Land courts

Land courts [земські суди; zemski sudy]. Nobility courts which functioned in Poland (Polish: sąd ziemski) and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the mid-15th century. They were introduced in Right-Bank Ukraine in the 16th century. Each court served a voivodeship or land (zemlia) in handling civil litigation cases. The three-member court was elected by the nobles of the region and confirmed for life by the king. Its verdicts could be appealed to the dietine courts in Poland or to the grand duke in Lithuania.

In 1763 Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky reintroduced the land courts, as defined in the Lithuanian Statute, in Left-Bank Ukraine. Twenty courts were established, two per regiment and three in the Nizhyn regiment. Each consisted of three officers, elected for life from among notable military fellows. They ruled on most civil matters, and their verdicts could be appealed to the general court in Chernihiv. As the gubernial system was extended to Ukraine, these courts were abolished, in 1782. They were restored in 1796 by Paul I as elected courts, one per county, and their authority was enlarged to cover criminal cases. The land courts were finally abolished in 1831.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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