Constitutional Court, Administrative Court, The Legislature’s Ombudsman

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All laws in a country must comply with the constitution. In rare cases, however, the parliament passes laws about which doubt as to whether they are constitutional or not arises. Some countries have a specific Constitutional Court which decides in such cases. In other countries, resolving such issues becomes a task for the Supreme Court.

All public authorities and the administration must obey the law, but it nevertheless happens that they do not always do so. Doubt may arise as to whether they are breaking the law. When this happens, the courts must decide to what extent the law has been violated.

The public administration may also be monitored by the parliament's Ombudsman.

Different traditions

In Denmark the courts have the authority to monitor the decisions of the public administration. The Supreme Court also has the authority to monitor the validity of legislation. The courts often try cases brought to court by citizens or companies with complaints about administrative decisions. The Supreme Court rarely tries the validity of the legislation itself but has done so in a few cases.

Compared to the Supreme Courts of other countries, the Danish Supreme Court is very passive. The Norwegian Supreme Court is far more pro-active, and in Sweden there is "Konstitutionsutskottet", The Constitution Committee, which is very pro-active. Germany has a Constitutional Court, and in the United States the federal Supreme Court functions as a Constitutional Court. The German and the American Constitutional/Supreme Courts both have considerable influence on legislation and the process surrounding it, far more so than in any of the Scandinavian countries. The British House of Lords exerts the same kind of influence as the US Supreme Court, but it has evolved from a different tradition.

The legislature's ombudsman

The Ligislature's Ombudsman was invented in Sweden and was copied soon afterwards in Denmark. The Ombudsman is a person as well as an institution--this is a bit confusing. The Ombudsman is appointed by parliament but works independently of it.

In Denmark, citizens can contact the Ombudsman. They can, however, only submit requests. The Ombudsman himself decides what cases to take up. The Ombudsman only has the authority to recommend or reprove. He does not have the power of a court and cannot pass judgement as to whether decisions by the public administration are legal or not. Hence he cannot overrule a decision by the administration. Also, he cannot pass judgement as to whether a new law is unconstitutional and thereby overrule a decision of parliament.

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