The highest court

Section 88 of the Norwegian Constitution provides that «The Supreme Court pronounces judgment in the final instance»

The Supreme Court is the highest court in Norway and a precedent court. The main role of the Supreme Court is to ensure clarification and development of the law through its decisions and within the scope provided by the Constitution and by law.

The Storting (the Norwegian national assembly), the Government and the Supreme Court are Norway's supreme governmental bodies, and are invested by the Constitution with legislative, executive and judicial powers respectively. In the exercise of its judicial authority, the Supreme Court acts wholly independently of the other governmental bodies. The courts, first and foremost the Supreme Court, are empowered to review the legality of Government decisions and the constitutionality of legislation adopted by the Storting. The Court´s jurisdiction encompasses the entire country. The Norwegian Supreme Court began its activities in 1815. Since that time, both the caseload of the Court and the number of justices have, not surprisingly, increased. Today, there are 19 ordinary justices of the Supreme Court, and one Chief Justice. Individual cases are heard by five justices. To ease the workload, the Supreme Court works in two parallel and equal divisions. In some instances, however, cases are heard in Grand Chamber by eleven justices or by all of the justices sitting in plenary session. Justices sit in both divisions of the Supreme Court and on the Appeals Selection Committee according to a rota system. The administration of the Supreme Court is headed by a Director. At present, the Legal Secretariat comprises 23 law clerks, including the head and two deputy heads. Although the primary function of the Legal Secretariat is to assist the Appeals Selection Committee, it also performs some duties for the Supreme Court Justices and the Secretary-General.

Two clerks of record, who are also legally qualified, serve in the two divisions of the Supreme Court. In addition, the staff of the Supreme Court consists of twenty people headed by an office manager. The Supreme Court has its own information officer. The Supreme Court hears both civil and criminal cases, and has jurisdiction in all areas of law. Any matter brought before the Supreme Court must initially be considered by the Appeals Selection Committee. As well as adjudicating on appeals against interlocutory orders, the Appeals Selection Committee also functions as a filter for appeals against judgments. An appeal cannot be brought before the Supreme Court without the leave of the Appeals Selection Committee. It is the function of the Supreme Court, as the highest court in the land to contribute to the resolution of matters on which the law is unclear. The Supreme Court also has a responsibility for the evolution of the law - within the framework of existing legislation - as and when required by new societal problems. Accordingly, leave to appeal to the Supreme Court is often granted in cases that raise matters of principle beyond the specific subject matter of the issue in dispute. The proceedings of the Supreme Court are almost always oral, and are generally conducted in open court. However, evidence and testimonies are not presented directly as in cases before the district courts and the courts of appeal. Nor does the Supreme Court conduct judicial inspections outside the court. Proceedings before the Appeals Selection Committee are in writing, and decisions are rendered on the basis of the documents submitted in the particular case. The judicial decisions of the Supreme Court and of the Appeals Selection Committee of the Supreme Court are published in the Norwegian Law Gazette (Norsk Retstidende) and the Lovdata Foundation legal information system. The most recent decisions are also available on Internet for a limited period of time after they have been delivered.