Italian Supreme Court: what does it do?

The Italian Supreme Court in the Italian law system is a final instance court. Its task is to ensure compliance with Italian laws, as well as uniform interpretation of the latter, unity of objective law and respect of the limits of different legal jurisdictions.

It also has the function of establishing jurisdiction, that is, establishing who has the power to sit in the case whenever a conflict arises between ordinary and special courts or Italian and foreign courts. It also has the task of and solving conflicts between ordinary courts.

The Italian Supreme Court of Cassation has also jurisdiction in matters of legislative elections and popular referendums aimed at abrogating laws.

Regarding its legitimacy control function, it is worth remembering that the Court is required to deal exclusively with law matters. Thus it cannot go into the subject-matters of a case, since it has no jurisdiction on new cases, but only on decided cases.

Its legitimacy judgements are aimed at verifying the correct application of general law principles and specific regulations concerning the cases already decided on by ordinary courts. It is possible to have recourse to the Supreme Court whenever a violation of substantive or procedural law occurs.

Italian Supreme Court: Appeal procedure and requirements to appeal

Article 111 of the Italian Constitution provides that the right to appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgements of ordinary courts due to violation of law is always guaranteed.

Regarding the grounds to file an appeal in civil matters to the Supreme Court, it is worth remembering that the principle of specificity applies. According to the latter, the objections to the judgement under appeal must be covered by an exhaustive list of specific grounds.

In order to appeal to the Supreme Court thus it is not sufficient to list infringed laws, while it is necessary to provide exhaustive and intelligible arguments supporting the claim against the alleged violation.

Compliance with the principle of specificity is a condition of admissibility of the appeal to the Italian Cassation Court.

Pursuant to Article 360 of the Italian Code of Civil Procedure, Court of Appeal judgements and judgements of first instance can be appealed before the Court of Cassation on the basis of:

  • Jurisdiction issues;
  • Infringement of jurisdiction rules, when the latter are not explicitly stated;
  • Infringement or misapplication of national laws, as well as of contract law rules and collective bargaining agreements;
  • Invalidity of judgements or proceedings;
  • Failure to examine decisive facts, which are subject of negotiation between the parties.

Within the field of criminal law, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation has the task of supervising ordinary courts, so that they respect the principle of legality both in criminal and in procedural law.

Moreover, pursuant to article 606 of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure, an appeal to the Italian Supreme Court is only admissible because of legitimacy flaws, and, more in detail, when the following conditions are met:

  • The Judge exercises powers reserved by the law to legislative or administrative bodies, that is, powers, which are foreclosed to public authorities (misuse of power);
  • Non compliance of misapplication of criminal law or of other laws that should be taken into account when applying criminal law;
  • Non compliance with established procedural law, on pain of annulment, inadmissibility or expiry;
  • Failure to take into account decisive evidence, when requested by one of the parties during the preliminary phase of the proceedings, limited to the circumstances set out in article 495(2) of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure;
  • Flawed illogical and inconsistent reasoning, when the text of the contested measure or other deeds specifically indicated in the grounds for appeal are vitiated.

Italian Supreme Court: procedure

Within the field of criminal law, appeals can be submitted to the Italian Supreme Court only by means of a lawyer authorised to practise before higher jurisdictions, within the appropriate time limits.

The proceedings begin with the filing of a notice of appeal in the office where the judgment of original instance is entered. After that, the President of the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation assigns the case, according to its subject matter, to one of the six Divisions of the Supreme Court.

The appeal is subject to prior admissibility judgement by the President. The latter, should he/she find it useful or necessary, assigns the case to the 7th Criminal Division, which decides on its admissibility within 30 days.

If the appeal is deemed admissible, it is remitted to the President in order to set the date of the hearing and to transfer the appeal to the competent court.

Upon application of the General Prosecutor, of the representatives of the parties, or even ex officio, the President can transfer the appeal to the Joint Divisions, in particular when the subject matter of the appeal is of special importance or when it implies solving conflicts between decisions taken by different Divisions of the Court.

The Court decides on the grounds for appeal after a deliberation, taking one of the following measures:

  • Inadmissibility judgement;
  • Rejection judgement;
  • Correction judgement;
  • Annulment judgement, in case the grounds for appeal have been accepted. This kind of action can either be taken by the Supreme Court itself or be referred to the Court which originally adopted the contested measure, so that it can take a new decision complying with the law principles stated by the Supreme Court.

The Italian Supreme Court of Cassation represents the highest level of justice. For this reason, its decisions cannot be contested anymore and in case of conviction sentence, the defendant must be immediately taken to jail. In case the defendant is a foreigner, he/she is extradited to Italy.

Arnone&Sicomo Law Firm avails itself of the collaboration of lawyers authorised to practise before the Italian Supreme Court. They are entered on a special professional register and provide assistance for appeals both in civil and criminal cases.

Each case is examined with the highest attention, considering all possible infringements at all court levels.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.