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An Estonian citizen who has fulfilled an accredited law curriculum of academic studies, has proficiency in the Estonian language at the advanced level, is of high moral character and has the abilities and personal characteristics necessary for working as a judge, may be appointed judge.

A judge shall be appointed to office for life. Judges of first and second instances shall be appointed to office by the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Supreme Court en banc. Justices of the Supreme Court shall be appointed to office by the Riigikogu, on the proposal of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be appointed to office by the Riigikogu on the proposal of the President of the Republic.

The Minister of Justice has no right of command or disciplinary authority over the judges. A judge can be removed from office only on the basis of a court judgement that has entered into force.

The following shall not be appointed judge:

  • a person who is convicted of a criminal offence;
  • a person who has been removed from the office of judge, notary public or bailiff;
  • a person expelled from the Estonian Bar Association;
  • a person who has been released from public service for a disciplinary offence;
  • a bankrupt person.

Judges shall not be employed other than in the office of judge, except for teaching or research. Employment other than in the office of judge shall not damage the performance of official duties of a judge or the independence of a judge upon administration of justice.

A judge shall not be:

  • a member of the Riigikogu or member of a rural municipality or city council;
  • a member of a political party;
  • a founder, managing partner, member of the management board or supervisory board of a company, or director of a branch of a foreign company;
  • a trustee in bankruptcy, member of a bankruptcy committee or compulsory administrator of an immovable;
  • an arbitrator chosen by the parties to a dispute.

A judge shall perform his or her official duties in an impartial manner and without personal interest and shall also comply with service interests outside service. A judge shall behave impeccably in service and outside service and refrain from acts which may damage the reputation of the court.

A judge is required to develop the knowledge and skills of his or her specialty on a regular basis and to participate in training.

The Supreme Court of Estonia started to organize judicial training in 2009, after the liquidation of Estonian Law Center Foundation, which had been responsible for judicial training since 1995. The judicial training activities are coordinated by the Judicial Training Council, which 9 members include judges from county and circuit courts and the Supreme Court, representative of the Ministry of Justice, State Prosecutors office and University of Tartu. The judges to the judicial training department are elected every 3 years by the Court en banc that is comprised of all Estonian judges. The ministry, State prosecutor’s office and the university appoint their representatives themselves. Support services to the Training Council shall be provided by the Judicial training department of Estonian Supreme Court. The judicial training department organises the judicial training, ascertains the training needs of judges, prepares the strategies for training, training programs and organises the implementation thereof.