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Basic Facts about the Country

Membership of the European Union

1 January 1995

Membership of the Council of Europe

5 May 1949

Entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights

3 September 1953

Basic Facts about the Judiciary

Budget per inhabitant

Number of professional judges per 100,000 inhabitants


Tiers in the ordinary court system


District Courts


Courts of Appeal


Supreme Court


Administrative Courts


Administrative Courts of Appeal


Supreme Administrative Court


The Labour Court


The Defence Intelligence Court


Constitutional Court


Public Prosecutor

The Swedish Prosecution Service is independent and separate from the government.

Gender breakdown of judges

All instances


Supreme court

View source

Judicial Governance

Type of governance system

Court service model

National Court Administration

Judges’ Proposal Board

  • Composed of nine members: five current or former judges proposed by the courts, two law graduates working outside the court system, and two representatives of the public
  • The two law graduates include one lawyer proposed by the Bar Association, and the other proposed by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions and the Swedish Agency for Government Employers
  • The representatives of the public are appointed by the parliament (Rikstag) and are usually members of the parliament, while seven other members (judges and lawyers) are appointed by the government.
  • The Judges Proposals Boards meets at least once a month, except for July, when no meeting is held. The Board has a secretariat, with an administrative director who is responsible for the daily operations and leads and distributes the work of secretariat.

National Disciplinary Offence Board

  • Has five members, who are appointed by the government for a fixed period of time. The chairman and the vice chairman must be lawyers with experience as judges.

Distribution of Responsibility

National Court Administration
  • An agency operating under the Ministry of Justice, it is responsible for the overall management of courts, including the allocation of resources, staffing levels, and equipment. It creates the conditions necessary for cases and other matters to be dealt with efficiently and according to due process.
Judges’ Proposal Board
  • Following an assessment of a judicial applicants’ qualifications, it submits proposals (a ranked list of three candidates, including the bases for these choices) to the government, which appoints a judge. If the government intends to select a candidate not included in the proposal by the Board, the Board is given an opportunity to submit an opinion on the candidate.
Ministry of Justice
  • Responsible for matters involving the courts, including the codes of procedure and organisation of the courts.
National Disciplinary Offence Board
  • Is an independent body deciding on disciplinary sanctions, reports for prosecution, suspensions, and the removal from office of any judges (except for Supreme Court judges). Only the parliamentary ombudsmen, the chancellor of justice (appointed by and reporting to the government), and the court where the judge is employed may initiate procedures before the National Disciplinary Offence Board.
  • Legislation provides for two types of disciplinary sanctions – a warning and deduction from wages. Removal from office is possible only if the judge has shown themself to be manifestly unfit to hold the office through a criminal act or gross or repeated neglect of their official duties, or shown themself to be manifestly unfit to hold the office
  • The decisions of the National Disciplinary Offence Board are made public. They can be the subject of a labour dispute under the Labour Disputes Act. The Labour Court is the highest court in such cases.
  • The Supreme Court decides on matters of the suspension and/or removal of judges of the Supreme Administrative Court, and the Supreme Administrative Court decides on such matters with respect to Supreme Court judges. Such proceedings may only be initiated by the parliamentary ombudsmen or the chancellor of justice.


Excessive budgetary or other powers of the minister of justice allowing undue influence

The National Court Administration, the agency responsible for the overall management of the courts, is not formally independent from the political branches of power; it reports to the government. In its 17 March 2023 report, the Committee of Inquiry, a body set up by Swedish government in February 2020 to suggest ways of strengthening formal safeguards of judicial independence, recommended replacing the Administration with a more independent agency. The Committee suggested establishing a new agency, and securing its independence in the following ways:

  •  Giving courts significant influence over the agency, by letting them nominate its board members and by giving sitting or former judges the majority of seats in the board.
  • Making parliament and government members and employees ineligible for membership in the board of the Agency.
  • Making it difficult for the Parliament to remove the Board members by setting a high decision-making threshold.
  • Getting the board of the Agency – rather than the government – to appoint and remove its director.
  • Requiring that the government to provide a justification for deviating from the new Agency’s draft budget.


Despite acknowledgment of the problem, entry into force of legislative amendments concerning the nomination and composition of the new court administration agency is not foreseen until 2027.

Political (including parliamentary) appointments of (Supreme Court) judges

Politicisation of the judicial appointments process could potentially endanger the independence of Sweden’s judges. When appointing professional judges, the government has to take into consideration the advice of the Judges’ Proposal Board. The intention behind involving the Board is to help minimise undue political influence over judicial appointments. The Board has a majority of judges among its members, proposed by judges (five out of nine), but Board members (including judge members) are appointed by the political branches – seven by the government and two by the parliament. The presence of the Proposal Board constrains the government, but the government could, in theory, select a candidate not included in the proposal. Notably, since 2011, when the current system came into force, the government has always followed the Board’s proposal in practice.


In 2022, civil society organisations (CSOs) emphasised:

  • The independence and representativeness of bodies advising the government on judicial appointments should be regulated and secured in the constitution, rather than ordinary legislation, as it currently is, so that a political majority is unable to change its features easily.
  • That appointments of judges should take place following a binding proposal from the Board, and selection and appointment should be merit-based.
  • The constitution should specify a maximum number of judges to be appointed to Supreme Court, rather than the minimum, so that new governments do not seek to seize control of the justice system through appointing extra judges and forming a friendly majority.


In its 17 March 2023 conclusions, the Committee of Inquiry on Strengthening the Protection of Democracy and the Independence of the Judiciary established by the Swedish government suggested enhancing the position of the Board along the line of CSO suggestions. The Committee proposed targeted changes to the current system of appointing judges, by providing in the constitution that judges are appointed by the government, following the proposal of a body with a majority of sitting and former judges. Furthermore, according to the Committee, in contrast to the existing model, the government should only appoint a person proposed by the Judges Proposals Board as a judge.


Another challenge relates to the appointment of lay judges. In Sweden, lay judges (those without a law degree) exercise judicial power alongside professional judges. At first instance courts, three lay judges participate, under the direction of a professional judge. At courts of appeal, there are two lay judges and three professional judges. Lay judges are on equal footing with professional judges when deciding a case – each has one vote. Lay judges have a say in all aspects of the case, including matters of law.


While the role of a lay judge is apolitical, the process of nominating and electing lay judges is politicised, in the sense that politicians are in charge and political considerations prevail over considerations of merits. Lay judges are nominated exclusively by the political parties represented in municipal and regional councils, and elected by the assemblies of those councils for four years. Political parties mostly nominate party members. The expectation is that lay judges will not be influenced by politics in their decision-making. Research suggests that lay judges are passive during the deliberation process and that verdicts in which they outvote the professional judges are very rare. In practice, therefore, political considerations might not have a significant bearing on case outcomes. The appearance of the politicisation of lay judges can still affect the level of public trust in courts, however. The Judges Association and the Bar Association believe that the lay judges should be nominated without the involvement of political parties, and advocate for changing the current system. Efforts to reduce the number of lay judges nominated by political parties put forward in 2002 and 2013 were unsuccessful, however. In its 2023 Rule of Law Report, in view of the above-mentioned concerns, the European Commission urged the Swedish authorities to “ensure that the nomination system of lay judges safeguards their independence, taking into account European standards on judicial independence.”

Flaws in disciplinary processes

Currently, the National Disciplinary Offence Board is in charge of disciplinary proceedings against all judges (with the exception of judges of the two Supreme Courts). The Board members are appointed by the government. While some members must have judicial experience, there is no requirement of a judicial majority. Also, CSOs have expressed concern that the chancellor of justice, appointed by and reporting to the government, can initiate proceedings before the Board, and that this could potentially undermine judicial independence if an authoritarian government came to power. Hence, they proposed transferring the powers to an independent panel within judiciary, formed by judges and regulated by the constitution.


The Committee of Inquiry established by the Swedish government suggested in its March 2023 conclusions that the disciplinary system should not be linked to the executive power, as is currently the case, and that judges’ accountability ought not be primarily dealt with as a matter of labour law. The Committee stated that the Board should consist of a majority of judges or former judges.

Barriers for access to courts

CSOs have explained that Swedish legislation guarantees access to courts, but having rights on paper is insufficient in the absence of reasonable means to assert those rights in practice. High fees hinder access to courts. Access to legal aid is extremely limited. The rules on costs are calculated based on the assumption that the two parties involved are on equal footing financially. Due to the risk that the losing party has to pay the opposing party’s legal costs, individuals that have suffered discrimination and have limited resources might be reluctant to file cases against governmental agencies or employers with more experience and greater financial resources.


CSOs have insisted on reforming the legal aid system, including through setting a lower limit on the income individuals must have to qualify for legal aid, and improving the quality of the legal aid (since the low remuneration public defenders makes it difficult to get good lawyers). They have also called for repealing the “loser pays” rule.

Positive Developments & Achievements

While the government decides on appointments and can influence judicial careers, there is no evidence of them exercising powers in a way that significantly endangers judicial independence. For example, while the legislation allows the government to appoint judicial candidates other than those proposed by the Judges’ Proposal Board, in practice, the government has always followed the Board’s advice.

The European Commission praised Sweden for its efforts to identify potential vulnerabilities and explore ways of strengthening formal guarantees of judicial independence. Its Rule of Law reports have highlighted the establishment of the Committee of Inquiry on Strengthening the Protection of Democracy and the Independence of the Judiciary (chaired by the Supreme Court president) and the inclusive nature of the process, with cross-party engagement and the attention given to the case of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The said Committee delivered its conclusions in March 2023.

The Swedish justice system performs efficiently. The estimated time needed to resolve civil, commercial, administrative and other cases at first instance is short (148 days in 2021), and has continued to decrease.

The level of perceived judicial independence in Sweden continues to be high among the general public and among companies. Overall, 75 per cent of the general population and 70 per cent of companies perceive the level of independence of courts and judges to be “fairly or very good” in 2023.

Rankings and Surveys

Expert Recommendations

European Commission, Rule of Law Report, July 2023

Overall, concerning the recommendations in the 2022 Rule of Law Report, Sweden has (made):

  • Fully implemented the recommendation to continue the work of the Committee of Inquiry on strengthening the protection of democracy and the independence of the judiciary, taking into account European standards on judicial independence.


On this basis, and considering other developments that took place in the period of reference, it is recommended to Sweden to:

  • Ensure that the nomination system of lay judges safeguards their independence, taking into account European standards on judicial independence.
Liberties, Key recommendations, 2023
  • The government should ensure stronger constitutional protection limiting the easy possibility of decisions contradicting democratic values and human rights. There must at least be a qualified majority for a decision made by the Parliament.
  • The government should ensure increased independence of the courts as well as increased effectiveness for individual’s human rights – a better programme of legal aid ought to be developed
  •  The government should ensure that the handling of migration cases where non-citizens are considered by the Security Police to be a threat to national security live up to fair trial standards and the principle of non-refoulement.
Liberties, Key recommendations, 2022
  • We recommend stronger constitutional protection against the passage of laws contradicting democratic values and human rights. This should be backed by at least a qualified majority in Parliament.
  • We recommend increased independence for the courts.
  • We recommend increased attentiveness to individual human rights and a better legal aid system for those who need it

Compliance with European Courts' Judgements

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

State Performance


Number of unimplemented CJEU rulings related to the judiciary

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

State Performance


Implementation record


Number of leading judgments pending implementation Very Low

17 %

Percentage of leading judgements from the last 10 years still pending implementation Moderately Low



Average time leading judgments have been pending implementation Significant
Non-Implementation of European Courts Judgments and the Rule of Law | EIN & DRI

Judgements with pending implementation

Selected on relevance to the judiciary / rule of law