Svea Court of Appeals. Photo Leif R Jansson/TT.
Svea Court of Appeals

Sweden's oldest court celebrates 400 years

"This was the foundation for the state administration we still have today."
2:35 min

Sweden's oldest court, the Svea Court of Appeals, is celebrating its 400 year jubilee this year. The celebration has begun and will continue through the summer.

When the Svea Court of Appeals, the largest of the six Courts of Appeals, was founded in 1614, it initiated sweeping reforms to the state's administration,

The Svea Court of Appeals president Fredrik Wersäll told SR International:"This was the foundation for the state administration we still have today."  He also said that the founding of the Svea Court of Appeals can be seen as the starting point of the modern cultural and bureaucratic state of Sweden.

Since the inception of the Supreme Court at the end of the 1700s, the Svea Court of Appeals has been the highest authority under the king and privy council.

On the 16th of February 1614, Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna inaugurated the new authority for questions surrounding criminal and civil cases, and which earlier had been handled by district courts. Much of the reform used the French system as a model, says Fredrik Wersäll.

The Svea Court of Appeals is located in several buildings on the island of Riddarholmen, in Stockholm's Gamla Stan. The most famous of the buildings is the Wrangelska Palace, whose cellar contains the old prison. It is often described as a dark and dank hole where, among others, Gustav III's murderer Ankarström spent his last days before being executed in 1792.

Recently, there have been different kinds of changes happening. According to Wersäll, "the first woman started working at the Court of Appeals less than a hundred years ago. And today there's a majority of women, both among judges and among other employees. That's a big difference."

Today there are about 140 lawyers working at the Svea Court of Appeals, 90 of whom are judges. Many of the lawyers who work at the Court of Appeals have roots in other countries.

"One problem is that because legal language in a court needs to be very precise, you have to have a strong handle on the Swedish language in order to  function in practice," Wersäll told SR International. He continues, saying that many young gifted and ambitious immigrants have quickly acquired competency in the language and says that they are encourage them to apply.

The 400 year jubilee of the Svea Court of Appeals has begun and will continue through the summer, with exhibitions and other activities. On June 8th there will be an open house where the public has the opportunity to see the court's halls and take part in the process of their deliberations.

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