Elona Norvaisaite is a reference librarian at the Law and Politics Reading Room of the Information Center of the National Library of Lithuania.
Published January 2008
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.
The Lithuanian legal system is principally based on the legal tradition of continental Europe. Since restoration of Lithuania's independence in 1990 the legal system has been vastly reformed to meet the demands of the modern open economy. During the last years the central priority was the harmonization of Lithuanian law with that of the EU. From 1 May 2004 the acquis communautaire is also a part of the Lithuanian law.1
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. All international treaties and conventions must be implemented in Lithuania; however, the ones ratified by the Seimas prevail over national laws. As has been mentioned, the EU law became a part of Lithuanian legal system since 1 May 2004.2
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 specialized administrative courts was established to hear administrative cases. It consists of the Supreme Administrative Court and district administrative courts.
Traditionally, Lithuanian law did not recognize 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 an 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) regularly publishes Codes of the Lithuanian Republic and commentaries of the codes, 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 Priimti teises aktai (Adopted legal acts). 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.
Not all the amendments and supplements to the legal acts are translated into English.
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 (English version of the Law on Courts, not updated with all the amendments). 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 National Court Administration website provides the list of the basic legislation on the system of judiciary and the administration of justice and self-governance.
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.
More information on the functions and powers of the Constitutional Court, as well as the Rules of the Constitutional Court , proceedings of the Court, can be found on the Constitutional Court homepage.
The Supreme Court contains the Civil Cases Division, the Criminal Cases Division. 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 provides information about the system of Lithuanian courts; history of the Court of Appeals and it's role in the judicial system of the country; information for the participants in a proceeding about the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitration awards in the Republic of Lithuania.
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-).
Since 1995, the Supreme Court of Lithuania has been issuing a bulletin "Teismų Praktika" (Court Practice). The Bulletin includes the rulings found by the Divisions of the Supreme Court as being the most important, methodical material - summary reviews of the court practice, summaries of judgements passed by the European Court of Human Rights and other information. The Bulletin also presents information about the most significant events in the activity 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 website of the Supreme Court gives access to the rulings passed by the Supreme Court: in civil cases - since 1995, in criminal cases - since 2001. The rulings, presented only in the Lithuanian language, can be found by choosing the link - Teismo nutartys (Court rulings). The bulletin "Teismų Praktika" (Court Practice) is published in the Lithuanian language. It is also available on the website of the Supreme Court of Lithuania by choosing the link - Biuletenis "Teismų praktika".
The Supreme Administrative Court's homepage has a link Teismu praktikos biuletenis, where it is possible to find the Court's bulletin under the title "Administraciniu teismu praktika" ("Practice of Administrative Courts"). The website of the Supreme Administrative court gives access to the Court rulings and consultations.
Commercial Internet Sources
Infolex.Praktika - the court practice retrieval system, which helps in searches for documents of the supreme Lithuanian courts ( 1995-).
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 supreme legislative power is exercised by the Seimas. The Seimas consists of 141 MPs who are elected for a four-year term by the universal, equal, direct suffrage and secret ballot. 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 political groups; committees and commissions; public and international relations. There you can also find lists of the latest legal acts, projects and other documents by choosing the - Naujienos (News).
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 history, 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 (Speeches, 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 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 current administrative division was established in 1994 and modified in 2000 to meet the requirements of the European Union. Lithuania has a three-tier administrative division: the country is divided into 10 counties (Lithuanian: singular - apskritis, plural - apskritys) that are further subdivided into 60 municipalities (Lithuanian: singular - savivaldybė, plural - savivaldybės) which consist of over 500 elderates (Lithuanian: singular - seniūnija, plural - seniūnijos).
The counties are ruled by county governors (Lithuanian: apskrities virsininkas) who are appointed by the central government. These officials ensure that the municipalities adhere to the laws of Lithuania and the constitution. County government oversees local governments and their implementation of the national laws, programs, and policies.
Municipalities are the most important unit. Some municipalities are historically called "district municipalities", and thus are often shortened to "district"; others are called "city municipalities", sometimes shortened to "city." Each municipality has its own elected government. In the past, the election of municipality councils occurred once every three years, but it now takes place every four years. The council elects the mayor of the municipality and other required personnel. The municipality councils also appoint elders to govern the elderates. There is currently a proposal for direct election of mayors and elders, however that would require an amendment to the constitution.
Elderates are the smallest units and they do not play a role in national politics. They were created so that people could receive necessary services close to their homes; for example, in rural areas the elderates register births and deaths. They are most active in the social sector: they identify needy individuals or families and distribute welfare or organize other forms of relief.4
Legal Research Institutes
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 to Vol. 57 it is possible to find a full text of all articles with summaries in English or other languages (in pdf format). Starting from Vol. 58 (2006-) it is possible to find only the summaries in English or Lithuanian.
"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 here.
"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" - "Legal Issues"
"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.
Law E-Articles, E-Books, etc.
Law Firm "Norcous & Partners" : Articles & Books (Part of these publications you may read on the website in the full-text).
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
Tel.: (+370 5) 2617529, 2612806, 2608859
Fax.: (+370 5) 2621523
Tel.: (+370 5) 239 63 03
Fax.: (+370 5) 239 63 04
1Lithuanian legal system / Law Firm Lideika, Petrauskas, Valiunas ir partneriai LAWIN // Doing Business in Lithuania. 2005. Available online. [last visited 14 november, 2007].
2Lithuanian legal system / Law Firm Lideika, Petrauskas, Valiunas ir partneriai LAWIN // Doing Business in Lithuania. 2005. Available online. [last visited 14 november, 2007].
3Lithuanian legal system / Law Firm Lideika, Petrauskas, Valiunas ir partneriai LAWIN // Doing Business in Lithuania. 2005. Available online. [last visited 14 november, 2007].
4 About Lithuania // Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania. Available online. [last visited Nov. 12, 2007].