The courts are sovereign bodies with competence to administer justice on behalf of the people. Its function is to ensure the defense of the rights and interests of citizens, protected by law, to punish breaches of democratic legality and to resolve conflicts of public and private interests.
The courts are independent and subject only to the law. Their decisions are binding on all public and private entities and prevail over those of any other authorities.
The court hearings are public, except when the court itself, by reasoned order, decide otherwise, to ensure the protection of the dignity of persons and public morals or ensuring their normal functioning.
Notwithstanding what is laid down in EU regulations and other international instruments, the Portuguese courts are internationally competent:
a) When the action may be brought in Portuguese court under the rules of jurisdiction laid down in Portuguese law;
b) have been committed in Portuguese territory that serving the cause of action in action, or some of the facts belonging to it;
c) When the claimed right can not become effective except through action filed in Portuguese territory or check the author considerable difficulty in the filing abroad, subject to the object of the dispute and the Portuguese legal system there is a ponderous element of connection, personal or real.
The Portuguese courts have exclusive jurisdiction:
a) In the area of real property and renting property situated in Portuguese territory; however, in relation to property lease agreements concluded for temporary private use for a maximum period of six consecutive months, are equally competent courts of the EU Member State in which the defendant is domiciled, provided that the tenant is a natural person and the owner and the tenant are domiciled in the same Member State;
b) As regards the validity of the constitution or the dissolution of companies or other legal persons having their headquarters in Portugal, as well as concerning the validity of decisions of their organs; to determine that seat, the Portuguese court shall apply its rules of private international law;
c) As regards the validity of entries in public records held in Portugal;
d) in respect of executions on real estate situated in Portuguese territory;
e) insolvency or revitalization of persons resident in Portugal or legal persons or companies whose headquarters are located in Portuguese territory.
In Portugal, there are two distinct constitutionally enshrined jurisdiction (Article 209 et seq. of the Portuguese Constitution): the civil and administrative. Is expected also the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court and the Court of Auditors, in addition to the arbitration courts and justices of the peace.
In the civil jurisdiction ordinary courts in civil and criminal matters are the courts are organized into three levels, the higher-ranking and territorially wider to hierarchically inferior and territorially narrower: The Supreme Court of Justice (national competence), courts ratio (one per judicial district and two in the judicial district of Oporto) and the judicial district courts (1st instance).
In 1st instance, the courts are of three categories, depending on the subject and the share value: ordinary courts, specialized competence (education criminal, family, juvenile, labor, trade, maritime and execution of sentences) or specific competence (civil courts, criminal or mixed; civil or criminal judgments; small civil proceedings or criminal judgments).
The administrative jurisdiction are part of the administrative and tax courts (1st instance), the central administrative courts (North and South) and the Supreme Administrative Court (nationwide).
Conflicts of jurisdiction between courts shall be resolved by a Dispute Court, regulated by law.
In the Portuguese judicial system are the following categories of courts:
• The Constitutional Court, whose main function is to assess the constitutionality or legality of legal rules as well as the constitutionality of omissions to legislate;
• The Court of Auditors, which is the highest body for reviewing the legality of public expenditure and consideration of the accounts that the law be submitted to it;
• The Courts, which are the ordinary courts in civil and criminal matters and shall have jurisdiction in all matters that are not assigned to other judicial bodies. They include the Supreme Court, courts of appeal and the lower courts (which are, as a rule, the county courts);
• The Administrative and Tax Courts, whose function is to settle disputes arising out of administrative and fiscal relations, including the Supreme Administrative Court, the central administrative courts, administrative courts circle and tax courts;
• The Peace Courts, which are courts with special characteristics and with jurisdiction in civil proceedings in which the amount in controversy does not exceed EUR 5 000;
• For the duration of a state of war, military courts may also be created.