Strasbourg, 12 February 2001
CCJE (2001) 18
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire on the independence of judges, their appointment and careers, and funding of the courts: reply submitted by Norway
I THE INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES
1. The Norwegian Constitution of 1814 establishes the courts as one of the three state powers. Even if this is not expressly stated explicitly, the independence of judges is considered to be of constitutional rank. A Royal Commission has recently proposed that the Constitution should be supplemented by an explicit provision to this effect.
2. First and foremost their irremovability, see question 3. As for appointment, see part II. There are also proposals for a new central courts administration outside the ministry of justice, see part III 7.
3. Yes. According to article 22 of the Constitution permanent judges can only be removed by court decision according to law. They may be suspended by the King in Council, but proceedings to remove a judge must then be commenced immediately. They are appointed for life time (age limit 70 years fixed by law).
To a limited extent, there are also temporary judges, appointed for a specific period to fill temporary needs, i a in case of illness, leaves or backlog of cases in the court. The use of temporary judges has been examined by a Royal Commission which has put forward proposals to limit the use of temporary judges and to give them the same irremovability within their function period as permanent judges.
4. No. Not in their judging functions.
5. i) Cases are allocated among the judges according to rotation. However, the workload of the individual judge may to a certain extent be taken into consideration.. Besides withdrawel based on impartiallity rules, withdrawel may only take place in case of illness or other unforseen circumstances
ii) by the president of the court.
II THE APPOINTMENT OF JUDGES AND THEIR CAREERS
1. Judges must be Norwegian citizens, have a law degree and a sound economy and must not have lost their voting rights.
Lay judges chosen from lists established by the municipal council, participate together with professional judges in some cases, except in the Supreme Court. There are also consiliation boards with lay members with certain judicial functions.
2. Vacant posts are advertised publicly, and applicants are appointed on the basis of their qualifications.
3. A law degree, which in Norway normally takes 5-6 years.
4. In principle not. The recruitment basis for judges is in Norway very broad, and it is generally considered to be an advantage that there are judges with experience from different public and private sectors of society The majority of the judges is, however, former lawyers, public servants from the ministries or from the prosecuting authority and law professors.
5. Supreme Court judges and leaders of appeal courts must be 30 years of age – other judges 25 and assistant judges 21.
6-8. Judges are appointed by the King in Council on the basis of applications by the candidates.
Temporary judges, see part I 3, are appointed in different ways: by the King in Council, the ministry of justice or the county governor. Assistant judges by the court.
9. The Ministry of Justice.
10. An Advisory Council for the Appointment of Judges gives its opinion to the ministry of justice (except for Supreme Court judges). The council consists of three members appointed by the ministry of justice on recommendation from the Norwegian Association of Judges, the Norwegian Bar Association and the Norwegian Assosiation of Lawyers. The Government follows the opinion of the Council in about 90 % of all appointments. The president of the court may also give his opinion. For Supreme Court judges the president of the SC gives advice to the minister of justice after having consulted the SC judges.
A Royal Commission has proposed that judges also in the future shall be appointed by the King in Council, but on recommendation from a separate judicial appointment board. According to the majority’s proposal the board shall be composed of two public representatives appointed by the Parliament, judges from all three instances and two lawyers. The Government may not chose an applicant not recommended by the board, unless it has asked the board to make a special assessment of that applicant. The board’s recommendation, but not the reasons, should be public. This procedure shall also apply for Supreme Court judges (except the president of the SC), but it is foreseen that the president of the SC shall give his advice also in the future
11. By the same procedure as for appointment.
12. According to qualifications. There are no specific criteria for promotion.
13. A judge may only be removed from office by court decision according to law: criminal acts, permanent incapacity or improper conduct. Supreme Court judges can only be removed by the Court of Impeachment (never happened). (In 1940, during the Nazi occupation, the whole Supreme Court resigned as a protest against the Nazi interference in the administration of justice (and the president of the Supreme Court became the leader of the Resistance movement).)
14. The Norwegian Association of Judges strongly support the ongoing reforms to the effect that there should be more permanent judges in order to reduce the use of temporary judges, and supports the proposals to strengthen the position of temporary judges.
III THE FUNDING OF COURTS
1. The courts are funded over the state budget .
2. On the basis of budget proposals by the courts – after they have been informed about the general guidelines – the ministry of justice in consultation with the ministry of finance elaborates the annual draft budget. The Government’s overall draft budget is presented by the Government (minister of finance) to the Parliament for approval.
In the budget there are three separate chapters: one for the courts of first instance, one for the courts of appeal and one for the Supreme Court. The ministry of justice allocates the funds to the indivudual court within each chapter (except the SC).
3. In recent years there has been made great progress in terms of modern financial administration, with extensive delegation of authority to the individual court.
Questions concerning the court’s annual budget proposals are regularly discussed on meetings (judges and other staff) within the court as part of the elaboration of the draft budget by the president of the court with the assistance of the court administration. Budget discussions with the main unions are obligatory.
4. As a whole yes, even if not all wishes for new posts and technology have been met. The total attribution to the judicial sector has been substantially increased over the recent years. Extensive development programs have been carried out with emphasis on management, development, modern computer technology, efficiency and reduction of the avarage time for deciding cases.
5. As a general rule, the budgetary situation of the courts will suffice to give the individual judge satisfactory working conditions.
6. This forms part of the ongoing development programs for court administration, where both the judges and the staff participate actively.
7. A Royal Commission has examined the central courts administration, and the majority proposes a new administrative system with a separate Courts Administration outside the ministry of justice. This is meant to underline the independence of the courts clearer than the present system. This will also have implications for the budget procedure. These proposals will be examined by the ministry of justice and presented to the Parliament in the spring session 2001.