After the collapse of the Ottoman empire in the 1920s, Turkey was founded as a secular constitutional republic. Although Islam is the dominant religion practiced in Turkey, its government is secular, with one exception—the Diyanet. The Diyanet is a government funded agency that oversees most of the nation’s Islamic institutions and activities, including overseeing mosques and religious education. The constitution of Turkey states that the judiciary is an independent branch of government.
Judicial System Structure
The Turkish legal system follows the civil law model and has three types of courts: judicial, administrative, and military. Although Turkey is a civil law country, civil proceedings are adversarial. In criminal cases, however, the judge may initiate an investigation if the evidence submitted is deemed insufficient.
Turkey's Four High Courts:
The Constitutional Court
The Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of laws and decrees. At the request of the President or National Assembly, the court also reviews the constitutionality of rules of procedure. After exhausting other legal remedies, individuals can file cases with the Constitutional Court alleging a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Court of Cassation
The Court of Cassation is the court of last instance for Turkey’s judicial courts. Its members are elected by secret ballots cast by senior judges and public prosecutors.
The Council of State
The Council of State is the court of last instance for the administrative and tax courts. At the request of the Prime Minister of the Council of Ministers, it may issue an opinion on draft legislation.
The Court of Jurisdictional Disputes
The Court of Jurisdictional Disputes resolves disputes concerning the verdicts and competencies of the judicial, administrative, and military courts.
The Ministry of Justice provides administrative support for the judiciary. It also exercises considerable influence over the High Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors. The High Council is responsible for lower court appointments, promotion, transfer, and supervision. It also has authority to discipline and remove judges, with cause. Judges are protected from arbitrary removal by life tenure (until the mandatory retirement age of sixty-five). The Minister of Justice serves as the High Council’s president; council members are appointed by Turkey’s president and the Parliament.
Although there is no mandatory professional experience to become a judge, candidates must pass a centralized exam and complete a two-year training program administered by the Justice Academy of Turkey. During their first year, future judges and prosecutors are trained together. A new reform permits four-year (non-law) university graduates to become administrative law judges; they must pass a judicial exam and undertake training at the Academy.
First instance judges in each region of the country are assigned to a court based upon a drawing of lots, usually for a term of two to seven years. Over the course of a career, a judge will serve in several cities. Judges are eligible for promotion by the High Council every two years; they are assessed based upon efficiency reports submitted by their superiors as well as their reversal rate.