LEGAL IN TURKEY - INTRODUCTION
Turkey’s Legal System
With the implementation of the legal reforms in 1926, Turkey's judicial system has been based on the Swiss Civil Code, the Italian Penal Code, and the
Neuchâtel (Swiss) Code of Civil Procedure. The Republic of Turkey, in accordance with its constitution, designates the Grand National Assembly as the
supreme legislative authority which can create or abolish any law. All state power is derived from the Constitution and sovereignty belongs to the
nation without any reservation or condition and is exercised through competent organisations in compliance with the principles set out in the
The Grand national assembly is currently composed of deputies elected from 81 provinces and 85 electoral districts. Turkey held a referendum on
April 16th, 2017, with a majority of Turkish citizens voting for constitutional changes. Following the referendum, various articles of the Turkish
Constitution have been amended. For example, the number of members of the Turkish Parliament has been increased to from 550 to 600 and the age
of political candidacy has been lowered to 18.
The 1982 constitution guarantees that judicial power is exercised by independent courts on behalf of the nation, and prohibits any government
agency or individual from interfering with the operations of the courts and judges. Members of the National Assembly also are not allowed to discuss
or make statements concerning pending court cases. Although trials normally are held in open court, the constitution provides that they can be closed
"for reasons of public morality or public security."
Headed by the minister of justice, the High Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors is the principal body charged with responsibility for ensuring
judicial integrity. This council acts on matters pertaining to the careers of judges, including appointments, promotions, transfers, and supervision.
The high council is empowered to remove judges and abolish courts and the offices of judges and public prosecutors. However, judges themselves
are protected against arbitrary removal from office by a constitutional provision stipulating that they cannot be dismissed without due cause or
retired involuntarily before the age of 65.
In early 1995, Turkey's legal system consisted of three types of courts: judicial, military, and administrative. Each system includes courts of first
instance and appellate courts. In addition, a Court of Jurisdictional Disputes rules on cases that cannot be classified readily as falling within the
purview of one court system.
The judicial courts form the largest part of the system; they handle most civil and criminal cases involving ordinary citizens. The two supreme courts
within the judicial system are the Constitutional Court and the Court of Appeals. The Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of laws and
decrees at the request of the president or of one-fifth of the members of the National Assembly. Its decisions on the constitutionality of legislation
and government decrees are final. The eleven members of the Constitutional Court are appointed by the president from among candidates nominated
by lower courts and the High Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors. Challenges to the constitutionality of a law must be made within sixty days of
its promulgation. Decisions of the Constitutional Court require the votes of an absolute majority of all its members, with the exception of decisions to
annul a constitutional amendment, which require a two-thirds majority.
The Court of Appeals (also known as the Court of Cassation) is the court of last instance for review of decisions and verdicts of lower-level judicial
courts, both civil and criminal. Its members are elected by secret ballot by senior judges and public prosecutors. Below the Court of Appeals are the
ordinary civil and criminal courts. At the lowest level of the judicial system are justices of the peace, who have jurisdiction over minor civil complaints
and offenses. Criminal courts presided over by a single judge have jurisdiction over misdemeanours and petty crimes, with penalties ranging from
small fines to brief prison sentences. Every organized municipality with a minimum population of 2,000 has at least one court presided over by a
single judge, with the actual number of courts varying according to the total population. Courts presided over by three judges primarily have
jurisdiction over major civil suits and serious crimes. Either of the parties in civil cases and defendants convicted in criminal cases can request that
the Court of Appeals review the lower-court decision. The Turkish courts have no jury system, and judges render decisions after establishing the
facts in each case based on evidence presented by lawyers and prosecutors.
The administrative court system consists of the Council of State, an appellate court, and various administrative courts of first instance. The Council
of State reviews decisions of the lower administrative courts, considers original administrative disputes, and, if requested, gives its opinion on draft
legislation submitted by the prime minister and the Council of Ministers. The president appoints 25% of the Council of State's judges. The other 75%
are appointed by the High Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors.
The military court system exercises jurisdiction over all military personnel. In areas under martial law, the military also has jurisdiction over all
civilians accused of terrorism or "crimes against the state." The military court system consists of military and security courts of first instance, a
Supreme Military Administrative Court, an appellate State Security Court, and the Military Court of Appeals, which reviews decisions and verdicts
of the military courts. The decisions of the Military Court of Appeals are final.
The Union of Turkish Bar Associations brings together all 79 local bars representing around 100,000 lawyers. It is illegal for Turkish firms to open
multiple offices in different cities, though this has rarely been enforced.
International Law Firms in Turkey
Under the Lawyers’ Code No.2001 only Turkish lawyers can practice law and have rights of audience in Turkey. Turkish lawyers wishing to be
employed by foreign firms must give up their membership of the Turkish Bar and thereby their right to practice in Turkey. International law firms
are not allowed to set up partnerships with Turkish law firms. They are however allowed to have association agreements with Turkish firms and
are only allowed to advise on international or home law.
Despite this restriction and the difficulties of operating in Turkey with the dual structure of an association agreement, many international law
firms have opened offices in Turkey in recent years. These firms can see the growth potential of Turkey which has established itself as a strong
emerging market over the last decade. There has been a big increase in privatisation, inbound and outbound investment, and major projects in
Turkey, which has consequently become an important attraction for international business.
There are many practice areas in the Turkish legal marketplace. Law firms often present a wide range of specialism, such as in corporate or finance
work, in order that they can assure clients that their needs at every stage of a complex transaction can be met to a high standard. Practice areas
may be listed as follows: banking and finance, capital markets, corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, international arbitration, competition law,
compliance, employment, intellectual property, privatisation, property restructuring and insolvency, and taxation. Law firms also often specialise
in certain sectors such as energy, infrastructure, banking, and transportation.