Judiciary Sweden

The courts in Sweden have an ancient history. In old times the highest judicial power in the country was vested in the King in person. In 1614, King Gustav Adolf instituted the Svea Court of Appeal (Svea hovrätt) with the task of rendering the King's judgements. Later, more Courts of Appeal were created. However, anyone who was dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal's judgement could still apply to the King for revision.
In 1789, King Gustav III reformed the system by abolishing the Council of the Realm and by creating a special Supreme Court with 12 members to exercise the judicial functions. The members of the Supreme Court increased with increase in the number of cases.
The organizational structure of the judiciary in Sweden is divided into two parts viz. Administrative and Adjudicative. The National Courts Administration is a Swedish central administrative agency operates as a service agency of the judiciary.
  1. efficient and purposeful allocation of resources, being a driving and supporting force in reform work,
  2. taking initiatives on matters concerning changes relating to the structure and working methods of the courts
  3. working to enhance collaboration both within the Swedish Judiciary and between the courts and other authorities outside the Swedish Judiciary, while respecting the fundamental division of roles.
The judiciary of Sweden is comprised of General Courts and General Administrative Courts to deal with different types of matters and special courts to deal with Specialized matters relating to motor accident, family disputes etc. however the Supreme Court is regarded as the Apex Court of the country.
The National Courts Administration is a Swedish central administrative agency reporting to the Government and operates as a service organization for 118 courts and authorities. The agency's areas of responsibility include the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, District Courts, Supreme Administrative Court, Administrative Courts of Appeal, County Administrative Courts, Regional Rent and Tenancies Tribunals together with the National Legal Aid Authority.
In its work, the National Courts Administration shall observe the independence of the courts regarding their adjudication functions and administration of the law.
The National Courts Administration is headed by a Director General and a Board, who are appointed by the Government. The Board comprises ten members, with representatives of courts and other authorities together with representatives of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament). The Director General is the chair of the Board.
The National Courts Administration is divided into five departments: Finance, Personnel, Development, IT and the Premises and Technology Department. There is also a Legal Secretariat, an Information Secretariat, an Administrative Office, together with the DV's Internal Auditor, which all report directly to the Director General.
The DV contributes to the efficiency objective by cases and matters being determined in a legally secure and efficient manner. The operation is characterised by a citizen perspective.
The general courts or the district courts have been established to determine disputes and adjudicate in criminal cases. The general courts are the District Courts, the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
  1. The District Courts
Sweden consists of 95 District courts. The District Courts are the first instance in criminal cases and contentious civil cases. Every District court of the county is headed by a Chief Judge and beside him there are permanent judges and lay judges.
The final instance for the general courts is the Supreme Court, which is situated in Stockholm. It is normally required that leave to appeal is granted in order for the Supreme Court to be able to hear an appeal in a case.
The courts adjudicate in accordance with the laws decided by the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament). They also apply other legislation, for example ordinances decided by the Government. Through Sweden's membership in the European Union (EU), the courts are also under a duty to adjudicate in accordance with the legal rules applicable for the EU.
Types of cases that are dealt by the District Courts in Sweden
Criminal Cases
The Crimes are mainly described in the Penal Code, which specifies what punishment and other sanctions may be the result of a committed crime. Thus the district courts have an important task taking measures against crimes.
Civil cases
Civil cases concern principally the rules of the relation between the individuals. There are, among other things, rules how to conclude an agreement or buy property. There are also rules concerning inheritance, testament and distribution of marital property.
Family Cases
The most common family cases are those concerning divorce, custody of a child, right of visitation and paternity cases, maintenance.
Court matters
The district courts have in addition to the dealing with criminal cases and civil cases- some service to the public, what we call court matters. By this service there is a public control and registration. The most common types of court matters are the following.
  1. Change of name
  2. Adoption
  3. Guardianship
  4. Custodian, administrator
  5. Reconstruction of debt
  6. Bankruptcy
  7. Dealing with court matters
  8. Service(Such as giving information and help to complete
    applications, if needed, but not the advice in what way a party has to formulate his action.
  9. Land registration cases
If a person is dissatisfied with the judgment of a District Court, it is in the majority of cases possible to appeal against the judgment to the next instance, the Court of Appeal. There are six Courts of Appeal in Sweden. Each of them six Courts of Appeal has a territorially defined judicial district. The Courts of Appeal are the second instance in the criminal cases, contentious civil cases and judicial matters that are appealed against from a District Court within the judicial district of the respective Court of Appeal.
Svea Court of Appeal in Stockholm has the task of dealing with certain special kinds of cases. Svea Court of Appeal is, for example, the final instance in cases that are appealed against from the regional Rent Tribunal. In Svea Court of Appeal there is also an Environmental Court of Appeal, which is the second instance in cases that are appealed against from any of the Environmental Courts. These appeals may involve, for example, licences for an environmentally hazardous operation and nature conservancy and environmental protection matters.
A Court of Appeal normally constitutes a quorum with three members, of which two should be ordinary members. In criminal cases where the sanction is more severe than a fine and also in some family cases, two lay judges also participate in the adjudication.
The Supreme Court examines cases upon appeal from the six Courts of Appeal (hovrätterna) in Sweden. In practice, the Courts of Appeal rule on most cases in the last resort. For a case to be examined, the Supreme Court must first grant leave of appeal. The main rule is that leave to appeal shall only be granted when the Supreme Court considers that the determination of the merits of a case would create new case-law. The fact that the Court of Appeal may have decided the case erroneously is not, therefore, a sufficient ground for granting leave to appeal. Leave to appeal is only granted in 2 per cent of the cases. In criminal cases, leave to appeal is only granted in about 1/2 per cent of the appealed cases.
When extradition has been requested on account of a criminal offence committed in another county, the Government has to hear the Supreme Court must give its opinion on the request. If the Supreme Court finds that extradition would contravene the Swedish law, the Government may not allow extradition.
The Labour Court, the Market Court and the Rent and Tenancy Tribunals, to the number of 12, are special courts, or what we call tribunals. These tribunals deal with cases and court matters in which special expert knowledge is required in certain branches of law.
A general administrative court includes The County Administrative Court, Administrative Courts of appeal, and Supreme Administrative Court. The principal tasks of the general administrative courts are to settle conflicts between individuals and authorities. The organisation consists of the County Administrative Court as the first instance, the Administrative Court of Appeal as the second instance and the Supreme Administrative Court as the final instance.
The County Administrative Courts are the first instance within the general administrative courts organization. That means that in general, when a case is appealed from or is referred by an administrative authority, it goes first to the County Administrative Court.
More than 400 different types of cases are handled by the County Administrative Courts. Some are mentioned here.
  1. Tax cases (including appeals against a decision of the tax authority)
  2. Cases concerning the Social Welfare Act (appeal against the decision of a municipal Social Welfare Board)
  3. Cases concerning social insurance
  4. Cases concerning care under the Care of Young Persons Act (LVU)
  5. Cases concerning care under the Care of Misusers Act (LVM)
  6. Cases concerning psychiatric issues
  7. Cases concerning adjudication of legality in accordance with the Local Government Act
  8. Other cases dealt with in the County Administrative Court (for example, confiscation of driving licences, the Animal Protection Act or licences to serve alcoholic drinks)
Anyone who is dissatisfied with the County Administrative Court's judgment can appeal against it in writing to the Administrative Court of Appeal Court. The County Administrative Court's judgment specifies the time limit within which and the Administrative Court of Appeal to which the appeal should be made. The appeal is always lodged with the County Administrative Court that made the judgment in order that the County Administrative Court can determine whether the appeal was submitted in the proper time.
Such help can be provided in the County Administrative Court in the form of public counsel or legal aid.
Legal aid can be granted by the County Administrative Court in some other cases where public counsel is not appointed and there is a need for assistance. Legal aid means that assistance is given towards the costs of professional legal help. This assistance is not, however, free but rather has to be paid for in part by oneself and the State pays the remainder.
Legal advice assistance may be given by an attorney or an assistant lawyer at a law firm for a maximum of two hours and at a fixed fee.
The Administrative Court of Appeal is a general administrative court. The principal tasks of the general administrative courts are to settle conflicts between individuals and authorities. The Administrative Court of Appeal as the second instance. There are four Administrative Courts of Appeal. They are divided into Divisions. The President is head of the court. In the courts there are heads of division, judges, associate judges, reporting clerks and recording clerks.
The Decisions of the County Administrative Court can be appealed to the Administrative Court of Appeal. Most of the cases in the Administrative Court of Appeal are referred from the County Administrative Court. Leave to appeal is required in order for the Administrative Court of Appeal to be able to hear an appeal from the County Administrative Court. Decisions from the Administrative Court of Appeal can be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court is granted if there is an important issue of law or if there are extraordinary reasons for so doing.
The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court is the highest public administrative court of law and tries cases of appeal from any of the four Administrative Courts of Appeal within the country (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Jönköping and Sundsvall). The lower courts administered directly under the Administrative Courts of Appeal, are the County Administrative Courts. There is a County Administrative Court in every country.
All appeal cases are not necessarily tried in the Supreme Administrative Court; only such cases are tried where the Supreme Administrative Court permits a review or a retrial. The principal rule being that permission to review a case is granted only if the Supreme Administrative Courts decision can have consequences which set a precedent, namely that of providing guidance for how other similar cases should be judged. The circumstances whereby the Administrative Court of Appeal can be regarded to have judged wrongly cannot by themselves suffice for the Supreme Administrative Court to review the case. When permission to review a case is granted, it normally includes the appeal against the decision of a court in its entirety, but it can also be limited to certain parts of the case. The most common types of cases appearing before the Supreme Administrative Court concern are:
  1. taxation,
  2. social welfare,
  3. student study support,
  4. building constructions,
  5. driving licences and cases concerning the legality of local government legislation or the District appeal case
The Swedish Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court cannot, as Supreme Courts in some other countries can, declare a law or ordinance invalid. On the other hand both of the highest Courts of Justice- and even other Courts and authorities- can, when re-considering a case or other matter refuse to apply a provision which in the Court's view is contrary to constitutional law or superior statue.
Legislation which is introduced by Parliament - the Swedish Riksdag - or by the Government, that is to say laws and decrees can however be disregarded in a similar way only if an error is obvious. In certain central administration matters, where the Government or administrative authority would otherwise be the highest instance, the Supreme Administrative Court can, if the Government has been the decision maker - and in other cases the Administrative Court of Appeal - decide if the ruling in the matter infringes any judicial principles. This institution is called the Judicial Review. One qualification for a judicial review is where a ruling means the enforcement of public authority power over an individual person and in no other way can be brought before the Supreme Administrative Court´s scrutiny. The institution Judicial Review was originally introduced to satisfy a requirement in the Convention of Europe concerning the protection of human rights and basic freedoms of citizens wherein every individual has a right to have his case tried in a court of law.
The Supreme Administrative Courts rulings and judgements are published in the Supreme Administrative Courts annual (RÃ…). They are also available via automatic data processing in the judicial archives.