Kuwait’s court system was established significantly earlier than the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the Kuwaiti rule of law was innovative for its time. As lawyers, we are very proud of our constitution and our legal system as a whole, but sometimes we do not realize that the system is not clear to the general public. Therefore, I have decided in today’s article to explain the Kuwaiti court system in general and answer any questions that you may have.
Although I do not want to get into technicalities, there are a few points that I would like to make before answering your questions: 1) Kuwait is under civil law, meaning that the courts take into account the written law first before looking into previous judgments, unlike other jurisdictions like the United States, where common law is followed. 2) We have a threefold litigation system – cases start at the court of first instance, then the higher court of appeal, and finally the court of cassation/supreme court. This means there are three levels of the court system, giving people the chance to appeal a verdict should they feel that they need a second chance or have further evidence. 3) The court of cassation reviews the judgments of the other courts and decides whether they have applied the law.
Question: A case has been filed against me at a police station/public prosecution. I would like to know how the legal system works in Kuwait. How many levels or stages are there to the case? When should I expect the case to end?
Fajer: The case first starts at the public prosecution. This will require you to go to a police station and be investigated by an investigator at least once. Investigations can take a few hours and sometimes even days, depending on the case. Then the investigators decide whether the matter needs to be reviewed in court or not. They can decide to dismiss the case or transfer the case to court.
The case will then go to the court’s first level. Depending on the case, this can take from a few months to years – then if the verdict is appealed, the case will go to the court of appeal. Again, this will take from a few months to years. The case could also go to the court of cassation as I mentioned in point 3 above, but this is highly unlikely.
Question: I always hear about a case being filed for KD 5,001 – I am wondering where the extra KD 1 comes from. Can you explain this to us?
Fajer: This is because the amount that you file for determines whether the case can be appealed and which court can handle the case. As I said above, I don’t want to get into technicalities, but simply, a case filed for a claim that is less than KD 1,000 is final and cannot be appealed (which is why you also see KD 1,001). For claims that range between KD 1,001 and KD 5,000, the judgment can be appealed at a partial appeal court and not the high court of appeal. For cases involving KD 5,001 and above, the judgment is seen by the high court of appeal.
Question: Is it true that the process for employment-related cases is different? Some people say it is easier and less expensive, and that you will not need a lawyer. Is this true?
Fajer: The process is different for employment cases and this is because employment cases start at the Shuoon (Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor) before going to the courts. At the Shuoon, you will not need a lawyer and can do the process yourself, but you will need a lawyer to sign your documents in court. I highly suggest that if you are going to hire a lawyer for the court, then ask the same lawyer to be there at the Shuoon. This is because an investigation takes place at the Shuoon and the report is transferred to court with your case, which could make a difference. There are no court fees for employment cases. I hope the above information is useful.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed