The court system in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal and court of cassation. On a recommendation of the Judicial Council, specialized courts / tribunals may be established to consider specific disputes under certain terms of reference.
Courts of First Instance
The courts of first instance have general jurisdiction over all types of cases filed in the capital city of Abu Dhabi, with the exception of cases excluded by law. They consist of three-judge major chambers and one-judge minor chambers. These courts are the largest ones in the UAE, given the number of chambers and the cases heard, and they have the jurisdiction to consider cases primarily filed before them.
Court of Appeal
The application of two-tier litigation, one of the basic principles of modern judicial systems, is strongly adopted by Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, to ensure justice by allowing litigants to appeal the judgments of the first instance court in all types of cases except for conclusive uncontested cases, as stipulated by law. The Court of Appeal consists of several chambers composed of three judges to determine the appealed judgments rendered in the courts of first instance. They have a broad jurisdiction covering civil, commercial, labor, administrative, personal and criminal cases.
Court of Cassation
Being the highest judicial body in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the Court of Cassation has the power to consider challenges filed against the judgments rendered in the Courts of Appeal, and to decide on jurisdictional conflicts that may emerge among the Emirate courts. Besides, the court has the jurisdiction to determine the accountability of the Executive Council member's other senior executives appointed in the emirate pursuant to Emiri Decrees, based on a proposal submitted by the Chairman of the Executive Council, the Ruler's consent, and in accordance with the relevant law.
Out of ADJD keenness to support the direction towards specialized judicial work, with the aim to enhance performance and speed up the resolving of cases, a number of ad-hoc judicial chambers have been established to deal with cases and disputes related to: construction and contracts, banks and financial institutions, stocks and bonds, insurance and indemnification, intellectual property, child visitation, and partial medical errors. Besides, chambers for cases of domestic workers, government employees and small-claim cases have been established recently. Moreover, ADJD has concluded a special agreement with the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS) to establish a center for the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Abu Dhabi, making the first international seat outside the Swiss city of Lausanne.
Abu Dhabi Criminal Court:
It has been established under decree No. 11 of 2018, issued by the Chairman of ADJD. The court is composed of a chief justice and a sufficient number of judges and administrative staff to carry out the necessary administrative and clerical work. The court is located in Abu Dhabi city, and has the same geographical jurisdiction of Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance and its subsidiary courts. The court has the power to hear criminal cases in its various chambers of felony, misdemeanor and offences in accordance with the Penal Code and the criminal legislations governing the city of Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi Commercial Court:
The Abu Dhabi Commercial Court has been established under the Decision No. 28 of 2019 issued by H.H. Chairman of ADJD concerning the Establishment of Abu Dhabi Commercial Court. The Court has been founded to cope with the rapid growth of Abu Dhabi's booming business sector and the need for fair, effective and innovative judicial services. It comprises of minor and major chambers at the first level, and of appellate court.
The court has the same geographical jurisdiction of Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance and its subsidiaries. Besides, the Court may be divided into chambers based on the type of cases brought before them. The Court is managed by its chief justice and a sufficient number of primary and appeal judges as well as expert judges who are assisted by an adequate number of administrative staff, translators and case managers to carry out the necessary administrative, clerical, and technical work. The court has the competence to hear cases related to commercial business, even if such business is commercial for one litigant and civil for the other. The court is also competent to consider disputes, motions, claims and petitions related to enforcement of foreign judgments, orders and deeds as long as their subject matter is a commercial dispute, and whether these judgments are issued by foreign courts or by arbitration panels.
Abu Dhabi Labour Court
The Abu Dhabi Labour Court has been established under the Decision No. 22 of 2018 issued by H.H. Chairman of ADJD. The Court has the same geographical jurisdiction of Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance and its subsidiaries, and it comprises of minor and major chambers at the first level, and of appellate court, in addition to an enforcement division. The Court is managed by its chief justice and a sufficient number of primary and appeal judges, who are assisted by an adequate number of administrative staff, court clerks and enforcement officers to carry out the necessary administrative and clerical work.
The Court has the competence to consider labour claims and disputes, including the following:
1. All labour cases brought before the first instance court by or against labourers.
2. All appeals filed against the first instance labour judgments, orders and judgments of enforcement judges, and against interim and ex-parte orders.
3. Enforcement of orders and judgments issued by the Court.
The court comprises as well of a fast-track labour chamber, which has jurisdiction over all minor simple labour cases, in accordance with the standards and restrictions issued under the Judicial Council Decision.
Court of Arbitration for Sports
Since mid-May 2012, the capital city of Abu Dhabi has hosted the first seat of the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) outside Switzerland, for details more
The Personal Status and Inheritance Chambers for Non- Muslims
In line with the decision of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, two new chambers for both Personal Status and Inheritance cases were established recently in Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance. The two circuits started functioning as of 05.02.2017.
The enforcement division plays a pivotal role. It is the entity in charge of serving and implementing rights through the enforcement of judgments and court orders marked by the executive wording. The division has the power to enforce reconciliation agreements approved by the judiciary.