and organisation of judge training.
Judges of first and second instances are appointed to office by the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Supreme Court en banc. Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed to office by the Riigikogu on the proposal of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed to office by the Riigikogu on the proposal of the President of the Republic. The Supreme Court also serves the self-governing bodies of the judges: the judge's examination committee, training council and the disciplinary chamber. The members of the self-governing bodies of the judges are elected by the Supreme Court en banc, which meets every February.
The Chief Justice and the director of court govern the judicial institution parallel. The first is responsible for the proper functioning of the administration of justice; the director is the administrative manager of the judicial institution. The Chief Justice and the director are both appointed by the Minister of Justice, but the opinion of the Supreme Court en banc must be heard and the consent of the Council of Administration of Courts must be received for the appointment of the Chief Justice. The director of court reports to the Chief Justice and to the Minister of Justice, and also organises the operations in the judicial institution and use of assets, prepares the court’s budget applications, commands the budget means and is responsible for organising accounting. Decisions concerning the administration of justice are made at the full court consisting of all judges of the judicial institution.
The Land Registry Department and the Registration Department, which report to the director of court, operate at the seat of the Tartu County Court. The Land Registry Department keeps the Land Register, the Marital Property Register and the Ship Register; the Registration Department keeps the Commercial Register, the Non-profit Organisations Register and the Commercial Pledge Register. The Payment Orders Department in the Pärnu County Court hears payment procedure orders.
Courts operate to protect people, guarantee stability of the law and for the benefit of the state based on the rule of law. Professionalism, reliability and independence are the values of courts.