Sīfǎ Yuàn (Mandarin)
Su-hoat Īⁿ (Taiwanese)
Sṳ̂-fap Yen (Hakka)
|Composition method||Presidential appointment with Legislative Yuan consent|
|Authorized by||Additional Articles and original Constitution of the Republic of China|
|Judge term length||8 years|
|Number of positions||15|
|President and Chief Justice|
|Since||November 1, 2016|
|Vice President and Justice|
|Since||November 1, 2016|
The Judicial Yuan (Chinese: 司法院; pinyin: Sīfǎ Yuàn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Su-hoat Īⁿ) is the judicial branch of the government of Taiwan. It runs a Constitutional Court and oversees all systems of courts of Taiwan, including ordinary courts like the supreme court, high courts, district courts as well as special courts like administrative courts and disciplinary courts. By Taiwanese law, the Judicial Yuan holds the following powers:
According to the current Constitution, the Constitutional Court comprises 15 justices. One justice acts as the President of the court, and another acts as the Vice President. All justices, including the President and Vice President, are appointed by the President of the Republic with the consent of the Legislative Yuan. Upon appointment justices have a term limit of eight years, but this term limit does not apply to the President and Vice President.
Before the 1980s, the impact of the Constitutional Court was limited by authoritarian governance. The Court can be seen as an instrument of the Kuomintang regime. It never accepted a case on the constitutionality of the Temporary Provisions, which were the basis of authoritarian rule; The Court declined to hear challenges to these Provisions, and issued a number of decisions that facilitated Kuomintang rule within the confines of at least nominal constitutionalism. For the most part, the court served as a legal advisor to the government, rendering decisions that unified interpretations of statutes or ordinances or providing legitimacy for these politically expedient solutions as a result of extension of legislative representatives' terms. In Interpretation No 31 of 1954, the court extended the legislative representatives' terms, ruling that 'the nation was under crisis and the country could not hold the election for the second term legally'. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Constitutional Court further affirmed the constitutionality of adding extra seats to both the Legislative Yuan and the National Assembly by means of legislative enactments in Interpretation Nos 117 and 150.
Prior to the 1980s, the Constitutional Court rarely asserted itself as the guardian of the Constitution; on rare occasions, however, the court nevertheless risked undermining its own institutional authority by standing in opposition to other branches of government. In Interpretation No 86 of 1960, the court held that the law that allowed the Ministry of Justice to supervise the lower courts was inconsistent with the constitution and required all courts to be placed under the Judicial Yuan. However, this decision was ignored by the government, and the impugned law was not revised until 1980.
After the succession of Lee Teng-hui as President in 1987, however, the Court gradually became more active. It began to strike administrative actions that were vague or delegated too much power to the executive branch. Amongst its decisions, the Court ended the ban on rallies advocating secessionism or communism as a violation of free speech, allowed universities to refuse to allow military "counselors", whose presence in dorms had formerly been mandatory, and allowed teachers to form a union outside the "official" union structure. Constitutional amendments in 1992 provided for the Court to hear challenges against "unconstitutional" political parties, defined as those whose "goals or activities jeopardize the existence of the ROC or a free democratic constitutional order."
Amidst the divided government between 2000 and 2008, the Constitutional Court became a primary political mediator of highly charged political disputes; it adopted a 'dialectic approach' in facilitation of political dialogues. For example, in a constitutional dispute concerning the suspension of the construction of a nuclear power plant, the Court held that the Democratic Progressive Party-led Executive Yuan should negotiate with the Kuomintang-dominated Legislative Yuan to resolve the issue. The unity of the executive and legislative branches since 2008 has seen a decline in the number of politically high-profile cases entering into the Constitutional Court's docket. At the same time, the number of individuals' petitions challenging legislative or executive acts on grounds of violation of constitutional rights continued to rise steadily, and the Constitutional Court has responded to these rights challenges with a high number of declarations of unconstitutionality.
The Constitutional Court (Chinese: 憲法法庭; pinyin: Xiànfǎ Fǎtíng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hiàn-hoat Hoat-têng), also previously known as the Council of Grand Justices (大法官會議), provides rulings on the following six categories of cases:
A petition to declare regulations or laws unconstitutional (Chapter III cases) shall be filed in the following circumstances:
There are in total of 15 justices (Chinese: 大法官; pinyin: Dàfǎguān; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tōa-hoat-koaⁿ) serving in the Constitutional Court, current members are:
|Chief Justice and President||Justice and Vice President|
|Hsu Tzong-li||Tsai Jeong-duen|
|Term from 2015 to 2023||Term from 2016 to 2024||Term from 2019 to 2027|
Important decisions of the Constitutional Court are listed as the following.
|1||Jan 6, 1949||Legislative Yuan members shall not hold positions in executive government concurrently.|||
|31||Jan 29, 1954||Extended term of the first Legislative Yuan and Control Yuan indefinitely until the next elections in China.|||
|76||May 3, 1957||The issue of the tricameral parliament of China: National Assembly, Control Yuan and Legislative Yuan|||
|86||Aug 15, 1960||All high courts and district courts shall be organizationally placed under the Judicial Yuan|||
|99||Dec 19, 1962||The New Taiwan Dollar shall be the national fiat money, not local currency, and the Central Bank entrusted the issuance.|||
|261||Jun 21, 1990||Term of the first National Assembly, Legislative Yuan, and Control Yuan shall be terminated by December 31, 1991.
This interpretation resulted in the total re-election of the National Assembly in 1991 and the Legislative Yuan in 1992.
This interpretation also opened the subsequent legislative elections in Taiwan.
|328||Nov 11, 1993||Coverage of the national territory shall not be interpreted by the Constitutional Court.|||
|365||Sep 23, 1994||Judged the jus sanguinis principle in the Taiwanese nationality law shall apply to both mother and father.|||
|499||Mar 24, 2000||Voided the 5th amendment of the Additional Articles of the Constitution|||
|644||Jun 20, 2008||Judged the ban of "advocate Communism or secession" in the Civil Associations Act as unconstitutional.|||
|748||May 24, 2017||Judged the statutory ban on same-sex marriage in the Taiwanese Civil Code as unconstitutional.
The government shall take motion to legalize same-sex marriage in Taiwan.
|791||May 29, 2020||Judged the criminalization of adultery as unconstitutional.|
In 1954, the Council of Grand Justices extended the terms of members of the Legislative Yuan and the Control Yuan elected in 1948, ruling that:
"[T]he nation was under crisis and the country could not hold the election for the second term legally."
As a result of the council's ruling, first-term members of the Legislative and Control Yuans continued to serve for the next four decades until 1992, resulting in distortions of representation. Following the death of some of those representatives, the Temporary Provisions against the Communist Rebellion were amended to allow vacancies to be filled by holding supplementary elections or by adding more seats for representatives elected locally in Taiwan.
The Council of Grand Justices issued interpretation No. 261 on June 21, 1990. The Council of Grand Justices ruled on the constitutionality of the continued sitting in the National Assembly of members elected on the mainland in 1948 and ordered that:
"[T]hose first-term national representatives who have not been re-elected on a periodical basis to cease the exercise of their powers no later than December 31, 1991."
The court further required the government to hold a nationwide second-term election of the national representatives including a certain number of representatives-at-large for the proper functioning of the constitutional system.
The Constitutional Court, in voiding the 5th amendment of the Additional Articles of the Constitution, developed criteria by which the constitutionality of a constitutional amendment should be judged:
|Judgement 2, 111||Feb 25, 2022||"Reasonable Compensation" stated in Paragraph 1, Article 195 of the Civil code does not include compulsory apology ordered by a judicial court.|
Main article: Supreme Court of the Republic of China
The Supreme Court (Chinese: 最高法院; pinyin: Zuìgāo Fǎyuàn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Chòe-ko Hoat-īⁿ) is the court of last resort for civil and criminal cases. A civil case can be appealed to the Supreme Court only when more than NT $1,500,000 is at stake. Except for petty offences enumerated in Article 376 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, any criminal case may be appealed to the Court.
This Court exercises jurisdiction over the following cases:
Main article: High court (Taiwan)
There are six High Court (Chinese: 高等法院; pinyin: Gāoděng Fǎyuàn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ko-téng Hoat-īⁿ) branches in Taiwan:
|1||Taiwan High Court||臺灣高等法院|
|2||Taiwan High Court Taichung Branch Court||臺灣高等法院臺中分院|
|3||Taiwan High Court Tainan Branch Court||臺灣高等法院臺南分院|
|4||Taiwan High Court Kaohsiung Branch Court||臺灣高等法院高雄分院|
|5||Taiwan High Court Hualien Branch Court||臺灣高等法院花蓮分院|
|6||Fujian High Court Kinmen Branch Court||福建高等法院金門分院|
The High Courts and its branches exercise jurisdiction over the following cases:
The High Courts and its Branch Courts are divided into civil, criminal and specialized divisions. Each Division is composed of one Division Chief Judge and two Associate Judges. Additionally, the High Court and its Branch Courts have a Clerical Bureau, which is headed by a Chief Clerk who assists the President with administrative affairs.
Cases before the High Courts or its Branch Courts are heard and decided by a panel of three judges. However, one of the judges may conduct preparatory proceedings.
The Court has seven civil courts, each of which has one presiding judge and three judges to handle civil appeals of the second instance and counter-appeal cases under the system of collegial panels, but they do not deal with simple litigation. The Court has eleven criminal courts, each of which has one presiding judge and two or three judges to handle criminal appeals of the second instance and counter-appeal cases under the system of collegial panels as well as litigation of the first instance concerning civil strife, foreign aggression or violation of foreign relations. Based on various needs, the Court manages several professional courts such as the Professional Court of Fair Trade Cases, Family Professional Court, Professional Court of International Trade, Maritime Professional Court, Professional Court of State Compensation, Professional Court of Anti-corruption, Professional Court of Intellectual Property Rights, Professional Court of Juvenile Delinquency, Professional Court of Serious Criminal Cases, Professional Court of Public Security, Professional Court of Fair Trade Act, Professional Court of Sexual Harassment, etc.
Main article: District court (Taiwan)
There are currently 22 District Courts (Chinese: 地方法院; pinyin: Dìfāng Fǎyuàn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tē-hng Hoat-īⁿ) in Taiwan:
Each District Court may establish one or more summary divisions for the adjudication of cases suitable for summary judgment. The civil summary procedure is for cases involving an amount in controversy of not more than 300,000 New Taiwan dollar and for simple legal disputes. Currently there are a total of 45 divisions in Taiwan. Additionally, there is a Taiwan Kaohsiung Juvenile Court, established in accordance with the Law Governing the Disposition of Juvenile Cases.
Each of the District Courts has civil, criminal and summary divisions and may establish specialized divisions to handle cases involving juveniles, family, traffic, and labor matters as well as motions to set aside rulings on violations of the Statute for the Maintenance of Social Order. Each division has a Division Chief Judge who supervises and assigns the business of the division. Each District Court has a Public Defenders' Office and a Probation Officers' Office.
A single judge hears and decides cases in ordinary and summary proceedings as well as in small claims cases. A panel of three judges decides cases of great importance in ordinary proceedings as well as appeals or interlocutory appeals from the summary and small claims proceedings. Criminal cases are decided by a panel of three judges, with the exception of summary proceedings which may be held by a single judge. The Juvenile Court hears and decides only cases involving juveniles.
The administrative courts (Chinese: 行政法院; pinyin: Xíngzhèng Fǎyuàn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hêng-chèng Hoat-īⁿ) handle cases regarding administrative litigation. The current administrative litigation system adopts a "Two Level Two Instance System" litigation procedure. The administrative courts are classified into the High Administrative Court, which is the court of first instance, and the Supreme Administrative Court, which is the appellate court. The first instance of the High Administrative Court is a trial of facts. The Supreme Administrative Court is an appellate court.
|Supreme Administrative Court||最高行政法院|
|Taipei High Administrative Court||臺北高等行政法院|
|Taichung High Administrative Court||臺中高等行政法院|
|Kaohsiung High Administrative Court||高雄高等行政法院|
|Tainan High Administrative Court (planned)||臺南高等行政法院（籌設中）|
The Intellectual Property and Commercial Court (Chinese: 智慧財產及商業法院; pinyin: Zhìhuìcáichǎn Fǎyuàn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tì-hūi-châi-sán Hoat-īⁿ) handles cases regarding intellectual properties and commerce.
The disciplinary court (Chinese: 懲戒法院; pinyin: Chéngjiè Fǎyuàn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Têng-kài Hoat-īⁿ) maintains official discipline and punishes public servants, regardless of rank or appointment, for violations of the law or negligence in his or her duty in accordance with Article 77 of the Constitution.
Article 80 of the Constitution states that Judges shall be above partisanship and shall, in accordance with law, hold trials independently, free from any interference. Furthermore, Article 81 states that Judges shall hold office for life. No judge shall be removed from office unless he has been guilty of a criminal offense or subjected to disciplinary measure, or declared to be under interdiction. No judge shall, except in accordance with law, be suspended or transferred or have his salary reduced. Judges shall be appointed from those persons who have passed the Examination of Judicial Officials, completed the Training Course for Judicial Officials and possessed distinguished records after a term of practice.
Main article: List of presidents of the Judicial Yuan
Since a constitutional amendment ratified in 1997, the President and Vice President of the Judicial Yuan need to be justices. However, they are not subject to the 8-year term limit like the other 13 justices. In the current constitution, the President and Vice President of the Judicial Yuan are appointed by the President of the Republic with the approval of the Legislative Yuan.
|1||July 1948 – May 1950||Wang Ch'ung-hui||Shi Zhiquan||Inaugurated in Nanking and moved to Taipei|
|May 1950 – March 1958||Hsieh Kuan-sheng||President Wang Chung-hui died in office|
|March 1958 – June 1958||Vice President as Acting President|
|2||June 1958 – July 1965||Hsieh Kuan-sheng||Fu Bingchang||Vice President Fu Ping-chang died in office|
|July 1965 – July 1966||Post vacant|
|July 1966 – December 1971||Xie Yingzhou||President Hsieh Kuan-sheng died in office|
|3||December 1971 – April 1972||Tien Chung-chin||Vice President Hsieh Ying-chou died in office|
|April 1972 – July 1972||Post vacant|
|July 1972 – March 1977||Tai Yen-hui||President Tien Chung-chin died in office|
|4||April 1977 – July 1979||Tai Yen-hui||Han Chung-mo||Tai Yen-hui is the first Taiwanese President|
|5||July 1979 – May 1987||Huang Shao-ku||Hung Shou-nan|
|6||May 1, 1987 – May 1, 1993||Lin Yang-kang||Wang Tao-yuan|
|May 1, 1993 – Sep 1, 1994||Lu Yu-wen|
|7||Sep 1, 1994 – Aug 1, 1998||Shih Chi-yang|
|Aug 1, 1998 – Feb 1, 1999||Post vacant||Constitution amended, justices took over the positions|
|1||Feb 1, 1999 – Sep 30, 2003||Weng Yueh-sheng||Cheng Chung-mo|
|2||Oct 1, 2003 – Apr 7, 2006||Weng Yueh-sheng||Cheng Chung-mo|
|3||Apr 7, 2006 – Sep 30, 2007||Lai In-jaw|
|4||Oct 1, 2007 – Jul 18, 2010||Lai In-jaw||Hsieh Tsai-chuan|
|Jul 19, 2010 – Oct 12, 2010||Vice President as Acting President|
|5||Oct 13, 2010 – Oct 31, 2016||Rai Hau-min||Su Yeong-chin|
|6||Nove 1, 2016 – present||Hsu Tzong-li||Tsai Jeong-duen|