A tribunal, generally, is any person or
institution Institutions are humanly devised structures of rules and norms that shape and constrain individual behavior. All definitions of institutions generally entail that there is a level of persistence and continuity. Laws, rules, social conventions a ...
authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It use ...

judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a Judicial panel, panel of judges. A judge hears all the witnesses and any other Evidence (law), evidence presented by the barristers or s ...

, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title. For example, an
advocate An advocate is a professional in the field of law. List of country legal systems, Different countries' legal systems use the term with somewhat differing meanings. The broad equivalent in many English law–based jurisdictions could be a barri ...

who appears before a
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of justice in Civil law (common law), civil, C ...

with a single judge could describe that judge as "their tribunal." Many
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government ...

al bodies that are titled as "tribunals" are described so in order to emphasize that they are not courts of normal
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin 'law' + 'declaration') is the legal term for the legal authority granted to a legal entity to enact justice. In federations like the United States, areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal levels. Jur ...
. For example, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was a body specially constituted under
international law International law (also known as public international law and the law of nations) is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally recognized as binding between State (polity), states. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptua ...
; in
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island and the List of is ...

Great Britain
, employment tribunals are bodies set up to hear specific employment disputes. In many (but not all) cases, the word ''tribunal'' implies a judicial (or quasi-judicial) body with a lesser degree of formality than a court, in which the normal rules of evidence and procedure may not apply, and whose presiding officers are frequently neither judges, nor magistrates. Private judicial bodies are also often styled "tribunals." The word ''tribunal'', however, is not conclusive of a body's function—for example, in Great Britain, the
Employment Appeal Tribunal The Employment Appeal Tribunal is a tribunal in England and Wales and Scotland, and is a superior court of record. Its primary role is to hear appeals from Employment Tribunals in England, Scotland and Wales. It also hears appeals from decisions o ...
is a superior court of record. The term is derived from the
tribune Tribune () was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome. The two most important were the Tribune of the Plebs, tribunes of the plebs and the military tribunes. For most of Roman history, a college of ten tribunes of the plebs ac ...

s, magistrates of the Classical
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Res publica Romana ) was a form of government of Rome and the era of the ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization when it was run through res publica, public Representation (politics), representation of the Roman peo ...

Roman Republic
. "Tribunal" originally referred to the office of the tribunes, and the term is still sometimes used in this sense in historical writings. The tribunal was the platform upon which the presiding authority sat; having a raised position physically as symbolic of his higher position in regard to the adjudication of the law.

By country


In Australia, the term ''tribunal'' generally implies a judicial body with a lesser degree of formality than a ''court'', with a simplified legal procedure, often presided over by a lawyer (solicitor or barrister) who is not a judge or magistrate (often referred to as a ''member'' of the tribunal). In many cases the lawyers who function as tribunal members do so only on a part-time basis, and spend the greater part of their time carrying out other aspects of legal practice, such as representing clients. In many cases, the formal rules of evidence which apply in courts do not apply in tribunals, which enables tribunals to hear forms of evidence which courts may not be allowed to consider. Tribunals generally deal with simpler matters; while legal representation is permitted and not uncommon, self-representation is much more common in tribunals than in courts, and tribunal members and registry staff are generally more accustomed to dealing with self-represented parties than courts are. Appeal from a tribunal is to a court. Tribunals in the Australian judicial system include: * Administrative Appeals Tribunal * Migration Review Tribunal * New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal * Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal * State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia * Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal * South Australian Civil and Administration Tribunal In several Australian states, tribunals function as the equivalent of a
small claims court Small-claims courts have limited jurisdiction to hear Civil law (common law), civil cases between private litigants. Courts authorized to try small claims may also have other judicial functions, and go by different names in different jurisdiction ...
. In the context of
sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain, or improve physical ability and Skill, skills while providing enjoyment to participants and, in some cases, entertainment to specta ...
, "tribunal" frequently refers to the AFL Tribunal, the disciplinary body of the
Australian Football League The Australian Football League (AFL) is a companyAustralian Securities & Investments Commission registers operating the premier and fully professional sports, professional competition of Australian rules football. Through its go ...


In Bangladesh, ''tribunal'' refers to a court that serves some special purpose, of which Bangladesh has several. These have been set up to ensure speedy trial and reduce case congestion in the normal courts. Beside this, Article 117 of the Constitution of Bangladesh empowers the parliament to set up one or more administrative tribunals. No court can entertain any proceeding or make any order in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of such tribunal.


In the judicial system of Belgium, the names of the lower
trial court A trial court or court of first instance is a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the admin ...
s can be translated into English as "tribunals" (, , ), whilst the higher
appellate court A court of appeals, also called a court of appeal, appellate court, appeal court, court of second instance or second instance court, is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal. In much of t ...
s can be translated as "courts" (, , ).


The Judiciary of Brazil officially names "tribunal" the appeal court and the ones above it, always with more than one judge. The higher court is the
Supremo Tribunal Federal The Supreme Federal Court ( pt, Supremo Tribunal Federal, , abbreviated STF) is the supreme court (court of last resort) of Brazil, serving primarily as the Constitutional Court of the country. It is the highest court of law in Brazil for consti ...
(Supreme Federal Court), followed by the superior tribunals ( Superior Tribunal de Justiça, Tribunal Superior Eleitoral, Tribunal Superior do Trabalho, Superior Tribunal Militar). The federal justice is divided into regions; each region has its Tribunal Regional Federal (Regional Federal Court). Also, each state has its own Tribunal de Justiça (Justice Court).


* Civil Resolution Tribunal, an online Tribunal in
British Columbia British Columbia (commonly abbreviated as BC) is the westernmost Provinces and territories of Canada, province of Canada, situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. It has a diverse geography, with rugged landscapes that include ...

British Columbia
(BC). * Landlord and Tenant Board, formerly the
Ontario Ontario ( ; ) is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada.Ontario is located in the geographic Eastern Canada, eastern half of Canada, but it has historically and politically been considered to be part of Central Canada. Located ...

Rental Housing Tribunal. * Ontario Condominium Authority, facilitates dispute resolution between condo owners and boards regarding issues such as noise complaints.

Hong Kong

The following tribunals exist within the
Judiciary The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of courts that adjudication, adjudicates legal disputes/disagreements and interprets, defends, and app ...
of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China: Lands, Small Claims, Labour, Obscene Articles. For public inquiries, commissions are set up instead, under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance.


There are tribunals for settling various administrative and tax-related disputes, including Central Administrative Tribunal, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal, National Green Tribunal, Competition Appellate Tribunal and Securities Appellate Tribunal, among others. The
National Company Law Tribunal The National Company Law Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body in India that adjudicates issues relating to Indian companies. The tribunal was established under the Companies Act 2013 and was constituted on 1 June 2016 by the government of India an ...
is a
quasi-judicial body A quasi-judicial body is non-judicial body which can interpret law. It is an entity such as an arbitration panel or tribunal board, that can be a public administrative agency but also a contract A contract is a legally enforceabl ...
in India that adjudicates issues relating to Indian companies.
National Company Law Appellate Tribunal
was constituted under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013 for hearing appeals against the orders of National Company Law Tribunal, with effect from 1 June 2016. In several states, Food Safety Appellate Tribunals have been created to hear appeals against orders of adjudicating officers for food safety (additional deputy commissioners). Armed Forces Tribunal is a
military tribunal Military justice (also military law) is the legal system (bodies of law and procedure) that governs the conduct of the Active duty, active-duty personnel of the armed forces of a country. In some country, nation-states, Civil law (legal system) ...
in India. It was established under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007. Permanent Lok Adalat (PUS) is a law court (also known as People's Court) and special tribunal set up in a number of districts throughout the country. It has been established under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.


In the
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland (), is a country in north-western Europe consisting of 26 of the 32 Counties of Ireland, counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, on the eastern ...

Republic of Ireland
, ''tribunal'' popularly refers to a ''
public inquiry A tribunal of inquiry is an official review of events or actions ordered by a government body. In many common law countries, such as the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Ireland, Australia and Canada, such a public inquiry differs from a royal ...

public inquiry
'' established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. The main difference between a Parliamentary Inquiry (non statutory) and a Tribunal of Inquiry in Ireland is that non-statutory inquiries are not vested with the powers, privileges, and rights of the High Court. Tribunals of Inquiry are. Tribunals are established by resolution of the Houses of the Oireachtas to enquire into matters of ''urgent public importance''. It is not a function of Tribunals to administer justice, their work is ''solely inquisitorial''. Tribunals are obliged to ''report their findings to the
Oireachtas The Oireachtas (, ), sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the bicameral parliament of Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in No ...
''. They have the power to enforce the attendance and examination of witnesses and the production of documents relevant to the work in hand. Tribunals can consist of one or more people. A layperson, or non-lawyer, may be the Sole member of a tribunal.


Historically, in the Netherlands, before the separation of lawmaking, law enforcement, and justice duties, all sentences were delivered by a tribunal of seven ''schepenen'', or magistrates, appointed by the local count. Such a tribunal was called a ''Vierschaar'', so called for a rope—or cord—that was drawn (''schaar'' or ''scheren'') in a four-square dimension, wherein the judges sat on four benches. These benches were positioned in a square as well, with the defendant standing in the middle. Towns had the ''Vierschaar'' privilege to hear their own disputes. The ''Vierschaar'' was usually located in the town hall, and many historic town halls still have such a room, usually decorated with scenes from the Judgment of Solomon.

United Kingdom

The ''tribunal'' system of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...

United Kingdom
is part of the national system of administrative justice. Though it has grown up on an ''ad hoc'' basis since the beginning of the twentieth century, from 2007 reforms were put in place to build a unified system with recognised judicial authority, routes of
appeal In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed by a higher authority, where parties request a formal change to an official decision. Appeals function both as a process for error correction as well as a process of clarifying and ...
and regulatory supervision.

United States

"Tribunal" is used in the U.S. generally to refer to courts or judicial bodies, as in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The
Ohio Ohio () is a U.S. state, state in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern region of the United States. Of the List of states and territories of the United States, fifty U.S. states, it is the List of U.S. states and territories by area, 34th-l ...

Rules of Professional Conduct, for instance, define "tribunal" as "a court, an arbitrator in a binding
arbitration Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that resolves disputes outside the judiciary courts. The dispute will be decided by one or more persons (the 'arbitrators', 'arbiters' or 'arbitral tribunal'), which renders the ' ...
, or a legislative body, administrative agency, or other body acting in an adjudicative capacity."

By sector

Catholic Church

In the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Catholics Catholic Church by country, worldwide . It is am ...

Catholic Church
, ecclesiastical courts are called tribunals. Tribunals are distinguished by grade, while proceedings are distinguished by instance; for example, an archdiocesan tribunal may hear a cause in first instance if the cause is first brought before the archdiocesan tribunal, or, if the cause was first heard before the diocesan tribunal and is now appealed to the archdiocesan tribunal, the latter may hear the cause in second instance. Only the Roman Rota is competent to hear causes in third instance, with limited exceptions. Other tribunals are incompetent in third instance by reason of grade (''ratione gradus''), since they do not have the jurisdiction to judge in third instance. Tribunals include: *diocesan or eparchal tribunals (including archdiocesan or archeparchal tribunals) *interdiocesan tribunals, that is, a tribunal erected by the Holy See for more than one
diocese In Ecclesiastical polity, church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. History In the later organization of the Roman Empire, the increasingly subdivided Roman province, pro ...

, either as a tribunal of first instance, or as an appellate tribunal in second instance *the synod of bishops of patriarchal churches is the highest tribunal within the territory of the patriarchal church, without prejudice to the primacy of the Apostolic See *ordinary tribunal of the
patriarchal Patriarchy is a social system in which positions of Dominance hierarchy, dominance and Social privilege, privilege are primarily held by men. It is used, both as a technical Anthropology, anthropological term for families or clans controll ...

church, distinct from the
tribunal of the patriarchal church *ordinary tribunals of the Apostolic See ** Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest tribunal in the
canon law of the Catholic Church The canon law of the Catholic Church ("canon law" comes from Latin ') is "how the Church organizes and governs herself". It is the legal system, system of laws and canon law, ecclesiastical legal principles made and enforced by the Hierarchy of the ...
Tribunal of the Roman Rota
Tribunal of the Roman Rota
, the highest appellate tribunal competent in most causes in second and third instance and some causes in first instance **
Apostolic Penitentiary The Apostolic Penitentiary (), formerly called the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, is a dicastery of the Roman Curia and is one of the three ordinary tribunals of the Holy See, Apostolic See. The Apostolic Penitentiary is chiefl ...
, a tribunal for matters concerning the internal forum **Supreme tribunal of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) is the oldest among the departments of the Roman Curia. Its seat is the Palace of the Holy Office in Rome. It was founded to defend the Catholic Church from Heresy in Christianity, heresy and is ...

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
for certain more grave delicts (canonical crimes)

In health sector

Tribunals also play an integral role in health sectors both within and across nations. Often referred to as "adjunctive tribunals", these quasi-judicial bodies possess regulatory, oversight, and dispute resolution powers to aid in health decision-making and governance. At the same time, the actual effects of adjunctive tribunals on health services are disputed, as little evidence exists to evaluate their efficacy. More empirical evaluations are needed to ensure that tribunals operate in a more evidence-based, systematic manner within the health sector.L. Sossin, S.J. Hoffman. 2010. “The Elusive Search for Accountability: Evaluating Adjudicative Tribunals,” Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 28(2): 343-360.

See also

Constitutional court
Constitutional court
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was a body of the United Nations that was established to prosecute the war crimes in the Yugoslav Wars, war crimes that had been committed during the Yugoslav Wars and to try ...
* Iraqi Special Tribunal * Lindsay Tribunal *
Nuremberg Trials The Nuremberg trials were held by the Allies of World War II, Allies against representatives of the defeated Nazi Germany, for plotting and carrying out invasions of other countries, and other crimes, in World War II. Between 1939 and 1945 ...
Public Inquiry A tribunal of inquiry is an official review of events or actions ordered by a government body. In many common law countries, such as the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Ireland, Australia and Canada, such a public inquiry differs from a royal ...
Revolutionary Tribunal The Revolutionary Tribunal (french: Tribunal révolutionnaire; unofficially Popular Tribunal) was a court instituted by the National Convention during the French Revolution for the trial of political offenders. It eventually became one of the ...
* Revolutionary tribunal (Russia) * State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia *'' The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal'' ( Morrowind expansion pack) * Tribunal for Local Governments in Kerala *
Tribune Tribune () was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome. The two most important were the Tribune of the Plebs, tribunes of the plebs and the military tribunes. For most of Roman history, a college of ten tribunes of the plebs ac ...
Waitangi Tribunal The Waitangi Tribunal (Māori: ''Te Rōpū Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi'') is a New Zealand permanent commission of inquiry established under the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975. It is charged with investigating and making recommendations on cla ...
* World Courts of Women * Canadian tribunals


{{Law Courts by type