Lithuanian Tribunal

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The Lithuanian Tribunal was the highest appeal court for the nobility of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was established by Stephen Báthory, Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, in 1581 as the counterpart to the Crown Tribunal of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, established in 1578. It ceased to exist after the Third Partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795.[1]

After the legal reforms of 1563–1564, members of the Lithuanian nobility received the right to appeal to the Grand Duke.[2] However, soon Grand Duke's court was severely backlogged and became clear that reforms are needed. The nobles themselves demanded a "supreme court". The formalities were finalized on March 1, 1581, but it is unclear when the Tribunal began to operate.[2]

The unpaid judges were elected for one-year term around February 2.[2] Each voivodeship and powiat provided two people for a total of 42–49 judges. The Tribunal had jurisdiction over the nobility of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Duchy of Samogitia, which had a privilege to establish its own tribunal, opted to join the Lithuanian Tribunal in 1588).[2] It could not decide cases involving peasants, city residents, clergy, or Jews.[2] The Tribunal accepted appeals from civil and criminal courts. Later its competency was expanded to include military and tax appeals and cases involving misconduct of lower-tier courts.[2]

The Tribunal met initially four, later twice a year first in Vilnius in the Cathedral Square, but later the location was alternated between Minsk and Navahrudak. The alternating location disrupted court's work as personnel, documents, and archives had to be moved frequently.[2] The Tribunal did not have an institution that could enforce its decisions. It delegated the enforcement to lower-tier courts. Therefore, despite penalties and other punishments for disobeying its decisions, the Tribunal had little actual power and the nobles increasingly ignored it.[2]


  1. ^ (Lithuanian) Jonas Zinkus, et al., ed. (1985–1988). "Lietuvos vyriausiasis tribunolas". Tarybų Lietuvos enciklopedija II. Vilnius, Lithuania: Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija. p. 606. LCC 86232954. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Andriulis, Vytautas; Mindaugas Maksimaitis; Vytautas Pakalniškis; Justinas Sigitas Pečkaitis; Antanas Šenavičius (2002). Lietuvos teisės istorija (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Justitia. pp. 178–182. ISBN 9986-567-81-5.