The Legal System of Jordan

1. Historical outline

Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Trans Jordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country's long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures in the region from the major powers. In 1989 he reinstituted parliamentary elections and gradual political liberalization;. King ABDALLAH II, the son of King HUSSEIN, assumed the throne following his father's death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and undertaken an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. After a two-year delay, parliamentary and municipal elections took place in the summer of 2003. The prime minister appointed in November 2005 stated the government would focus on political reforms, improving conditions for the poor, and fighting corruption.

2. The Government

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with representative government. The reigning monarch, His Majesty King Abdullah II, is the head of state, the chief executive and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The King exercises his executive authority through the prime minister and the Council of Ministers, or cabinet. The cabinet is responsible before the elected House of Deputies which, along with the House of Notables (Senate), constitutes the legislative branch. The judicial branch is an independent branch of the government. Since 1989, all elements of the Jordanian political spectrum have embarked together on a road to greater democracy, liberalization and consensus building. These reforms, have placed Jordan on an irreversible road to democratization. The result has been greater empowerment and involvement of everyday citizens in Jordan's civic life, contributing to increased stability and institutionalization which will benefit the country far into the future.

3. The Judicial System

In principle Jordan adopted the Ottoman judicial system ,there are three kind of courts in Jordan and they are:-
1- Ordinary court which regulate civil and criminal disputed and they are divided into three stages of litigation namely: courts of first instance, appeal and cassation.
2-Religious courts (Personal Status Courts )dealing with personal status matters and are organized in two stages, first instance and appeal.
3- Special courts which deal with specific matters such as customs courts.

4. Jordanian Judiciary

Judges are usually appointed by the Judicial Council from amongst graduates of recognized law colleges who begin their careers by serving as clerks and officers of the courts and Judicial Council graduates. Judges are assigned to serve in courts, transferred and promoted by the Judicial Council.

5. The Laws

Jordanian law is mainly based on Ottoman law particularly on the "Madjella" to which several modifications were made in 1946. Most of the codification was carried out after 1951 when the Code of Commerce, the Code of Procedure and the Criminal Code were issued. The Civil Code was issued in 1976 and replaced the Madjella on 1 January 1977.

The Civil Code took along time to be drafted due to the difficulty of the mission given to the jurists who were ' to establish a draft of a modern law which replaces the Madjella and is characterized by its compliance with constant case law and academic writing and its adoption to the social and economical evolution ...'

Several drafts were made but the work was often interrupted due to events in the region. The work was finally finished in 1976. The New Civil Code was drafted almost entirely by Dr Al-Sanhury. It was a harmonious conciliation of the traditions of the Shari'a on the one hand and the spirit of the century and its requirements on the other hand. It should be noted that there are several sources for law and they are: legislation, , Islamic law, custom and rules of equity.

Since Jordan become party to the WTO in 2000 this led to enact several laws that relate to Intellectual Property and review the existing ones such as the new arbitration law which was enacted in 2001 and companies law which was amended several times.

In Jordan there are three kinds of legislation:

1- Constitution (it was issued in 1952 and considered as the highest legislation in Jordan therefore all other legislation must comply  with it)

2- Laws (the Prime Minister refer to the  Parliament  the draft law and have the right to accept, amend or refuse it but in cases where the Parliament is not sitting or is dissolved, the Council of Ministers has, with the approval of the King, the power to issue provisional laws covering matters which require necessary measures which admit of no delay or which necessitate expenditures incapable of postponement and there was a need and emergency case and in all cases it must be approved by the King .)

3- Regulations (they are issued by the executive authority and they must comply with both the constitution and the laws)

6. The Legal Profession in Jordan

Practicing lawyers have to be members of the Jordan Bar Association. Lawyers have to undergo a period of training as provided in the Bar law.