The Finnish national legal system functions between different levels or “instances”. For example criminal cases are handled first in District Courts, their appeals in the Courts of Appeal from where sometimes cases go on to the Supreme Court. These courts that are “higher” from the district courts, also called the courts of first instance, are usually called appellate courts because the cases and issues handled there are appeals made from the decision of the “lower” courts. These higher courts might however focus their evaluation on different things than the court below them, thus there might be a different conclusion on the same case in the higher court than in the lower court. To many laymen the differences between the courts come as a slight surprise, where the most simple example would be that of the Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Administrative Court is the usual place to appeal decisions of public authorities such as immigration office residence permit decisions or social insurance institution’s revised decisions. The Administrative Court does not require a permission to appeal, meaning that everyone has a right to be heard on the decision regarding them in an independent court. The Administrative Court evaluates the case strictly on the basis of the law and case-law, where for example a clear mistake made by an authority would by default be good grounds for success in the Administrative Court. It would be good to understand the role of the Administrative court as an outside expert looking in to the issue to decide whether the law was actually being followed in a certain case, such as the one being brought to the Administrative Court. The Administrative Court does not aim to produce new case-law, meaning binding guidelines to other courts on how to interpret the law in similar situations. The court then only tries to solve a single issue with the intent of following the letter of the law as closely as possible.
Naturally, if the decision of the Administrative Court is unsatisfactory or detrimental to the person concerned, it becomes topical to think about the possibility of appealing the decision of the Administrative Court to the Supreme Administrative Court. Bringing an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court is not as simple as to the Administrative court. The Supreme Administrative Court, like the higher common courts, requires the granting of a permission to appeal. Getting this permission to appeal is not a default position: the Supreme Administrative Court grants the permission to appeal in cases and issues where it deems that the legal question in the case is important enough and answering it would produce new and relevant case-law. Gaining the permission to appeal therefore requires having a case which is legally significant and unsolvable just by the letter of the law. Just being dissatisfied with the decision of the Administrative Court is not enough to be the entry ticket to the Supreme Administrative Court; In practice, without the assistance of an expert, it is very difficult for a lay person to know whether obtaining an appeal is likely or even possible in the present case.
It is important to notice that even if the permission to appeal would be granted it does not point in the direction of a favorable decision. The permission to appeal only means that the case has a legal question in it that the higher court deems important to answer. The one appealing the decision of a lower court would be smart to ask a legal counsel whether even after the permission to appeal there is any sense in appealing. The job of a legal counsel is to seek the benefit of their client, whether that benefit in that case would be not to appeal the decision. It is also good to note that even a good request for appeal can be dismissed if the legal importance of the case is not pressed in the right way.
Just like building a house, it is always better to continue work on a good foundation. If some fact or other thing is already accepted as true and valid in a lower court, it is very hard to prove otherwise in a higher court without risking your credibility. For this reason especially it is very important to turn to the help of legal counsel in any instance, whether higher or lower, for example to Autio Associates.