1. Describe the general organisation of the court system for civil litigation.
The Swedish court system is primarily constituted by the general courts, the administrative courts and special courts.
The general courts handle most civil cases and are, in descending hierarchical order: (i) the Swedish Supreme Court; (ii) the courts of appeal; and (iii) the district courts. To have a decision or judgment tried by a higher court, a leave to appeal must be obtained.
Each court is an independent governmental body, which is completely free-standing from other courts and public authorities. The Swedish Constitution contains provisions forbidding any representative of the government or a government body from interfering with the courts’ judicial functions.
A court is not formally bound by what another court has found in a previous case. However, courts of lower instances are generally guided by precedents from the Supreme Court.
2. Give an overview of basic procedural principles that govern civil litigation in your jurisdiction.
In civil litigations, the claimant must bring one or several distinct and specific request(s) for relief. Thus, if the claimant would like that the court orders the respondent to pay the claimant money, the claimant must request that the court shall order the respondent to pay a specific amount to the claimant. The claimant must also state the circumstances the claimant invokes as a basis for its requests for relief.
A basic principle in civil litigation in commercial matters where the parties are free to settle the matter between themselves (excluding, eg, certain family law related matters) is that the parties are generally free to determine the scope of the proceedings (known in Sweden as dispositionsprincipen). This means, for example, that a court cannot order something else or more than what follows from the requests for relief brought in the case. As an example, if a claimant has brought a request for relief that the court shall order the respondent to pay €9,000 to the claimant, the court must not in the operative part of the judgment order more than what the claimant has requested, (the court may, however, order the respondent to pay a smaller amount than the claimant has requested). This principle also entails that the court will only base its judgment on such factual circumstances and evidence that the parties have invoked during the proceedings.
Another basic principle in civil litigation is that both parties should be given the opportunity to take active part in the proceedings, eg, by having the opportunity to review and comment on the submissions and evidence submitted to the proceedings by the other party (Sw. kontradiktoriska principen).
With respect to the courts’ application of the law to the factual circumstances and evidence that the parties have invoked, the principle of jura novit curia applies. In essence, this means that the court is free to apply the law that the court deems applicable to the circumstances invoked in the case. Another principle that further governs the adjudication of cases is the principle of free evaluation of evidence. This means that a court is not bound by any formal rules concerning, for example, the evidentiary value of a certain type of evidence. Instead, the court is free to determine the evidentiary value of the evidence invoked by the parties based on the circumstances in the case at hand.
With respect to the main hearing, it is often stated that main hearings in Swedish civil litigation are governed by the principles of oral proceedings (sw. muntlighetsprincipen), concentration (sw. koncentrationsprincipen) and immediateness (sw. omedelbarhetsprincipen). These principles entail that the court shall base its judgment on the factual circumstances and evidence that are presented orally at the main hearing, and that the main hearing must be held within a reasonably concentrated period of time.
3. Describe the general organisation of the legal profession.
A party to a dispute may appear before the court via a legal counsel. Only a person deemed suitable by the court, by reason of that person's probity, knowledge and earlier activities, may appear as a legal counsel. The legal counsel must enjoy full legal capacity. Further, the person must be a resident in Sweden or another state within the European Economic Area (however, other persons may serve as an attorney if, with regard to the circumstances, the court considers it appropriate). In addition, a person serving as a legal counsel before Swedish general courts must master the Swedish language. There is no formal requirement that an attorney has any legal education; however, should the court consider an attorney unsuitable, he or she may be dismissed by the court. Although there is no formal requirement to that effect, in most civil cases in Sweden the attorneys are members of the Swedish Bar Association or is an associate lawyer at a law firm. A member of the Swedish Bar Association has the right to use the title advokat and it is a punishable offence for any non-member to use this title.
The Swedish Bar Association makes no distinction between solicitors and barristers.
4. Give a brief overview of the political and social background as it relates to civil litigation.
In general, Swedes are said to be prone to strive towards consensus. Traditionally, this has been reflected in the relationships between Swedish commercial entities, and it is probably still safe to say that many commercial agreements between Swedish parties are concluded orally and that many commercial disputes are settled amicably.
Traditionally, Swedish entities have been reluctant to resolve their differences through the courts. However, factors such as globalisation and more extensive cross-border trading may have had an impact on Swedish entities’ attitude towards disputes and how to resolve them. Today, most large and mid-size companies consider dispute resolution through litigation or arbitration as something that is necessarily associated with their commercial activities.
Most commercial contracts of greater economic value or complexity will include an arbitration clause.