Lay judges

Who is a lay judge?

Lay judges shall participate in the administration of justice in county and city courts on the bases and pursuant to the procedure provided by the codes of procedure. In administration of justice, a lay judge has equal rights as a judge.

An Estonian citizen with active legal capacity from 25 to 70 years of age who resides in Estonia, has proficiency in the Estonian language at the advanced level, and is of suitable moral character for the activity of a lay judge may be appointed lay judge.

In essence, the purpose of a lay judge is to represent in administration of justice an ordinary person who views court proceedings primarily from a humane and not a legal aspect.

Who can´t be a lay judge?

The following shall not be appointed lay judge:

  • a person who is convicted of a criminal offence;
  • a bankrupt person;
  • a person who is not suited due to his or her state of health;
  • a person who has permanent residence, that is the residence the address details of which have been entered in the population register, of less than one year within the territory of the local government which presents the person as a candidate for lay judge;
  • a person who is in service in a court, prosecutor’s office or the police;
  • a person who is in service in the armed forces;
  • an advocate, a notary public or a bailiff;
  • a member of the Government of the Republic;
  • a member of a rural municipality or city government;
  • the President of the Republic;
  • a member of the Riigikogu;
  • a county governor.

Lay judges shall be appointed for four years. A person shall not be appointed lay judge for more than two consecutive terms.


A local government council shall elect the candidates for lay judge. The number of candidates for lay judge shall be proportional to the ratio of the number of residents in the territory of the local government and the number of residents in the territorial jurisdiction of the court. Lay judges shall be appointed to office from among candidates for lay judges by the committee for appointment of candidates for lay judge, the membership of which shall be approved by the chairman of the court.

The committee shall appoint as lay judges a specified number of persons determined for such court from among the candidates for lay judges. Upon appointment of lay judges, the committee shall consider the suitability of a candidate, the reasoned objections filed against a candidate, and follow the principle that lay judges shall be persons of different sex and age, from different social groups and operating in different areas of activity.