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Supreme Court of Norway. Photo by Andreas Haldorsen (March 26, 2020). Used under CC BY 2.0 Deed Attribution 2.0 Generic,

FALQs: Supreme Court Justice Selection in Norway

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This blog post is part of our Frequently Asked Legal Questions series.

On May 1, 2024, the Norwegian Supreme Court Justice Normann turned 70 years old and, as a Norwegian state employee, will be forced to retire from Norway’s highest court. Next year, another justice, Arne Ringnes, turns 70. This has created two upcoming vacancies on the 20-member court. As today is the National Day of Norway, I thought I would share the rules for Supreme Court justice selection in Norway.

1. What is the Supreme Court of Norway?

The Norwegian Constitution provides that Høyesteretten (the Supreme Court of Norway) is the highest court in the land and that a decision by its members cannot be appealed. (§ 88 Grunnloven.) In addition, the Norwegian Constitution provides that the Court shall at all times have one Justitiarius (chief justice) and no less than four members. (Id.) Housed in the Høgsteretts building in Oslo, the Supreme Court is further regulated in the Court Act (Domstolsloven).

2. Who can become a Supreme Court Justice?

The Norwegian Constitution prescribes that only Norwegian citizens who are at least 30 years old may be justices of the Supreme Court. (Id. § 91,114.) The Norwegian Court Act further prescribes that a justice must have a legal education, specifically a juridisk embedseksamen or a mastergrad i rettsvitenskap. (§ 54 Court Act.) In practice however, most justices have also worked as a deputy judge (dommerfullmektig) or ordinary judge, as well as having worked at the Ministry of Justice and Public Security or as a law professor at a university.

3. How is a Supreme Court Justice selected?

For the two open positions, the Norwegian Supreme Court published two vacancies on its website, with a start date of August 12, 2024, and a March 7, 2024 deadline to apply. Those who applied had to do so by uploading an application to (Work Norway). Following the application deadline, the identity of all applicants becomes public.

In accordance with Section 21 of the Norwegian Constitution and Section 55 of the Court Act, the Norwegian King appoints the justices, following a review by the Innstillingsrådet (the Employment Advisory Board for the Courts). The Instillingsrådet is a seven-member-panel of five legally trained professionals and two non-lawyers. After the panel meets and ranks the applicants, the list is published online.

After the panel has issued its statement on the applicants, the chief justice of the Supreme Court must “provide oral or written statement directly to the Justice Department.” (§ 55b Court Act.) Following her statement during the selection process of a justice in 2023, the chief justice explained that “[i]t is stated in the legislative history that the chief justice ‘determines if the statement shall have the characteristics of a recommendation of one or several of the applicants or only be an orientation for the benefit of the minister on the knowledge that the chief justice has about the applicants and of other circumstances that are of importance to the decision.'”

What characteristics and qualifications should the chief justice and Innstillingsrådet consider? The Court Act provides that “[a]s Justices persons who meet high requirements for professional qualifications and personal qualities should be appointed. Justices for the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts should be recruited from lawyers with different professional backgrounds.” (Id. §55.)

The law also provides that the employer may demand that the applicants provide full police records.

In 2024, a total of 11 lawyers applied for the job as Supreme Court justice.

4. Can a Supreme Court justice be fired?

A Supreme Court justice cannot be fired but may be separated from his or her position following a trial and a court order. (Id. § 55.)

5. What is the retiree age for a Supreme Court justice?

As mentioned above, a justice must, similar to other state employees, retire upon turning 70 years old. (2 § Lov om aldersgrenser for statsansatte m.fl [Act on Age Limits for State Employees].) The King cannot make an exception to allow Supreme Court justices to serve longer. (Id. § 3.)

A Supreme Court justice who does not wish to serve until he or she is 70 years old can choose to retire earlier. Reportedly, most judges (which includes district court, appellate court, and Supreme Court justices among others) retire at 67.

7. Can you take a leave of absence from the Supreme Court?

Outside activities that a justice may undertake aside from his position with the court are prescribed by regulation. (Forskrift om dommeres sidegjøremål.) Justices must report all side activities (§ 121g Court Act.) A registry over reported side engagements is maintained by the Norwegian Court Administration (Domstoladministrasjonen (DA)). A person cannot take leave from another position, such as a law professor or partner to become a justice. (Id. § 121j.)

8. Who are the current Supreme Court justices?

There are currently 20 justices of the Supreme Court of Norway. Eight women and 12 men. The current justice with longest service, Bergjlot Webster, was appointed in 2009. All but two justices have worked as deputy judges (dommerfullmektig) or ordinary judge prior to becoming a justice.

9. Who was the first female supreme court justice in Norway?

Lilly Bølviken was the first woman to be appointed to the Norwegian Supreme Court in 1968. In 2004, the Supreme Court, which hears cases in groups of five, for the first time heard a case with a five-member female-only panel.

10. Who was the first female chief justice of the Supreme Court of Norway?

The sitting chief justice, Toril Marie Øie, became the first female chief justice in 2016.

Additional resources on the Supreme Court of Norway available at the Library of Congress

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