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Features - A Guide to the Swedish Legal System

By Ingrid Kabir, Published on November 1, 2000

Ingrid Kabir is a law librarian at the Law Section of Stockholm University Library. She has been in charge of the European Documentation Centre at Stockholm University Library since 1996, and actively promoted the use of the electronic sources to EU documents and legal resources at large.  Ingrid is the project leader for Jurwebb, which is a gateway currently being developed into a database of global sources of legal information on the Web. The items in the database will be registered in Dublin Core. Jurwebb is a collaborative effort between the major law libraries in Sweden.  Ingrid also maintains a subject gateway list, in Swedish, that is a joint project of the Swedish university libraries. 

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Table of Contents

The Swedish Legal System
Background
The Swedish Constitution
Sources of Law
Main Series of Sources to Law
Electronic Sources of Statutes
Public Domain Services
Subscription Services
The Court System and Reports of Cases
The General Courts
Reports from the General Courts
The Administrative Courts
Reports from the Supreme Administrative Court
Electronic Sources to Case Law from General Courts and Administrative Courts
Public Domain Services
Subscription Services
Indexes and Digests
Parliamentary Information
The Legal Profession
Legal Education
Legal Publishers
Legal News and Current Awareness
Introductory Texts in English

The Swedish Legal System

Background

The Swedish legal system has its roots in the continental legal tradition with its dependence on statutory law. There was close communication between scholars of Sweden and the European continent in the eighteenth century. This led to a strong influence from the German-Roman tradition of the European continental countries on the Swedish legal system. A comprehensive Swedish code was enacted in 1734. This code, known as The Code of 1734, was divided into the following sections:

  1. The Book of Marriage
  2. The Book on Parents
  3. The Book on Inheritance
  4. The Book on Land
  5. The Book on Building
  6. The Book on Commerce
  7. The Book on Crimes
  8. The Book on Judicial Procedure
  9. The Book on execution of Judgements

This arrangement can still be found in the comprehensive edition of The Law Book (in Swedish Sveriges Rikes Lag). As with texts of parliament and government of any country, the texts are available only in the vernacular. However, any information available in English has been incorporated in this guide.

The Swedish Constitution

The fundamental laws of Sweden are the following: The Act of Succession, The Freedom of the Press Act, The Instrument of Government (Constitution), The Freedom of Expression Act. These can be changed only by two successive parliaments with an intervening general election. A sitting Parliament can amend the Parliament Act, lacking the character of a fundamental law but it requires a qualified majority. These acts form the Swedish Constitution are available in English from the International Constitutional Law Project at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany. The Swedish texts can be found at the web site of the Swedish Parliament. The Swedish language version of titles are given in italics below.

Recent developments of Swedish laws are linked to Sweden’s membership in the European Union effective from January 1995.

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Sources of Law

Acts and ordinances are published in The Swedish Code of Statutes since 1925. The Swedish title is “Svenska författningssamling (SFS)”. The statutes are cumulated in annual volumes with a keyword index. An index to statutes in force is published regularly by the title: “Register över gällande SFS-författningar”.

A comprehensive one-volume edition of Swedish laws entitled “Sveriges Rikes Lag” is published annually by Norstedt. Since 1999, the publishing house Iustus has started to release an annual volume of Swedish law entitled “Svensk Lag”.

Main Series of Sources of Law

  • Register över gällande SFS-författningar. Fakta info direkt, 2000.
  • Svensk författningssamling: SFS. Fakta info direkt, 1925-.
  • Sveriges Rikes Lag. Norstedt, 1861-.
  • Svensk lag. Iustus 1999-.

Electronic Sources of Statutes

Public Domain Sources

Full text of the Swedish Code of Statutes is available in the database of the Swedish Parliament called “RixLex. This database provides texts of government bills, committee reports, proposals from members of the parliament and minutes of debates. Many guides, fact sheets and explanatory texts are also available. There is an English language version of the web site of the Parliament.

At a gateway of the government called Lagrummet, one can retrieve case law, statutes, government bills and texts of treaties. Case law from the general courts as well as from the administrative courts is also available. However, no information in English is yet available. A selection of Swedish codes and acts of special interest such as The Swedish Penal Code and The Personal Data Act are found in English translation from the web site of the Swedish Government.

Subscription Services

Infotorg is the name of an information portal, which has gateways to more than 20 Swedish and some non-Swedish online services such as LEXIS-NEXIS. Rättsbanken is the name of the gateway to Swedish sources to statutes, case law and legal literature.

Notisum is the name of another gateway to statutes and case law. A great part of the content is provided free of cost in publicly available archives. A subscription service is also available.

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The Court System and Reports of Cases

The General Courts

There are ninety-four judicial districts, each one with a District Court (Tingsrätt). The reports of the district courts are available only at the archive of the district court itself. There are six Courts of Appeal. The Supreme Court is located in Stockholm. The general courts hear both criminal and civil cases. There are reporting services of cases from the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. A general description of the Swedish Judiciary is available in English at the website of the National Courts Administration.

Reports from the General Courts

  • Nytt juridiskt arkiv: Avd. I. Rättsfall från Högsta domstolen. Norstedt, 1874-. (Cases from the Supreme Court)
  • Rättsfall från Hovrätterna. Fritzes, 1980-. (Cases from the six Courts of Appeal)

A number of specialised reports such as The Labour Court and the Water Rights Courts cover different areas of law. These cases are reported in specialised reports and will not be mentioned here.

The Administrative Courts

There are twenty-three judicial districts, each one with a County Administrative Court (länsrätt). There are four Administrative Courts of Appeal (Kammarrätter). The Supreme Administrative Court (Regeringsrätten) is located in Stockholm.

Reports from the Supreme Administrative Court

  • Regeringsrättens årsbok. Fritzes, 1909-.

Electronic Sources to Case Law from General Courts and Administrative Courts

Public Domain Services

  • Lagrummet - texts of the Swedish Code of Statutes and texts of cases from the General Courts as well as from the Administrative courts. This gateway is under development.

Subscription Services

  • Infotorg is the name of an information portal, which has gateways to more than 20 Swedish and non-Swedish online services such as LEXIS-NEXIS.
  • Rättsbanken is the name of the gateway to Swedish sources to statutes and case law.
  • Notisum is the name of another gateway to statutes and case law. A great part of the content Is provided in a publicly available archive of texts.

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Indexes and Digests

  • Norstedts blå bibliotek. Norstedt 1965-.
  • Norstedts gula bibliotek. Norstedt 1963-.
  • Norstedts juridiska handbok. Norstedt 1997.
  • Norstedts laghandböcker. Norstedt 1983-.
  • Regner, N. Svensk juridisk litteratur. Norstedts, 1957-.
  • Regner, N. Rättspraxis litteraturen. Norstedt 1999.
  • Nytt juridiskt arkiv: Avd. II Tidskrift för lagstiftning m.m. Norstedts, 1976-.

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Parliamentary Information

The database of the Swedish Parliament RixLex offers a large number of texts from the parliament such as government bills (propositioner), minutes of debates (protokoll) and committee reports (utskottsbetänkanden). The website of the Parliament is easy to use. There are many guides to information sources, particularly on various aspects of European Union policies. Biographical information on the members of the parliament and information on their special duties are also available. There is also information on contributions of members to debates and committee work. The website Lagrummet, sponsored by the Government, provides texts of recent government bills in pdf format. Information on public administration in Sweden, both at the national and the regional level is available from Sverige Direkt.

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The Legal Profession

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Legal Education

There are three faculties of law in Sweden. A list is available from Jurwebb.

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Legal Publishers

The major legal publishers are:

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Current Awareness

In the yearbook Scandinavian Studies in Law, legal scholars present reviews of legal developments within the Scandinavian countries. The most recent volumes are devoted to International aspects of Scandinavian law. The yearbook is published under the auspices of The Stockholm University Faculty of Law and the Stockholm Institute for Scandinavian Law.

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Introductory Texts in English

  • Swedish law a survey. Juristförlaget, 1994
    The following areas of law are reviewed in great detail:
    • The Constitution
    • Human Rights
    • Public Administration
    • Citizens and Immigrants
    • Social Welfare
    • Property Law
    • Torts and Insurance
    • Contract Law
    • Transport Law
    • Labour Law
    • Tenancy and Other Rights of Use
    • Companies
    • Market Law
    • Intellectual Property Law
    • Family Law
    • Planning and environmental law
    • Tax law
    • Criminal law
    • Procedural law
    • Private international law

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