The legal structure in the UAE runs in two systems: the Federal Judiciary presided by the Federal Supreme Court as the highest judicial authority in the UAE and the local judicial departments at the local government level.
At the federal level, Ministry of Justice oversees courts and prosecution departments across the UAE. It appoints judges and licenses lawyers, experts and legal translators.
Articles 94 to 109 of the UAE's Constitution describe the general principles of these two systems and leave the details to the discretion of local judiciaries. Each of the seven emirates maintain the right to choose either to participate in the Federal Judiciary or to maintain its own local judicial system. The emirates of Sharjah, Ajman Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain follow the federal judicial system.
However, at the local level, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Courts in Dubai and RAK Courts in Ras Al Khaimah maintain their own independent judicial departments, with jurisdiction in matters that were not assigned to the Federal Judiciary in accordance with the Constitution.
Article 105 of the Constitution allows by federal law, for all or part of a local emirate court's jurisdiction to be referred to the federal courts of first instance. However, it is not possible for a local emirate court to take jurisdiction away from the federal court.
Federal laws define the circumstances in which appeals against judgements by the local judicial authorities in penal, civil, commercial and other cases may be made before the federal courts.
The Constitution explains that there are some disputes that must be heard at a federal level by the Federal Supreme Court and not at a local or emirate's level. These are detailed in Articles 99 and 102 of the Constitution.
Further, the Federal Law No. 11 of 1973 regulates judicial relations between the emirates.
Updated on 29 Mar 2022