Like all continental European legal systems, the Estonian legal system is founded upon the principle of the priority of legislative acts as a source of law and their precedence over any other sources, such as judicial practice, doctrine or custom.
Estonia has a three-level court system, where:
(i) county courts and administrative courts adjudicate matters in the first instance;
(ii) appeals against decisions of courts of first instance are heard by courts of second instance and;
(iii) the Supreme Court is the court of the highest instance. County courts as courts of first instance hear all civil, criminal and misdemeanor matters. The decisions of county courts can be appealed to the courts of appeal (also called circuit courts), being the courts of second instance. Administrative courts hear administrative matters as courts of first instance.
The decisions of county and administrative courts are reviewed by courts of appeal in the second instance by way of appeal proceedings on the basis of an appeal, an appeal against a ruling, or a protest.
The Supreme Court is the court of the highest instance, which reviews decisions by way of cassation proceedings, i.e. the parties to the proceedings have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court against the decisions of the courts of appeal. A matter is accepted for proceedings in the Supreme Court if the statements presented in the appeal show an opinion that the appeals court applied incorrectly, or materially violated a procedural rule that may involve an incorrect judicial decision. The Supreme Court is also the constitutional review court.