The Council of the XII is a peculiar feature of the San Marino legal system which dates back over the centuries to the communal period when it wielded very important political and government powers.
With the 17th-cent. statutes, these powers were limited and more precisely defined, though some confusion still remained as to the council’s institutional role. In 1921 and ’23 laws were passed indicating it was to be considered a judicial and administrative justice body, with authority within these ambits. It nevertheless represents a totally original institution within the San Marino form of government, to the extent that its juridical nature is hard to define, considering also that, until a short while ago, it had both executive and juridical authority; it has since been deprived of the latter.
Before the establishment of the Constitutionality Guarantor Board, it was the Council of the XII which took decisions relating to civil third appeals; (whenever a second degree sentence changed a first degree sentence, including partially, the Council of the XII, normally with the aid of an expert appointed by the Council itself, was responsible for confirming the first or the second sentence).
As regards the administrative sphere, it authorises, for example, the purchase by foreigners of property or other real property rights relating to assets located within the Republic, it authorises the purchase of property by companies or other bodies corporate, it resolves in relation to applications for legal aid.
The Council of the XII is elected by the Great and General Council at the beginning of each legislature, and must necessarily consist of twelve members. There are no explicit incompatibilities, though by custom State Congress members are not normally elected. It is chaired by the Captains Regent, who have the right to vote only if they are members of the Council itself.