Supreme Court (Denmark)

The Supreme Court (Danish: Højesteret, lit. Highest Court, Faroese: Hægstirættur, Greenlandic: Eqqartuussiviit Qullersaat) is the supreme court and the third and final instance in all civil and criminal cases in the Kingdom of Denmark. It is based at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen which also houses the Danish Parliament and the Prime Minister's office.

Supreme Court
Højesterets logo 2018.png
Logo of the Supreme Court
EstablishedFebruary 14, 1661; 359 years ago (1661-02-14)
LocationChristiansborg Palace, Copenhagen
Authorized byDanish Constitution
Judge term lengthMandatory retirement at age 70
Number of positions18 (Danish) (English)
President of the Supreme Court
CurrentlyThomas Rørdam
SinceFebruary 1, 2017; 3 years ago (2017-02-01)
Jurist term ends2022
The entrance to the Supreme Court at Christiansborg Palace


The Supreme Court was founded on 14 February 1661 by King Frederik III as a replacement of King Christian IV's King's Court (da. Kongens Retterting). It was based at first Copenhagen Castle later Christiansborg Palace, which was built in its place on the same site at Slotsholmen, and originally consisted of 30 justices. From its foundation and until the adoption of the Constitution of 1849, the court was formally an instrument of the king, only deciding cases by a majority vote in the king's absence, most kings only attended the first meeting each supreme court year. An office as justitiarius to lead the court was instituted as early as 1674 (from 1919 with title of President).[1] As absolute monarch the king retained the inherent power to overrule the court, which happened on one occasion. Aside from this the court routinely exercised the power to commute criminal sentences, a power that was written into the constitution of 1849.

After the 1794 Fire of the Christiansborg Palace, the Supreme Court moved first to the Prince's Mansion (da. Prinsens Palæ) until 1854, now housing the National Museum of Denmark, and then to one of the four mansions of Amalienborg Palace (1854–1864), before moving back to Slotsholmen. After the fire of the second Christianborg Palace in 1884 the Supreme Court had to move once again and was based at Bernstorffs Palæ in Bredgade until 1919 when it could move back to the present Christiansborg Palace.[1][2]

Since a rule change in 2007, the court have had a greater focus on test cases that establish precedent.[3]


The Supreme Court functions as a civil and criminal appellate court for cases from the subordinate courts. Since a decision cannot normally be appealed more than once, County Court cases rarely reach Supreme Court-level, though this may be the case if the independent Board of Appeals grants a leave of appeal.

King Christian V presiding over the Supreme Court in 1697

Significant civil cases with issues of principle, however, are typically deferred to one of the two Danish High Courts as courts of first instance. In those cases sentences from the Eastern or Western High Courts (Østre Landsret and Vestre Landsret) may be directly appealed to The Supreme Court.

As its name indicates, the Supreme Court is the highest Court in the Kingdom of Denmark and its judgments cannot be appealed to another Danish court. It is split into two chambers which both hear all types of cases. A case is heard by at least five judges. In all, the court consists of normally 15 judges and a President.

Unlike criminal cases in the lower courts, the Supreme Court does not deal with the issue of guilt. However, the basis on which the lower court reached its verdict may be brought into consideration and edited. In criminal trials by jury in the first instance, the defence may appeal on grounds of judicial error regarding the judges' direction to the jury (the summing-up of the theoretical foundations, which should be taken into consideration when the jurors deliberate).

Current membersEdit

There are 19 judges in the Supreme Court. One of the Supreme Court justices is president of the Supreme Court, appointed by the other judges. A judge is the chairman of the Appeals Permission Board and currently a judge is on leave to serve as a judge of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.[4]

The Judges of the Supreme Court, like other judges, are appointed by the Minister of Justice on the recommendation of the Independent Board of Judges.

Judges shall be retired at the end of the month in which they reach the age of 70, as according to section 5 of the Civil Service Act.

The 19 Supreme Court Judges of Denmark:[4]
# Name Born Assumed office Comment
1 Thomas Rørdam 17 October, 1952 2002 President of the Supreme Court from 1 February 2017.
2 Marianne Højgaard Pedersen 6 November, 1952 2002
3 Jon Stokholm 23 April, 1951 2003
4 Lars Bay Larsen 8 June, 1953 2003 Leave since 2006: Judge of the European Court of Justice
5 Poul Dahl Jensen 21 June, 1956 2004
6 Vibeke Steen Rønne 7 March, 1953 2005
7 Jens Peter Christensen 1 November 1956 2006
8 Henrik Waaben 19 September 1952 2006
9 Michael Rekling 18 February, 1958 2007
10 Hanne Schmidt 9 March, 1960 2009
11 Lars Hjortnæs 16 September, 1960 2010
12 Oliver Talevski 23 March, 1964 2011 Chairman of the Appeals Permission Board
13 Jan Schans Christensen 15 August, 1957 2012
14 Kurt Rasmussen 7 July, 1958 2012
15 Jens Kruse Mikkelsen 23 July, 1965 2013
16 Lars Apostoli 16 February, 1961 2014
17 Anne Louise Bormann 25 August, 1967 2016
18 Kristian Korfits Nielsen 4 April, 1968 2017
19 Jørgen Steen Sørensen 21 April, 1965 2019

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Højesteret" (in Danish). Gyldendal. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  2. ^ "Supremecourt - History of the Court". Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  3. ^ Christensen, Jens Peter (11 January 2020). "Hvad er en sag for Højesteret?". Jyllands Posten (in Danish). Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Højesteret - Højesterets dommere". (in Danish). Retrieved 2020-06-04.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 55°40′33″N 12°34′44″E / 55.6758°N 12.5789°E / 55.6758; 12.5789