The Supreme Administrative Court is the highest body in the hierarchy of the administrative and tax courts, which are responsible for the judgment of disputes arising from administrative and tax legal relations, under the terms of the jurisdiction scope provided in article 4 of the Statute of the Administrative and Tax Courts (ETAF).
Its headquarters are in Lisbon and its jurisdiction is the entire national territory.
The Supreme Administrative Court operates in sections and plenary sessions. It consists of two sections, Administrative Litigation (1st Section) and Tax Litigation (2nd Section), which works with three judges or in plenary. Each section of the Supreme Administrative Court is formed by the President of the Court, the respective vice-president and the other judges appointed.
The responsibility to trial in each Section is of the rapporteur judge and of the two other judges.
The rapporteur judge and the other acting judges, within their section, are responsible for the Plenary judgement, and it can only operate with at least two thirds of the judges present.
It is the responsibility of the Administrative Litigation Section to know (article 24 of the ETAF):
a. Cases in administrative matters relating to actions or omissions of the following entities:
- President of the Republic;
- Parliament and its President;
- Council of Ministers;
- Prime Minister;
- Constitutional Court, Supreme Administrative Court, Court of Auditors, Central Administrative Courts, as well as its Presidents;
- Superior Council of National Defense;
- Superior Council of the Administrative and Tax Courts and its President;
- Superior Council of the Public Prosecutor;
b. Cases relating to elections foreseen in this law;
c. Requests for the adoption of precautionary measures relating to proceedings within its competence;
d. Requests relating to the enforcement of its decisions;
e. Applications accumulated in the processes referred to in subparagraph a);
f. Return actions, based on the liability for damages resulting from the exercise of their functions, proposed against judges of the Supreme Administrative Court and central administrative courts and public prosecutors which exercise its functions in these courts, or equivalent;
g. Appeals against judgements handed down by the central administrative courts at the first level of jurisdiction;
i. Other proceedings whose consideration is deferred to it by law.
It is also incumbent upon the referred Section to hear review appeals on matters of law filed against decisions of the Administrative Litigation Section of the central administrative courts and decisions of the 1st instance administrative courts, in accordance with the provisions of procedural law.
It is the responsibility of the Tax Litigation Section to know (article 26 of the ETAF):
- Appeals against the decisions of the Tax Litigation Section of the central administrative courts, handed down at the 1st level of jurisdiction;
- Appeals filed against decisions on the merits of the tax courts, based exclusively on matters of law;
- Appeals against administrative acts by the Council of Ministers concerning tax matters;
- Applications for the adoption of precautionary measures regarding proceedings within its competence;
- Applications relating to the enforcement of its decisions;
- Applications for the production of evidence in advance, formulated in a pending case therein;
- Other proceedings whose consideration is deferred to it by law.
The Plenary of each Section is responsible for hearing the appeals against the decisions handed down by the Section at the 1st level of jurisdiction and appeals for the standardisation of case law, and it is also responsible for pronouncing, under the terms established in procedural law, regarding the sense in which it should be resolved, by a court of 1st level of the administrative and tax jurisdiction, new questions of law that raises serious difficulties and may be raised in other disputes.
The Plenary of the Supreme Administrative Court is composed by the President of the Court, the Vice-Presidents and the five most senior judges of each Section.
It is responsible to hear the appeals for the case law standardisation, when there is a contradiction, in the decisions, between the two Sections of the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Plenaries of each section only hear matters of law. The Administrative Litigation Section only hears matters of law in review appeals. The Tax Litigation Section only hears matters of law in appeals directly filed against decisions handed down by tax courts.
With the Reform of Administrative Litigation – which came into effect on 1 January 2004 – the Supreme Administrative Court began to conduct itself almost exclusively as a court of review.
President. Vice-Presidents. Judges
In the Supreme Administrative Court, judges, who form a single body, are governed by the provisions of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic on the independence, irremovability, irresponsibility and incompatibilities of judges, by the Statute of Administrative and Fiscal Courts and, secondarily and with the necessary adaptations, by the Statute of Judicial Judges.
The judges in effective exercise of their functions at the Supreme Administrative Court elect, among themselves and by secret ballot, the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, who is assisted by two Vice-Presidents, elected identically, one being elected from among and by the judges of the Administrative Litigation Section, and the other elected from among and by the judges of the Tax Litigation Section.
The term of office of the President and Vice-Presidents lasts five years, without re-election.
The President, the Vice-Presidents and the judges of the Supreme Administrative Court have the honours, precedences, categories, rights, salaries and allowances that belong, respectively, to the President, Vice-Presidents, and the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice.
The President’s cabinet
The President is assisted by a cabinet headed by a Chief of Cabinet and composed of six advisors and three personal secretaries.
The President of the Supreme Administrative Court is, inherently, President of the Superior Council of Administrative and Tax Courts (the managing and disciplinary body of the judges of the administrative and tax jurisdiction).
Bodies and Services
The Supreme Administrative Court is comprised of the following bodies:
- Board of Directors (governing body on matters of financial and asset management);
- Administrator (coordinates, under the supervision of the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, the services functioning, namely human resources, budgetary and facilities and equipment management);
- Advisory Board (consultation body to the President of the Supreme Administrative Court).
The Supreme Administrative Court comprises the following services:
- The Court Registry;
- Directorate of Administrative and Financial Services;
- Legal Documentation and Information Division;
- Organisation and IT Division;
- Support Office for Judges and Public Prosecutors;
- Press Office.
Case law database
A set of research tools is available which allows the selection of information regarding cases issued by the Supreme Administrative Court since 1950 for Administrative and Plenary Litigation, and since 1963 for Tax and Customs Litigation.
Since 2002 decisions began to be introduced in full text.
In the 1st instance’ administrative and tax courts, in the central administrative courts and in the Supreme Administrative Court, the cases proceedings are carried out electronically in the Support IT System for Administrative and Tax Courts Activities (SITAF).
The Supreme Administrative Court has been reinforcing, both through its membership in international organisations and through the promotion of specific initiatives, the contact and exchange of experiences between judges from the administrative and tax jurisdictions in the most diverse countries and legal systems.
The Supreme Administrative Court is a member of the following international organisations:
|International Association of High Administrative Jurisdictions (AIHJA)|
|Association of the State Councils and Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions of the European Union (ACA-Europe)|
|Ibero-American Association of Administrative and Tax Courts (AITFA)|
To reinforce the relationship between similar judicial institutions and strengthen legal cooperation relations, the Supreme Administrative Court signed, at bilateral level, cooperation protocols with:
- The Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China, on 12 de January 2004.
- The Administrative Court of Mozambique, on 12 November 2008 and 4 April 2016.
- The Supreme Court of Justice of São Tomé and Principe, on 25 May 2010.