The Ministry of Justice is responsible for matters concerning the Swedish courts including ensuring that they are equipped to fulfil the requirements set by the Government. This means that the courts must have efficient rules and organisation. Under the Constitution the courts have independent status. This means that neither the Riksdag, the Government Offices nor any other government agency may decide how the courts rule in individual cases.
Organisation of the courts
Sweden has two parallel types of courts, each with three instances - the general courts (district courts, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court) and the general administrative courts (county administrative courts, administrative courts of appeal and the Supreme Administrative Court).
The main focus in the court system lies in the first instance. The main task of the second instance is to check that the appealed rulings are correct and to rectify any errors. The primary task of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court is to provide guidance through precedent.
The National Courts Administration is the central administrative agency for Swedish courts, which also include regional rent tribunals and the National Legal Aid Authority.
The general courts deal with criminal cases, civil cases and a number of non-contentious matters. The fundamental rules applicable are in the Code of Judicial Procedure and the Examination of Non-Contentious Matters Act. The More modern court proceedings reform, which came into force on 1 November 2008, implemented major changes in the procedural regulations. The intention of the reform is to achieve better use of modern technology in legal proceedings, more flexible rules of judicial procedure and greater responsibility for the parties to move the case forward towards a decision. The reform also introduces special measures for proceedings in the court of appeal in order to clarify the different tasks of the various courts in the system.
In essential, the general administrative courts process cases that concern disputes between individuals and administrative authorities, for example tax cases and social insurance cases. The procedural rules are found mainly in the Administrative Court Procedure Act. In addition, several of the specific acts on administrative law contain provisions specially adapted to the type of case in question.
Better focus of court activities
As far as possible, the activities of courts shall focus on administration of justice. By previous decisions a number of different categories of cases that do not involve adjudication has been transferred to other authorities. A government bill which was decided in April 2011 proposes that a number of additional categories of cases shall be transferred from the courts to different authorities from 1 October 2011.
New law on service of documents
On 1 April 2011 a new legislation regarding Service of Documents and authorisation of private process-serving companies came into force. The overall objective is to create conditions for an efficient and modern service procedure including reasonable due process guarantees for individuals. The new regulation is more transparent and easily applicable. It will enable the use of modern technology to a greater extent and it assigns greater responsibility to parties and others who are being sought for service than was previously the case.
Mediation and Conciliation
The Government has proposed new rules on mediation and conciliation in order to increase parties' opportunities to resolve disputes on a voluntary basis (Bill 2010/11: 128). The rules state that an arbitration agreement may be declared enforceable by the District Court. Furthermore, the parties may participate in mediation without the risk of having limitation periods expire during ongoing mediation. To ensure that the parties can act freely during mediation a duty of confidentiality is imposed on the mediator and the mediator may not be heard as a witness in court. What is proposed should also apply to cross-border cases within the EU. Even when a dispute reaches the court, there is much to gain from an amicable settlement. The Government proposes that the District Court's duty to promote an agreement between the parties is strengthened. The rules entered into force on 1 August 2011.