Andrew Birrell (after Henry Fuseli), Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome (1792)

A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title.[1] For example, an advocate who appears before a court with a single judge could describe that judge as "their tribunal". Many governmental bodies are titled "tribunals" to emphasize that they are not courts of normal jurisdiction. For instance, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was a body specially constituted under international law; in Great Britain, employment tribunals are bodies set up to hear specific employment disputes.

In many but not all cases, tribunal implies a judicial or quasi-judicial body with a lesser degree of formality than a court, in which the normal rules of evidence and procedure may not apply, and whose presiding officers are frequently neither judges nor magistrates. Private judicial bodies are also often-styled tribunals. Tribunal is not conclusive of a body's function; in Great Britain, the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a superior court of record.

The term is derived from the tribunes, magistrates of the Classical Roman Republic. Tribunal originally referred to the office of the tribunes, and the term is still sometimes used in this sense in historical writings. The tribunal was the platform upon which the presiding authority sat; having a raised position physically was symbolic of their higher position regarding the adjudication of the law.

  1. ^ Walker, David M. (1980). Oxford Companion to Law. Oxford University Press. p. 1239. ISBN 0-19-866110-X.

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