Presentation of the Court
Article 147 of the Belgian constitution states that there is one Court of Cassation for the whole Belgian territory. Though often placed at the top of the judiciary pyramid, it is not a third degree jurisdiction. Pursuant to the article 608 of the Judicial Code, the Court tries cases that were judged in last instance and were then referred to the Court due to the contravention of the law or due to the violation of forms which are either substantial or prescribed under penalty of nullity. While the first and second degrees of jurisdiction apply the law to the facts that shall be presented to them by the parties, the Court of Cassation is the judge of the attacked ruling made in last resort: is it adequately motivated? Does it comply with the law ? Does it apply and interpret correctly the rule of law? Does it respect the reach of an act that was submitted to the judge?
Through the control of the correct application of the law by the trial judge, the Court of Cassation safeguards the individual rights of the people. However, the Court also participates in the modelling of the law. On the one hand, its unicity tends to guarantee the unity of interpretation and enforcement of judicial norms by all the jurisdictions of the kingdom. On the other hand, it tends to maintain an harmonious and balanced evolution of the law thanks to rulings which can both promote progress and set guidelines within this evolution.
The Court counts 3 chambers: the civil chamber which administers the civil, administrative, tax, commercial and disciplinary cases, the criminal chamber, and the chamber in charge of social matters. Each chamber is divided in two sections, one for French cases and one for Dutch cases.
The Court of Cassation is presided by a first president. On top of this, it includes one president, six presidents of section and twenty-two advisers.
The general prosecutor is at the head of the public prosecutor’s office of the Court of Cassation. The office also consists of a first attorney general and thirteen attorneys general.
Law clerks assist the judges and the members of the prosecutor’s office. At the moment, the legal framework establishes the number of law clerks to nineteen.
On top of this, judges and members of the prosecutor’s office from the trial jurisdictions can be delegated to the documentation unit of the Court under certain terms and conditions.
The administrative follow-up of the cases falls under the competence of the registry department of the court, which is managed by the chief registrar. As to the prosecutor’s office, the chief secretary is the head of the administrative branch.
The members of the concordance department translate the published rulings and other court documents.