Founded by papal bull in 1532, the Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland, and the High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court. However, the absolute highest court (excluding criminal matters) is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
In Denmark, all ordinary courts have original jurisdiction to hear all types of cases, including cases of a constitutional or administrative nature. As a result, there exists no special constitutional court, and therefore final jurisdiction is vested with the Danish Supreme Court (Højesteret) which was established 14 February 1661 by king Frederik III.
The Supreme Court of the United States, established in 1789, is the highest federal court in the United States, with powers of judicial review first asserted in Calder v. Bull (1798) in Justice Iredell's dissenting opinion. The power was later given binding authority by Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison (1803). There are currently nine seats on the US Supreme Court.
Although created in 1875, the Supreme Court was not originally the final court of appeal. Canada was part of the British Empire, and appeals initially lay to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council from the Supreme Court, and also from the provincial appellate courts, by-passing the Supreme Court. In 1933, the federal Parliament abolished such appeals in criminal matters. It was not until 1949 that all appeals to the Judicial Committee were abolished, although appeals which were pending could be decided by the Judicial Committee.
The Supreme Court of Canada was established in 1875. It is defined by the Constitution Act, 1867 and by the Supreme Court Act as a "General Court of Appeal." As a result, it can hear appeals on any legal issues considered by lower courts, on issues of constitutional law, federal law and provincial law. It can hear appeals involving the common law and the civil law, and has full authority to rule on those issues. The Court can hear appeals from the courts of appeal from the provinces and territories, and also appeals from the Federal Court of Appeal. The court's decisions are final and binding on the federal courts and the courts from all provinces and territories.
Historically, citizens appealed directly to the King along his route to places out of the Palace. A Thai King would adjudicate all disputes. During the reign of King Chulalongkorn, an official department for appeals was set up, and, after Thailand adopted a western-styled government, Thai Supreme Court was established in 1891.
The Supreme Court of Iceland (Icelandic: Hæstiréttur Íslands, lit. Highest Court of Iceland) was founded under Act No. 22/1919 and held its first session on 16 February 1920. The Court holds the highest judicial power in Iceland. The court system was transformed from a two level system to a three level system in 2018 with the establishment of Landsréttur.
The Supreme Court of Indonesia is the main judicial arm of the state, functioning as the final court of appeal as well as a means to re-open cases previously closed. The Supreme Court, which consists of a total of 51 justices, also oversees the regional high courts. It was founded at the country's independence in 1945.
The law of India is a hybrid of common law, civil law, customary law, and religious principles. The Supreme Court of India was created on January 28, 1950 after adoption of the Constitution. Article 141 of the Constitution of India states that the law declared by Supreme Court is to be binding on all Courts within the territory of India. It is the highest court in India and has ultimate judicial authority to interpret the Constitution and decide questions of national law (including local bylaws). The Supreme Court is also vested with the power of judicial review to ensure the application of the rule of law.
The Supreme Court has been the apex court for Pakistan since the declaration of the republic in 1956 (previously the Privy Council had that function). The Supreme Court has the final say on matters of constitutional law, federal law or on matters of mixed federal and provincial competence. It can hear appeals on matters of provincial competence only if a matter of a constitutional nature is raised.
In Sri Lanka, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka was created in 1972 after the adoption of a new Constitution. The Supreme Court is the highest and final superior court of record and is empowered to exercise its powers, subject to the provisions of the Constitution. The court rulings take precedence over all lower Courts. The Sri Lanka judicial system is complex blend of both common-law and civil-law. In some cases such as capital punishment, the decision may be passed on to the President of the Republic for clemency petitions. However, when there is 2/3 majority in the parliament in favour of president (as with present), the supreme court and its judges' powers become nullified as they could be fired from their positions according to the Constitution, if the president wants. Therefore, in such situations, Civil law empowerment vanishes.
In the United Arab Emirates, the Federal Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates was created in 1973 after the adoption of the Constitution. The Supreme Court is the highest and final superior court of record and is empowered to exercise its powers, subject to the provisions of the Constitution. The court rulings take precedence over all lower Courts. The Emirati judicial system is complex blend of both Islamic law and civil law. In some cases such as capital punishment, the decision may be passed on to the President of the country (currently Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan).
In Nauru, there is no single highest court for all types of cases. The Supreme Court has final jurisdiction on constitutional matters, but any other case may be appealed further to the Appellate Court. In addition, an agreement between Nauru and Australia in 1976 provides for appeals from the Supreme Court of Nauru to the High Court of Australia in both criminal and civil cases, with the notable exception of constitutional cases.
In South Africa, a "two apex" system existed from 1994 to 2013. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) was created in 1994 and replaced the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa as the highest court of appeal in non-constitutional matters. The SCA was subordinate to the Constitutional Court, which is the highest court in matters involving the interpretation and application of the Constitution. But in August 2013 the Constitution was amended to make the Constitutional Court the country's single apex court, superior to the SCA in all matters, both constitutional and non-constitutional.
In Hong Kong, the Supreme Court of Hong Kong (now known as the High Court of Hong Kong) was the final court of appeal during its colonial times which ended with transfer of sovereignty in 1997. The final adjudication power, as in any other British Colonies, rested with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in London, United Kingdom. Now the power of final adjudication is vested in the Court of Final Appeal created in 1997. Under the Basic Law, its constitution, the territory remains a common law jurisdiction. Consequently, judges from other common law jurisdictions (including England and Wales) can be recruited and continue to serve in the judiciary according to Article 92 of the Basic Law. On the other hand, the power of interpretation of the Basic Law itself is vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) in Beijing (without retroactive effect), and the courts are authorised to interpret the Basic Law when trying cases, in accordance with Article 158 of the Basic Law. This arrangement became controversial in light of the right of abode issue in 1999, raising concerns for judicial independence.
The Constitutional Court of Indonesia, on the other hand, is a part of the judicial branch tasked with review of bills and government actions for constitutionality, as well as regulation of the interactions between various arms of the state. The constitutional amendment to establish the court was passed in 2001, and the court itself was established in 2003. The Constitutional Court consists of nine justices serving nine year terms, and they're appointed in tandem by the Supreme Court, the President of Indonesia and the People's Representative Council.
The Supreme Court was set up in 2009; until then the House of Lords was the ultimate court in addition to being a legislative body, and the Lord Chancellor, with legislative and executive functions, was also a senior judge in the House of Lords.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the ultimate court for criminal and civil matters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and for civil matters in Scotland. (The supreme court for criminal matters in Scotland is the High Court of Justiciary.) The Supreme Court was established by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 with effect from 1 October 2009, replacing and assuming the judicial functions of the House of Lords. Devolution issues under the Scotland Act 1998, Government of Wales Act and Northern Ireland Act were also transferred to the new Supreme Court by the Constitutional Reform Act, from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
In New Zealand, the right of appeal to the Privy Council was abolished following the passing of the Supreme Court Act (2003). A right of appeal to the Privy Council remains for criminal cases which were decided before the Supreme Court was created, but it is likely that the successful appeal by Mark Lundy to the Privy Council in 2013 will be the last appeal to the Board from New Zealand.