Italy Guide for Tourist


The constitution also has a few quirks reserved for other branches of government. There is not one but two Supreme Courts: one for reviewing the constitutionality of laws, the Constitutional Court, and another that acts as the nation’s highest appeals court, the Cassazione. Appeals are considered entirely new trials, and cases commonly go through two or three appeals. In fact, only after an appeal can you be considered guilty, which is fortunate considering all charges are granted a trial, without preliminary judicial review to see if the plaintiff even has a case. Another unique trait of the Italian judiciary: A law student will become an attorney, a notary public, or a judge. Then, judge candidates follow one of two possible career paths: those of state prosecutors or actual judges. (Foreigners can be forgiven for scratching their heads when a prosecutor is referred to in the newspaper as a magistrate. Even Italian critics argue that any system that groups together prosecutors and judges in the same career path does not exactly reassure defendants that they are innocent until proven guilty.) A final constitutional trait that mystifies some Americans, who are accustomed to a strong executive, is the Italian presidency. The Presidente della Repubblica (the head of state) is not elected by the people, but rather by an assembly of representatives, and it is little more than a figurehead role. Aside from calling elections and receiving foreign heads of state (though just to shake their hands), the steward of the presidency does little more than expound on the virtues of patriotism and lay wreaths on soldiers’ tombs. The architects of Italy’s constitution had experienced problems with powerful heads of state in the past.

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