Federal Supreme Court
The Federal Supreme Court rules in the highest instance on legal disputes between citizens, between citizens and the state, between cantons as well as between the federal government and the cantons. These disputes may concern matters in civil, criminal, administrative and social law.
Film about the Federal Supreme Court
Functions of the Federal Supreme Court
general, it definitively examines decisions of lower courts
highest judicial authority, the Federal Supreme Court rules on appeals against
decisions of the highest cantonal courts, the Federal Criminal Court, the
Federal Administrative Court and the Federal Patent Court. It examines whether
they have applied the law correctly. In the case of human rights issues, an
appeal can be lodged at the European Court of Human Rights.
It ensures uniform
application of the law
decisions, the Federal Supreme Court ensures uniform application of federal
law. It protects the constitutional rights of citizens. The other courts and
the administrative authorities align themselves with its decisions.
It contributes to the
development of law
Federal Supreme Court has to rule on a legal question that is not or not
clearly regulated by the law, it contributes to the development of the law
through its case law. This can lead to parliament reformulating a law.
Organization of the Federal Supreme Court
The Federal Supreme Court is divided
according to legal areas. It consists of
- two public law divisions
(e.g. taxes, political rights)
- two civil law divisions
(e.g. contract law, family law)
- a criminal law division
- two social law divisions
(e.g. accident and disability insurance).
38 ordinary and 19 substitute judges
work at the Federal Supreme Court. They are assisted by 350 other employees
(including around 150 court clerks).
The Federal Supreme Court is
represented externally by its president. The whole court (all 38 federal
judges) decides on the most important questions. The seat of the Federal
Supreme Court is in Lausanne. For historical reasons, the two social law
divisions are located in Lucerne.
President: Martha Niquille
Scheduled dates for public hearings
Particularities of the Federal Supreme Court
Usually in writing
The proceedings before
the Federal Supreme Court are generally in writing. The competent judge studies the case and submits a written draft
decision to the other judges involved in the case. If all the judges agree, the
decision is rendered. If they do not all agree, a public hearing is scheduled.
During a public hearing,
the judges discuss the case, often in the presence of the parties to the
dispute, media representatives or visitors. At the end, the judges vote by show
of hands. All judgments of the Federal Supreme Court are published on the Internet.
Film sequences of public hearings are published when they are of particular
interest to the public.
examination of the facts of the case
The Federal Supreme Court
examines legal issues. In principle, it bases its findings on the facts as they
were established by the lower courts.
Multilingual - three or
The judges of the Federal
Supreme Court come from all linguistic regions of Switzerland. During public
hearings, they speak in their mother tongues. The decisions are written either
in German, French or Italian and are not translated. As a rule, three judges
decide on a case and five when the case raises legal questions of fundamental
importance or upon the request of a judge.
Cantonal courts or the federal courts of first instance rule in the
first and second instance. If the concerned parties do not agree with a
decision, they can take their case to the Federal Supreme Court. The Federal
Supreme Court Act regulates the conditions under which an appeal is possible.
Outcome and number of cases in 2019