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The Court of Session

The Court of Session, Parliament House, Edinburgh

About the Court of Session

The Court of Session is Scotland's supreme civil court. It sits in Parliament House, Edinburgh, and is presided over by the Lord President, Scotland’s most senior judge. The second most senior judge is the Lord Justice Clerk, who can deputise for the Lord President.

The Court of Session is divided into the Outer House and the Inner House.

The Court of Session Outer House

The Outer House mostly hears civil cases when they first come to court (i.e. at first instance). Normally a single judge, called a Lord Ordinary, presides over the case. In certain cases, the judge will sit with a jury of 12 people.

The Court deals with a wide range of cases including high value claims for more than £100,000. The range includes personal injury claims; breaches of contract or of a duty of care; family law such as divorce, child abduction or adoptions; and the review of local or central government decisions.

The Commercial Court hears cases such as disputes over insurance transactions, or the supply of goods and intellectual property (ownership of ideas, inventions, designs or information).

Although the Outer House primarily hears civil cases when they first come to court, certain appeals (for example, those involving planning decisions) can be sent from the Inner House to the Outer House.

The Court of Session Inner House

The Inner House is primarily the appeal court. It reviews decisions, mostly from tmhe Outer House but also occasionally from the sheriff courts, the tribunals, and other bodies.

The Inner House is divided into two permanent divisions. The First Division is chaired by the Lord President, while the Second Division is chaired by the Lord Justice Clerk. These two judges have a wide range of responsibilities and, when neither is available to sit in court, an Extra Division is set up and chaired by the next most senior judge.

The decisions made by all three of these divisions have the same authority. Cases in the Inner House normally have three judges sitting on the bench (apart from administrative and procedural hearings which can be heard by a single judge). Each judge has an equal vote in a decision with no casting vote by the Chair. If a case is particularly important, or raises a significant legal point, a bench of five judges or more can sit.

In addition to appeals (called reclaiming motions) from the Outer House, the Inner House hears a variety of appeals from: the Sheriff Appeal Court; the Scottish Land Court; the Court of the Lord Lyon; the Upper Tribunal and certain professional bodies such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the General Medical Council and the Law Society of Scotland. It can also hear special cases on questions of law; and applications for new civil jury trials where one of the parties is dissatisfied with the verdict of the first jury. Although primarily an appeal court, the Inner House can hear certain first instance cases such as petitions to the nobile officium, petitions in respect of solicitors and notaries public, and petitions to change a Trust. Only on certain grounds can decisions made by the Inner House be appealed to the UK Supreme Court, for example on grounds relating to human rights

Supreme Court cases

Certain decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, either with the permission of the Inner House or, if the Inner House has refused permission, with the permission of the UK Supreme Court.

Cases in the Supreme Court can be presented by:

The Court has been the Supreme Court for civil cases in Scotland since 1532.