Introduction to Sweden's Legal System
Sweden is a civil law country. It is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of Government.
The current Constitution was adopted in 1974. The Swedish Constitution is made up of four fundamental texts:
- the Instrument of Government
- the Freedom of the Press Act
- the Act of Succession
- the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression
The Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag (external link), is the legislative branch of the Swedish Government. Among its responsibilities lies the enactment of new laws.
If the Constitution does not name the Riksdag as the sole legislature, the Executive may pass ordinances in those areas. These areas of law can be said to be neutral or positive to the individual as they do not impose obligations on the individual or regulate economic relations.
Sweden has two parallel court systems, the general courts that are comprised of district courts, courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court, and the general administrative courts that are comprised of county administrative courts, administrative courts of appeal, and the Supreme Administrative Court. In addition, there are several special courts and tribunals, such as the Labor Court and the Market Court, that hear specific kinds of cases and matters.
Sweden does not have a constitutional court.
Official Sources of Law
In Sweden the most important sources of law are statues, court decisions, and legislative history.
Laws and ordinances (regulations) are published in the Swedish Code of Statutes (Svensk författningssamling) which is available in printed form and on the Internet. The laws and ordinances are published in chronological order and are given a chronological number to represent the year and the order it was enacted. For example the Aliens Act: Utlänningslag (2005:716).
It is the Supreme Court’s responsibility to try cases that may develop the law and thus create precedents.
The Supreme Court’s decisions are not legally binding on the lower courts but the Supreme Court’s decisions are used as guidance and are considered when similar cases are tried.
A law’s legislative history is an important tool for interpreting the law in Sweden. A proposal for new legislation will often come from the Executive in the form of a Government Bill (Proposition). Legislation initiatives can also come from members of parliament, the public and public authorities. Before presenting the Bill to the Riksdag it must be analyzed by officials at the relevant ministry. The reports from these evaluations are published in the Government Report Series (Statens Offentliga Utredningar).
Other interested parties are given an opportunity to submit comments before the ministry drafts the final Bill. If the proposed law has important implications for private citizens it is referred to the Council on Legislation before it is presented to the Riksdag.
- Svensk författningssamling, Norstedt & söner, Law Sweden 1 West
- Sveriges Rikes Lag (Torkel Gregow ed., Norstedts Juridik 127th ed. 2006) KKV12 .S9 West
Supreme Court cases are published in the privately published publication Nytt Juridiskt Arkiv (NJA). The First part of NJA contains reports on the Supreme Court’s most important decisions and information on its other decisions. The second part contains information about new legislation and preparatory work.
The Supreme Administrative Court’s decisions are published in Regeringsrättens årsbok (RÅ).
- Nytt Juridiskt Arkiv, P.A. Norstedt & Söner, KKV18.A35.N98
- Regeringsrättens årsbok (RÅ), Norstedt & Söner, Law Sweden 5 1912 –
Government Reports are given a number that represents the year of publication and a chronological number. Government Reports can be accessed from the Library of Congress through the call number below.
- Statens Offentliga Utredningar, J406 R15
Government Bills are also given a number that represents the year of consideration and a chronological number. For example:
- Proposition [Prop.] 2005/06:215 Skydd mot internationella hot mot människors hälsa (Socialdepartementet 2006)
Examples of other printed sources available at the Law Library of Congress:
- Erik Holmberg, Vår författning (Norstedts juridik 12th ed. 2000) KKV2070 .H65 2000
- Norstedts juridiska handbok (Claes Sandgren ed., Norstedts juridik 17th ed. 2001) KKV70. N67 2001
- Svensk rätt: en översikt (Stig Strömholm ed., Iustus 2001) KKV70 .S89 2001
- Andres Agell, Åke Malmström, Civilrätt (Liber ekonomi 18th ed. 2003) KKV500 .M35 2003
- Håkan Strömberg, Sveriges författning (Studentlitteratur 19th ed. 2004) KKV2070 .S77 2004
- Juridik till vardags: en handbok (Rolf Höök ed., Wahlström & Widstrand 2005) KKV72 .J875 2005
The following websites contain search tools to access Swedish legislation:
- The Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen)
- Portal for Swedish Public Administration Legal Information (external link)
- Website for legal information: legislation, cases and legislative history, etc (external link).
To access decisions from several Swedish courts including the Supreme court, courts of appeal, and the Supreme Administrative court:
- Swedish Courts’ Website (external link) (Svenska Domstolar)
To access Supreme Court decisions from 2003 forward:
- Swedish Supreme Court (external link) (Högstadomstolen)
- To access preparatory work from the Parliament (external link) including motions and debates (Riksdagen)
- To access preparatory work from the Executive (external link) including Government Reports and Government Bills (Regeringen)
- To search for a law’s legislative history (external link)
Other helpful material online
Available on line from the Swedish Government (external link):
- The Constitution of Sweden (external link)
- Democracy from a Swedish point of view – Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy 2007 in Sweden (external link)
- The Swedish law-making process (external link)
- Clemency in criminal cases and cancellation of court-issued expulsion orders (external link)
- Liberal adult education in Sweden (external link)
- Adult education in Sweden (external link)
- Sweden and the Challenge of Climate Change (external link)
- Family law (external link)
- The Swedish study support system (external link)
Other helpful websites
All these websites have information available in English.
- The Chancellor of Justice (external link) in Sweden (Justitiekanslern)
- The Parliamentary Ombudsmen (external link) (Riksdagens Ombudsmän/Justitieombudsmännen)
- The Ombudsman Against Ethnic Discrimination (external link) (Ombudsmannen Mot Etnisk Disriminering)
- The Swedish Migration Board (external link) (Migrationsverket)
- Swedish Bar Association (external link) (Sveriges Advokatsamfund)
For more information on Sweden see:
Last Updated: 08/02/2012