The Supreme Court of Norway's information services

Fra domsavsigelsen i asylsaken desember 2012. Photo: Høyesterett

The Supreme Court of Norway's information services

  • The Supreme Court is the country’s highest court and pronounces judgement in the final instance. The Supreme Court is the appeal body for decisions taken by lower legal instances.  
  • The principal tasks of the Supreme Court are to work to ensure legal clarification and legal development. 
  • The role of the Supreme Court in society must be promoted through active information, insight into and openness surrounding the work of the court. 

Target groups for the Supreme Court’s information services

  •  Mass media
  •  General public
  •  Legal profession 

Objectives of the information services

The Supreme Court pronounces judgement on legal disputes and criminal cases of fundamental importance. Decisions concerning issues of importance to society and individuals are made daily. 

The aim of the information services is to contribute to openness and access to the work of the Supreme Court, and in particular to provide a knowledge and understanding of the decisions that are reached. 

The legal view on which the Supreme Court bases its decisions must be followed in subsequent cases. It is vital that decisions are immediately made publicly known and easily accessible. 

The general population's  trust in the courts and Supreme Court presupposes openness concerning their work and the desire to provide information. Enquiries and questions submitted to the Supreme Court will be answered as quickly as possible. 

Information tools

Internet- and electronically based communication is the primary  information and communication channel between the Supreme Court and its target groups.

The Supreme Court must insofar as is possible use simple and clear language that can be understood by every target group.

Information to the mass media

The Supreme Court must on its own initiative inform the mass media about new decisions from the departments, the grand chamber and plenum. As soon as the parties have been informed, decisions are published together with a summary on the Supreme Court’s website, Decisions are also distributed via e-mail to the journalists and editorial staff who have requested the information. The same applies to justified decisions from the Supreme Court’s appeal selection committee, information on appeals that are referred for consideration, and appeals against judgments not referred for hearing in chambers. The list of referred cases is updated continually and must be up to date at all times. This also applies to the list of cases that are to be considered and the composition of the court in each individual case. 

The press receive information and reminders of particularly important impending cases by e-mail and are informed in advance of plenum cases, grand chamber cases and other cases that can be expected to be of broad interest. 

With regard to cases that attract extensive media attention, the procedure for photography and filming is agreed in advance. 

In line with the Supreme Court’s desire for openness, the court will continue the practice of permitting TV broadcasts of legal cases except where extraordinary reasons prevent it. 

The Supreme Court’s website is the central element in the court’s communication. In addition to decisions, information on the magistrates, case preparations and appeal negotiations, key figures from case handling and the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Building is published here. 

The media’s need for fast and accurate information imposes exacting demands on the Supreme Courts information work. The legal issues that are considered by the court are often complex and news editors and journalists may need guidance on the implications of a particular decision. The Supreme Court will strive to meet this need. 

Wireless internet zones are available to the press in both court halls and adjacent rooms and in reception. Information on current and future cases is also available here. When journalists contact the information unit, they will be given access to press folders containing all the Supreme Court’s decisions, as well as the internet and newspapers, throughout working hours. A workstation is also available to representatives of the press as and when necessary. 

In January every year, the press are invited to a breakfast meeting. The Chief Justice and two magistrates, as well as the director, assistant director, head of investigation and information advisor also participate in this meeting. The Chief Justice, aided by the magistrates, reviews some of the key cases from the past year and over the next 12 months. The aim is to contribute to openness and a good dialogue with editors and journalists. The meeting is informal and views are exchanged. Journalists from across the country can attend and a tour of the Supreme Court Building is also offered. 

TV filming and interviews can be carried out in the court halls and in the public areas by arrangement with the information advisor and within the framework imposed by the Norwegian Administration of Courts Act. With the permission of the court, filming can be carried out in the court halls in connection with legal negotiations. 

Information to the public

The Supreme Court’s website is the central element in the court’s communication with the general public. This site gives information in Bokmål, New Norwegian, Sami and English. As mentioned above, the website contains not only decisions, but also information on the work and running of the Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court’s decisions are of great importance and the public must be given easy access to these decisions. In addition to all justified decisions from the appeal selection committee, all decisions from departments, the grand chamber and plenum are published together with a summary on the Supreme Court’s website. 

Questions and enquiries from the public will be answered as quickly as possible in an easily comprehensable way. The Supreme Court can not give advice or answer concrete legal questions. Nor can the Supreme Court comment judgments that have been given.

New decisions and information on important hearings, are also distributed on Twitter,  

Throughout the year, tours and visits to the Supreme Court Building are available upon request, primarily aimed at groups of ten people or more. During these tours and visits, information is given on the work and running of the Supreme Court Building, along with general information on the Norwegian legal system. Visitors are given a tour of the court rooms, the meeting hall and the Supreme Court’s library. 

Every year, the Supreme Court organises an open day with tours and lectures for the public. The day is scheduled for the Saturday closest to the European Day for Civil Justice, which is marked in October every year. Through advertisements in the daily press, the public is invited to visit and learn about the country’s Supreme Court. The Chief Justice or one of the magistrates will give a lecture on the Supreme Court or another relevant topic, and visitors who wish to do so can take part in a tour of the Supreme Court Building. 

Information is also given in the Supreme Court’s brochure. This is available on the Supreme Court’s website and in reception in Bokmål, New Norwegian and English. This brochure provides brief information on the Supreme Court Building in words and pictures and the handling of cases by the Supreme Court. An information book on the Supreme Court has also been produced. 

Information to the legal profession

The needs of the legal profession are largely met via the Supreme Court’s website. Here, all new decisions from departments, the grand chamber and plenum are published, along with justified decisions from the Supreme Court’s appeal selection committee. A summary of all decisions from departments, the grand chamber and plenum are available in electronic form dating back to January 2000. Since January 2008, these decisions have been published in full. 

As soon as a decision has been announced, it is sent to Norsk Retstidende and Lovdata. In turn, the decision is then published for its user groups. Enquiries and questions from the legal profession concerning decisions or the work of the Supreme Court in general are answered as fully and as quickly as possible. On demand, new decisions are distributed to judges around the country by email.

The Supreme Courts of the Nordic countries publish all key decisions concerning human rights and EU/EEA issues under a separate menu option. 

In addition to the Nordic courts, the Supreme Court cooperates internationally with bodies such as the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union, International Association of Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions, Association of the Councils of State and the Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions of EU (ACA-Europe), Conference of European Constitutional Courts, The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), and the International Association of Tax Judges (IATJ). Upon request, these bodies receive relevant decisions from the Supreme Court. 

The legal periodicals Advokatbladet and Juristkontakt receive information along the same lines as the press in general. On occasions, the editors of these periodicals also request information and interviews concerning the work of the Supreme Court. Such requests are met wherever possible. These publications are read by many lawyers across the country, and thematic articles and information about the Supreme Court and its work in general that are published here reach a large proportion of the legal profession.