Published February 2005
Elona Norvaisaite is a reference librarian at the Law and Politics Reading Room of the Information Center of the National Library of Lithuania.
Update to an article previously published on LLRX.com on January 2, 2003
The Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublika) is an independent democratic state. The foundation of the social system is enforced by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, adopted in 1992 by referendum, which also establishes the rights, freedoms, and duties of citizens. Under that law, sovereign state power is vested in the people of Lithuania and is exercised by the Seimas (Parliament), the President of the Republic, the Government, and the Courts. 1
The Lithuanian legal system is principally based on the legal traditions of continental Europe. During Soviet occupation, the Lithuanian legal system was significantly altered to conform to that of the USSR, but since 1990 the remnants of the imposed norms and practices have been eradicated. 2
The recent years were important in the reforming Lithuanian legal system. In 2001, the new Civil Code came into effect. During recent years other important codes (Code of Civil Procedure, Criminal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Code of the Execution of Penalties, Labour Code) were newly re-enacted by the Parliament, and entered in force in 2003. Moreover, the Lithuanian laws have been harmonised with the acquis communautaire of the EU in order to become a member state as of 1 May 2004.
The publication “Lithuania at a Glance”, prepared by the law firm Bernotas & Dominas Glimstedt, provides information about the Lithuanian legal system, the types of legislation, gives an overview of the Codes, etc.
In the Lithuanian legal system, the principal body of law is statutory.
Substantive branches of the Law are codified in codes (please, always pay attention to the links – Amendments; Acting Editions and Translations)
The legal and regulatory system includes the following:
All regulatory acts,
including laws, must comply with the Constitution. International treaties and
conventions automatically become part of the Lithuanian legal system from the
moment of signing or accession. Those ratified by the Seimas prevail over
internal laws, whether enacted at the moment of ratification of such treaty or
convention or later. A law enters into force upon its promulgation by the
President (or in some cases, the Chairman of the Seimas) and its publication in
Valstybes zinios (the Official Gazette). 3
The core of Lithuanian court system consists of courts of general jurisdiction, dealing with civil and criminal matters: the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and district and local courts. In addition, in1999 a system of specialised administrative courts was established to hear administrative cases. It consists of the Supreme Administrative Court and district administrative courts.
Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Seimas, while judges of the Court of Appeals are appointed by the President upon approval by the Seimas. Judges of the district and local courts are appointed by the President.
Traditionally, Lithuanian law did not recognise the doctrine of precedent. Nevertheless, its elements have been gradually introduced due to the need to ensure consistency in the interpretation of law. Currently, the court hearing a case is obliged to take into consideration published decisions of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania is not a part of the court system, but is a separate independent judicial body with the authority to determine whether the laws and other legal acts adopted by the Seimas are in conformity with the Constitution, and whether the legal acts adopted by the President and the Government conform to the Constitution or laws. 4
Legal acts of Lithuania are officially published in the “Valstybes zinios” (the Official Gazette) (1993-), which is issued twice a week by the Publishing House of the Seimas.
Lithuanian legislation of the period 1992-1993 was published in the official publication called “Lietuvos Respublikos Seimo ir Vyriausybes zinios”. In 1990-1992 the official publication was called “Lietuvos Respublikos Auksciausiosios Tarybos ir Vyriausybes zinios”.
The Publishing House of the Seimas publishes a collection of Lithuanian legal documents – “Lietuvos Respublikos Seimo dokumentu rinkinys” (1991- ), which includes basic laws of Lithuania, decrees of the President, and the rulings and decisions of the Constitutional Court.
Another main publisher of official texts is the Legal Information Centre of the Ministry of Justice.
The Legal Information Center (TIC) at the Ministry of Justice regularly publishes Codes of the Lithuanian Republic, various collections of Lithuanian legal acts, and a subject index to legal acts by the title “Lietuvos Respublikos istatymu ir kitu teises norminiu aktu rodykle”.
The full text of Lithuanian laws is available in the database of the Seimas entitled Legal Acts of Lithuania. The database contains legal acts of the Seimas, the government, and other executive bodies and institutions.
In addition, legal acts of the recent years can be found at the Government homepage by choosing the link called Teisine informacija (Legal information) and then the link Nutarimai ir potvarkiai (Resolutions and decisions). Selecting the link called Teises aktu projektai, after choosing the relevant ministry, provides drafts of the legal acts of various ministries of the Republic of Lithuania. Many legal acts (Minister's orders - Ministro isakymai, etc.) of various Ministries of the Republic of Lithuania can be found at the internet site of the relevant ministry.
The commercial database
provides full-texts of Lithuanian laws. The texts of laws are only in Lithuanian,
and the database is available only to subscribers.
The monthly “Parliamentary Records”, the Official Gazette in English, was available to subscribers from 1992 to 1999. There is no paper copy any more, so the translations of the laws in English can be retrieved from the database of the Seimas.
A great amount of Lithuanian laws in English can be retrieved from the database of the Seimas - Legal Acts of Lithuania.
The old version of the internet site of the Legal Information Center of the Ministry of Justice provides a list of some basic Lithuanian laws in English. Since 2001 this portion of the website has not been updated.
Not all the amendments and supplements to the legal acts are translated into English.
The internet site EXJURE.COM, administrated by the Center for Legal Projects and Research, also provides a useful list of Legal Acts of Lithuania (in English, with links to translated acting editions if they are available).
When searching for the translations of various legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania, it is useful to open the English internet site of the relevant Ministry of the Republic of Lithuania and choose the link called ‘Legislation’ or ‘Legal Acts’, etc., where it is possible to find a list of the main legal acts of Lithuanian regulations; for example:
The Bank of Lithuania website’s section Legal acts provides some laws regulating activity of the Bank of Lithuania and credit institutions. “Acts of Law Regulating Activities of the Banks of Lithuania”, published by the Bank of Lithuania, is available in an electronic form in the section Publications on the Bank of Lithuania website.
The formation and competence of courts are determined by the Law on Courts of the Republic of Lithuania. The Law establishes the court system, the jurisdiction, organization, activities, administration and autonomy of courts, their principles, the status of judges, appointment of judges, their promotion and liability, and other issues relating to courts.
The Constitutional Court was established in 1993. It is not a part of the Lithuanian judicial system. Its status and the procedure for the execution of its powers are defined in the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania. The decisions of the Constitutional Court on issues assigned to its jurisdiction by the Constitution are final and may not be appealed.
The Supreme Court contains the Civil Cases Division, the Criminal Cases Division and the Supreme Court Senate. The Supreme Court is the only cassation instance for effective court decisions, judgments and rulings. The Supreme Court forms the uniform judicial practice for the application of laws.
The Court of Appeals of Lithuania (Lietuvos apeliacinis teismas) internet site is only in Lithuanian.
The Constitutional Court annually publishes “Lietuvos Respublikos Konstitucinio Teismo nutarimai ir sprendimai” (“Rulings and decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania”) (1994-).
The Supreme Court forms the uniform judicial practice for the application of laws. The Court periodically publishes the bulletin “Teismu praktika” (“Court Practice”) (1995-). The bulletin contains proposed and approved rulings by the chambers of judges or the plenary session of the Supreme Court. The courts, state and other institutions, as well as other subjects, in applying the same laws, have to take into account the interpretations on the application of the laws provided in such rulings. In addition, the bulletin contains overviews of case-law in specific categories of cases approved by the Senate of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Administrative Court is responsible for developing a uniform practice of administrative courts in interpretation and application of statutes and other legal acts. For that purpose the Supreme Administrative Court periodically issues its bulletin under the title “Administraciniu teismu praktika” (“Practice of Administrative Courts”) (2001-). Interpretation with regard to the application of statutes and other legal acts found in the decisions, rulings, and orders which are published in the bulletin of the Supreme Administrative Court shall be taken into account by courts, state and other institutions, as well as by other entities when applying these statutes and other legal acts.
Free Internet Sources
The full text of the rulings (nutarimas), decisions (sprendimas) and conclusions (isvados) of the Constitutional Court from 1993 on, presented by the year, are available at the Court’s official internet site.
The rulings (nutartis) of the Supreme Court divided according to the civil and criminal cases, and the other legal acts of the Court can be searched from the Supreme Court’s official websiteby choosing the link – Teismo dokumentai (Court’s documents).
The Supreme Administrative Court's homepage has a link Teismu praktikos biuletenis, where it is possible to find consultations, latest rulings of the Supreme Administrative Court and some cases, published in the Court’s bulletin under the title “Administraciniu teismu praktika” ("Practice of Administrative Courts").
The Constitutional Court publishes the “Rulings and decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania” (1994-) in English.
The rulings and decisions of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, as well as the overviews of case-law, have no translations into English.
Free Internet Sources
Rulings, decisions and conclusions of the Constitutional Court in English.
The Lithuanian legal portal INFOLEX is orientated not only to Lithuanian professional lawyers, but also to a wider audience. The portal has a main page and separate sections for: LITLEX users, law students, and the public. Every section has various subdivisions. The portal's legal information is constantly updated.
The English version of the Lithuanian legal portal INFOLEX is orientated to the foreign user searching for legal and business information from Lithuania. INFOLEX provides Lithuania's press roundup and business news, and gives information about the main Lithuanian legal institutions. There is a link to the guide Doing Business in Lithuania. The English version of INFOLEX portal provides not only texts of the legal updates prepared by several law firms, but also offers the ability to search information by legal subject, for example - Civil law, etc.
The Parliament of Lithuania, the Seimas, is a one-chamber parliament. The Seimas consists of 141 MPs who are elected for a four-year term. The Seimas elects its Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons.
The internet site of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania provides current information on the Seimas: information about its work and history; members and parliamentary groups; committees and commissions; public and international relations. There you can also find a list of the latest legal acts. The latest issue of the Official Gazette can be read by choosing the link called Naujausias "Valstybes ziniu" numeris.
The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, Constitutional Laws and the Statute of the Seimas are presented in the website’s section “Legal acts”. The legal acts of Lithuania database can be searched for free.
The monthly issue of "Parliamentary Mirror" (1998-) can be found on the Seimas internet site in PDF format. It presents a brief review of the main laws adopted by the Seimas, covers visits of foreign guests to Lithuania, their meetings with Lithuanian parliamentarians, ministers and politicians, gives short summaries of press conferences, presents the different opinions on principal political and economic issues, as well as urgent problems at home and foreign policy of the country.
The President is the head of state and performs all duties that he or she is charged with by the Constitution and the law. The citizens of the Republic of Lithuania elect the President of the Republic of Lithuania on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot for a five-year term. One can find more information about the legal framework of the office of the President on the President of the Republic of Lithuania’s internet site. The website provides information on Presidential activities (Highlights, Speeches and Statements, Press Releases, etc.)
The Government is the highest authority of executive power. It is comprised of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers. The President of the Republic of Lithuania, with the approval of the Seimas, appoints the Prime Minister.
Ministers are appointed by the President of the Republic on the nomination of the Prime Minister.
From the Government of the Republic of Lithuania internet site you can find the Government Constitutional obligations, Programme of the Government, government resolutions, the drafts of the legal acts (only in Lithuanian) and other legal material prepared by various ministries.
Several websites maintain lists of the Lithuanian ministries and their
departments and offer English access:
Often it is very helpful to open the internet page of a ministry and search
for legal acts associated with that ministry by choosing the link - Teises
aktai (Legal acts) or Ministro isakymai (Minister's orders).
Ministries of the Republic of Lithuania:
The territory of Lithuania is divided into 10 regional administrative districts or counties. Counties consist of territories of 9 towns and 51 region municipalities. In turn, the territories of the municipalities fall into subdistricts. The head of the county is appointed by the Government. The basic task of his or her administration is to ensure fulfillment of the Constitution and laws in the territory of the county.
The law schools of Lithuania issue their own law journals, most of which have their own internet sites. Several Lithuanian legal scientific and practical journals also have electronic versions.
“Teise” – “Law”
The Vilnius University Law Faculty publishes the scientific periodical research papers "Teise" - "Law"; articles are provided with summaries in English or sometimes in German or Russian. Starting from Vol.46 it is possible to find a full text of all articles with summaries in English or other languages (in pdf format).
“Jurisprudencija” – “Jurisprudence”
The Law University of Lithuania publishes the scientific journal “Jurisprudencija” – “Jurisprudence”, newsletters of conferences and monthly newspaper of the University.
The internet version of the journal "Jurisprudencija" with the full-text articles (mostly in Lithuanian), and with summaries in Lithuanian and English starting from Vol. 24(16), can be found at the internet address – http://www.ltu.lt/padaliniai/leidyba/leidyba.html (choose the link called – Mokslo leidiniai).
“International Journal of Baltic Law”
Vytautas Magnus University School of Law has an on-line law review published jointly with the Florida Coastal School of Law, in cooperation with Lithuanian American Bar Association, called the “International Journal of Baltic Law”. The electronic law review “International Journal of Baltic Law” publishes full-text articles with abstracts in Lithuanian or English.
“Justitia” – “Justitia”
The electronic version of the legal scientific-practical journal “Justitia” can be found at the website of the legal literature publishing house Justitia. Only a few of the articles each issue are full-text. It is possible to browse the contents of the journals or read a part of some article, and to search by the name of the author or by keyword from the title of the article. It is useful that the archive of “Justitia” articles is grouped by the legal subjects. The language of the articles is Lithuanian.
“Teises zinios” - “Legal News”
“Teises zinios” is a supplement of the legal scientific-practical journal “Justitia”. The archive of “Teises zinios” articles is also grouped by the legal subjects. Only some articles are available in full-text. The language of the articles is Lithuanian.
Teises problemos” – “Law Problems”
“Juristas” – “Jurist”
“Juristas” is a practical journal for company jurists, published by the publishing house “Paciolis”. The electronic version of the journal has an archive and provides the full-text of one actual article from each issue, while also giving information about the contents of all the issues. The language of the articles is Lithuanian.
The two other Lithuanian periodical legal publications – “Verslo ir komercine teise” (“Business and Commercial Law”), and “Advokatura” (“The Bar”) have no websites.
Civil Law, Civil Procedure
The main legal publishers in Lithuania are:
Tel.: (+370 5) 273 39 55; 275 47 54
Tel.: (+370 5) 2790 859
Fax: (+ 370 5) 2790 984
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel.: (+370 5) 261 28 06; 262 36 50
Fax.: (+370 5) 261 28 06
Tel.: (+370 5) 239 63 03
Fax.: (+370 5) 239 63 04
2 Brief Introduction to Lithuanian Legal System / Law Firm Lideika, Petrauskas, Valiunas ir partneriai // Doing Business in Lithuania. May 2003. Available online at: <http://www.lawin.lt/book/>. [last visited Feb. 26, 2004].
3 Brief Introduction to Lithuanian Legal System / Law Firm Lideika, Petrauskas, Valiunas ir partneriai // Doing Business in Lithuania. May 2003. Available online at: <http://www.lawin.lt/book/>. [last visited Feb. 26, 2004].
4 Brief Introduction to Lithuanian Legal System / Law Firm Lideika, Petrauskas, Valiunas ir partneriai // Doing Business in Lithuania. May 2003. Available online at: <http://www.lawin.lt/book/>. [last visited Feb. 26, 2004].