Accountability e Transparência da Justiça Civil - Ed. 2019

Accountability And Transparency In The Course Of Civil Justice In The Nordic Countries - Parte II. Perspectivas Nacionais

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Anna Nylund

1. Introduction and background information on the Nordic countries

The Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, could be characterised as high-trust countries – that is, countries whose citizens have high trust in the independence, impartiality and quality of decision-making in public entities. The trust in the independence and quality of proceedings and decision-making in the courts is particularly high in these countries, and they receive consistently high scores in rankings of the justice system. This is hardly surprising considering that the justice systems are efficient, the rate of corruption is low and transparency is highly valued.

The Nordic legal culture may partly explain the trust in courts. 1 Although the Nordic countries have been influenced to some extent by Roman law and by the idea of scientifically based codifications, such codifications have never been enacted. Legislation is fragmented into single acts which do not have a stringent, coherent structure, and the language used is – at least in relative terms – accessible to a general audience and is not the refined, scholarly language applied in many continental codifications. Therefore, legislation is more accessible for the average citizen. The Nordic countries also have a strong tradition of lay judges, although this tradition is diminishing.

The number of professional, trained lawyers in these countries has remained low and is still lower than in many comparable countries. Therefore, courts have traditionally catered to self-represented parties. Although the parties are not required to employ a lawyer, today a lawyer is required in practice in all but small claims cases. 2 In 1795, the Conciliation Boards (forliksråd) were introduced in Denmark and Norway to allow citizens to solve their simple cases in a timely and economic manner by introducing local small claims courts with lay judges. The Conciliation Boards are still operational in Norway.

Finally, all Nordic countries employ the main hearing model of civil proceedings, where all evidence and legal arguments are presented orally directly to the court in a single, concentrated main hearing. The court may only base its ruling on the arguments and evidence presented during the main hearing. Written evidence must not be read aloud during the main hearing, except in Norway, where parties (i.e., their legal counsel) may read the relevant passages aloud.

This report discusses selected issues related to accountability and transparency in civil justice in the Nordic countries. The situation is Iceland is not discussed. As the author is particularly familiar with the Finnish and Norwegian civil justice systems, these two systems will be discussed in more detail. However, information will be given on all four Nordic countries.

2. The role of the National Courts Administration

Denmark, Norway and Sweden have established a separate National Courts Administration (Domstolstyrelsen in Denmark, Domstolsadministrasjonen in Norway, Domstolsverket in Sweden). The Finnish Courts Administration (Tuomioistuinvirasto/Domstolsverket) is scheduled be operational in January 2020.

Courts Administrations have three primary goals. First, they increase the independence of courts by separating the administration of courts from the political governance in the Ministry of Justice. Second, they support courts and judges by providing judicial training, development and support for (IT) infrastructure, and support for public relations and communication with citizens. Some of these functions increase transparency. Third, they monitor the courts and provide information about the courts inter alia by collecting and processing qualitative and quantitative information from the courts, through surveys and written reports. In so doing, they increase the accountability of the judiciary.

For instance, the trust among citizens in Norwegian courts has risen since the Courts Administration was separated from the Ministry of Justice in 2002. The public relations and communications department provides the media and the public with information about the court system in general, particularly when the courts are in media focus. The department works closely with courts and judges hearing high-profile cases, facilitating the access of the media and the public to the court hearings and providing information on the case and background information relevant for the case at hand. It has also helped courts create accessible and informative internet sites. Since many Norwegian (first) courts are small, with five or fewer judges, outside help is pivotal.

3. Independence of judges

The independence of judges has several dimensions. Judges …

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Ilustração de computador e livro
17 de Maio de 2022
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