The Danish judicial system
The Courts of Denmark are vested with judicial powers and administrative functions attached thereto, including probate matters, bankruptcy, bailiffs court, land registration and general administration
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in Denmark and is situated in Copenhagen. The Supreme Court reviews judgments and orders delivered by the High Court of Eastern Denmark, the High Court of Western Denmark and the Copenhagen Maritime and Commercial Court.
The Supreme Court reviews both civil and criminal cases and is the final court of appeal (third tier) in probate, bankruptcy, enforcement and land registration cases. In criminal cases, the Supreme Court does not review the question of guilt or innocence. There are no lay judges on the Supreme Court panel. Only in exceptional cases is there a right of appeal (third tier) to the Supreme Court, see below.
The High Courts
There are two high courts in Denmark – the High Court of Western Denmark and the High Court of Eastern Denmark. Appeals from a district court lies to the high courts. Civil and criminal cases are tried by the district courts (first tier). Under certain conditions a civil case may be referred to a high court.
The Maritime and Commercial Court
Since its formation in 1862, the Maritime and Commercial Court has heard cases concerning maritime and commercial matters from all over the country.
The Maritime and Commercial Court´s competence has been extended successively, and today the court hears cases concerning the Danish Trade Marks Act, the Design Act, the Marketing Practices Act, the Competition Act, cases concerning international trade conditions as well as other commercial matters.
In addition, the Bankruptcy Division hears cases concerning bankruptcy, suspension of payments, compulsory debt settlement and debt rescheduling arising in Greater Copenhagen.
The Land Registration Court
The Land Registration Court was established on 1 January 2007. The Land Registration Court will handle registration of titles to land, mortgages and other charges, marriage settlements etc. The Land Registration Court's jurisdiction extends to all of Denmark.
Visit The Land Registration Court’s website (not available in English):
The District courts
District courts hear civil, criminal, enforcement, probate and bankruptcy cases. Notarial acts also fall within the jurisdiction of district courts. Some district courts will continue to handle registration in certain jurisdictional districts until such registration is taken over by the Land Registration Court.
The Court of the Faroe Islands
The court of the Faroe Islands is situated at Tórshavn. Its jurisdiction comprises all the islands. The court at Tórshavn hears the same cases as do district courts in other regions of Denmark. Appeal lies to the High Court of Eastern Denmark.
The courts of Greenland
Since 1 January 2010, the Courts of Greenland consists of 18 district courts, the Court of Greenland and the High Court of Greenland. Most cases are heard in the first instance by the district courts. The district court judges are not lawyers but lay judges with a special education and thorough knowledge of the Greenlandic society. The Court of Greenland processes legally complicated cases in the first instance and handles supervision and education of district judges. The judge in the Court of Greenland and the High Court judge of Greenland are lawyers. Rulings issued by the district courts and the Court of Greenland may be brought before the High Court of Greenland. Rulings issued by the High Court of Greenland may, with the permission of the Appeals Permission Board, be brought before the Supreme Court in Copenhagen.
The Special Court of Indictment and Revision
The Special Court of Indictment and Revision was founded in 1939 and is by law located and administrated at the Danish Supreme Court.
The Special Court of Indictment and Revision consists of 5 members - one Supreme Court judge, one High Court judge, one county court judge, one professor of law and one lawyer. The Supreme Court judge functions as chairman. The members are recommended by the Minister of Justice and appointed by the Queen for a term of 10 years, whereupon they cannot be reappointed.
The Special Court of Indictment and Revision processes complaints against judges and deputy judges, applications for resumption of criminal cases, appeals regarding refusal of resumption of a judgement given in default and complaints about the courts exclusion of an appointed defense lawyer in criminal cases. The Special Court of Indictment and Revision also acts as a disciplinary court in cases of suspension or removal of a judge from office.
The Special Court of Indictment and Revision cannot review a judge’s judicial decisions. In cases of complaints against judges The Special Court of Indictment and Revision can state criticism or issue a fine, if it is found that the judge has behaved improper or unseemly in his acts in office. A complaint regarding improper or unseemly behavior of a judge or deputy judge has to be filed within 4 weeks after the incident has occurred or has been known to the complainant. A judgment in these cases can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
An application for resumption of a criminal case can be filed to The Special Court of Indictment and Revision when there is no possibility of appeal left. The decision of The Special Court of Indictment and Revision cannot be appealed.
An appeal regarding exclusion of an appointed defense lawyer from a criminal case has to be filed within one week from the exclusion to the court where the decision of exclusion has been made. The decision of The Special Court of Indictment and Revision cannot be appealed.
The address of The Special Court of Indictment and Revision is:
Den Særlige Klageret
Prins Jørgens Gård 13
1218 København K
The Appeals Permission Board
The Appeals Permission Board was established on 1 January 1996 and has since then considered petitions for leave to appeal in civil and criminal cases (second and third tier grants).
Thus the Appeals Permission Board considers petitions for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court although the cases in questions have already been tried and reviewed (third tier grant). Such cases are test cases, e.g. cases that may have implications for rulings in other cases, or cases of special interest to the public. Certain case types require permission by the Appeals Permission Board in order to be brought before a superior court (second tier grant).
In terms of grants and administration, the Appeals Permission Board belongs under the Danish Court Administration, but the Appeals Permission Board is otherwise independent of the judiciary and the government services. So there is no appeal from the Board's decisions to the Minister of Justice or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil and Military Administration in Denmark (Ombudsmanden).
From 1 January 2007, the Appeals Permission Board will also act as the board of appeal for decisions on free legal aid made by the Civil Affairs Agency.
The Judicial Appointments Council
The Judicial Appointments Council, established on 1 July 1999, submits recommendations to the Minister of Justice for all judicial appointments except the post of president of the Supreme Court.
The Council may only recommend one applicant for an opening. Recommendations must be reasoned and include any differences of opinion. In practice, the Minister of Justice always follows the Council's recommendations.
The Danish Judicial Appointments Council is an independent council. The Danish Court Administration acts as secretariat to the Council, and the Minister of Justice appoints the members of the Council based on the comments of a plenary sitting of the Supreme Court, the high courts, the Association of Danish Judges, the General Council of the Danish Bar and Law Society, the National Association of Local Authorities in Denmark and the Danish Adult Education Association.
The Council is composed of a supreme court judge (chairman), a high court judge (vice-chairman), a district court judge, a lawyer and two representatives of the public.
The Danish Court Administration
The Danish Court Administration was established as a new independent institution on 1 July 1999. It ensures proper and adequate administration of the courts' and the Appeals Permission Board's funds, staff, buildings and it.
The Danish Court Administration is headed by a board of governors and a director. The Danish Court Administration belongs under the Ministry of Justice, but the Minister of Justice has no instructive power and can not change decisions made by the Danish Court Administration.
The board of governors is the chief executive and generally liable for the activities of the Danish Court Administration. The director, who is appointed and may be discharged by the board of governors, is in charge of the day-to-day management. The director is not required to hold a law degree.
The composition of the Danish Court Administration's board of governors is provided by the Danish Court Administration Act. The board of governors has 11 members, eight of whom are court representatives, one is a lawyer and two have special management and social insights.
Sidst opdateret: 29. juli 2019