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Sweden: Supreme Court No Longer Receives or Sends Communications via Telefax

(Mar. 8, 2019) As of March 1, 2019, the Swedish Supreme Court is no longer sending or receiving messages via fax machine in its communications with the public (including counsel and defendants). (Press Release, Supreme Court, Supreme Court Ceases Communicating by Telefax (Feb. 14, 2019) (in Swedish).) After an amendment to the Administrative Procedure Act took effect on June 1, 2018, Swedish government institutions (agencies as well as the judiciary) were no longer legally required to use fax machines, though the agencies may themselves elect to continue using them. (7 § Förvaltningslagen, Svensk författningssamling [SFS] 2007:900, Swedish Parliament website.)

Before the amendment took effect, the Administrative Procedure Act specifically stated that the government agencies must accept communication by fax and email (5 § 1 and 2 st Förvaltningsloven (SFS 1986:223) [historic/repealed]) and that they must be able to respond using the same technology (5 § 2 st Förvaltningsloven (SFS 1986:223).) The current rules in 7 § provide only that the agencies must be available to communicate with the public and may determine how such communication is performed. (7 § Förvaltningsloven (SFS 2017:900).) The earlier rules further provided that agencies and courts had to be open at least two hours a day on weekdays except for three major holidays (Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve). (5 § 3 st Förvaltningsloven (SFS 1986:223).) The intent of the rules had been to ensure public access to information also on klämdagar (days between two holidays), but the government found the rule proved to limit rather than expand access to the agencies. (Proposition [Prop.] 2016/17:80 En modern och  rättssäker förvaltning – ny förvaltningslag [A Modern Procedural Administration Compatible with the Rule of Law – a New Administrative Procedural Act] at 69, Government of Sweden website).) The legislative history (the bill) specifically notes that the agency has a wider duty of communication than being available only for visits or telephone calls. (Prop. 2016/17:80 at 86.) Therefore, the new rules instead specify that the agencies should “take those measures relating to accessibility that are needed to meet the duty towards the public that are set out  in chapter 2 of the Freedom of Press Act with regard to the right to access public documents.”  (7 § Förvaltningsloven (SFS 2017:900) (translation by author).)

In addition, the agencies are to continue to determine what, if any, social media presence they want to explore to better serve the public. (Prop. 2016/17:180 at 68.)

According to the Supreme Court Press Release, documents that were previously accepted through the use of fax machines can now be sent electronically via the email address.