{ subscribe_url: '/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/law.php' }

Law Establishing the Icelandic Supreme Court – Pic of the Week

October 6, 2019, this coming Sunday, marks the centennial of the Icelandic Law on the Supreme Court of October 6, 1919 (Lög om hæstarjett Nr. 22 af 6 okt. 1919), which provided for the establishment of a Supreme Court in Iceland. The Supreme Court replaced the National Court (Landsyfirréttur), whose decisions could be appealed to the Supreme Court of Denmark. The Supreme Court of Iceland became the highest court of the land, and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Denmark was no longer recognized (art. 1).

Lög um hæstarjett. Nr. 22 6 okt. 1919. Available in Stjornartidindi, //lccn.loc.gov/93664222. Photo by Elin Hofverberg.

At the first session of the Icelandic Supreme Court in February 1920, Sveinn Björnsson, who later became the first president of Iceland, described the historic event as “[t]he tangible proof that [Icelanders] have regained sovereignty over all [their] affairs.”

The Law on the Supreme Court defined what the Icelandic Supreme Court should look like. For instance, it provided that the court must have no less than five justices (art. 5). It also provided that the seat of the court must be Reykjavik (art. 12) and that the Supreme Court justices must be Icelandic citizens (art.13). A law defining exactly who was an Icelandic citizen was passed the same day as the Law on the Supreme Court (Lög um Ríkisborgarétt, hversu menn fá hann og missa Nr. 21 6. okt 1919).

Old Penitentiary Building (Hegningarhúsið) on Skólavördustígur in Reykjavík. Photo by Flickr user Guðmundur D. Haraldsson (January 8, 2004). Used under Creative Commons License, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

When the court opened in 1920 it was first housed in the Old Penitentiary Building (Hegningarhúsið) on Skólavördustígur in Reykjavík. Today it has its own building on Arnarhól Hill. It is now made up of nine justices, following an amendment to the Act on the Icelandic Supreme Court passed in 1994).

Up until January 1, 2018, the Iceland court system was a two-tier system with the Supreme Court as the final place of recourse. Today, it is a three-tier system, with cases commencing at the District Court level (Héraðsdómstólar), and appeals brought before the Court of Appeal (Landsrettur). Cases decided by the Court of Appeal can then be appealed to the Supreme Court of Iceland, subject to its approval to hear the case (similar to the certiorari process in the United States).

Icelandic Supreme Court. Photo by Flickr user JasonParis (May 1, 2010). Used under Creative Commons License, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

Published cases can be found on the Supreme Court website (in Icelandic).

Law Library Online Resources on Icelandic Law

FALQs: Article 370 and the Removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s Special Status

The following is a guest post by Tariq Ahmad, a foreign law specialist in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress. Tariq has previously contributed posts on Islamic Law in Pakistan – Global Legal Collection Highlights, India’s Regulatory Approach to Uber, and FALQ posts on Beef Bans in India and Proposals to Reform Pakistan’s Blasphemy […]

Suffrage for Swiss Women – A More than 100-Year-Long Struggle

The following is a guest post by Anne-Cathérine Stolz, a foreign law intern working with Jenny Gesley in the Global Legal Research Directorate, Law Library of Congress. On June 14, 2019, Swiss women organized a strike to highlight the gender inequalities in Swiss society and particularly disparities in wages. This was the second time Swiss women have gone on […]

The Changing Nature of UK Divorce Law

The following is a guest post by Kathryn McNickle, a foreign law intern working with Clare Feikert-Ahalt in the Global Legal Research Directorate, Law Library of Congress. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has begun to make its way through the House of Commons, where it enjoys cross-party support. If passed, it will make it much quicker for couples […]

Developments in the Regulation of Cryptoassets

In April 2019, the Law Library’s foreign law specialists completed a new multinational report titled Regulatory Approaches to Cryptoassets. This was our fourth major report on cryptocurrencies and other assets that utilize distributed ledger technology, such as blockchain. We first wrote in 2014 about what forty governments were saying and doing in relation to the emergence of […]