tribunal

Tribunal is a generic term for any body acting judicially, whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title. For example, an advocate appearing before a Court on which a single Judge was sitting could describe that judge as 'their tribunal'.

In the Roman Catholic Church, a tribunal usually refers to literally one of three instances of ecclesiastical courts: (1) a diocesan tribunal (2) a provincial tribunal, that is, of more than one diocese and commonly referred to as an appellate court (3) the Sacra Rota Romana, or Sacred Roman Rota, the highest court of appeals.

Many bodies that are titled 'tribunals' are so described to emphasize the fact that they are not courts of normal jurisdiction. For example the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is a body specially constituted under international law; in Great Britain, Employment Tribunals are bodies set up to hear specific employment disputes. Private judicial bodies are also often styled 'tribunals'. The word 'tribunal' is not conclusive of a body's function. For example, in Great Britain, the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a superior court of record.

Tribunals in Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, the word tribunal is popularly used to refer to a public inquiry established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. The main difference between a Parliamentary Inquiry (non statutory) and a Tribunal of Inquiry in Ireland is that non-statutory inquiries are not vested with the powers, privileges and rights of the High Court; Tribunals of Inquiry are. Tribunals are established by resolution of the Houses of the Oireachtas to enquire into matters of urgent public importance. It is not a function of Tribunals to administer justice, their work is solely inquisitorial. Tribunals are obliged to report their findings to the Oireachtas. They have the power to enforce the attendance and examination of witnesses and the production of documents relevant to the work in hand. Tribunals can consist of one or more people. A layperson, or non lawyer, may be the Sole member of a Tribunal.

Tribunals in the United Kingdom

The tribunal system of the United Kingdom is part the national system of administrative justice. Though it has grown up on an ad hoc basis since the beginning of the twentieth century, from 2007 reforms were put in place to build a unified system with recognised judicial authority, routes of appeal and regulatory supervision.

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