JURIST >> WORLD LAW >> Denmark 

Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights | Legal Profession | Law Schools
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Denmark is a Constitutional monarchy with the Queen as the chief of state and the prime minister as the head of government. The Queen has largely ceremonial functions, and the concurrence of the soverign and the parliament is necessary for the enactment of legislation, a declaration of war, and the signing of a peace treaty. In addition, the Queen has the power to appoint the prime minister and cabinet members, who are responsible for adminstration of the government. However, she must consult with parliamentary leaders to determine the public's will, since the cabinet may be dismissed by a vote of no confidence in the Folketing (parliament).

Denmark is a member of the European Union; however fear of losing Denmark's identity in an integrating Europe runs deep in the public. Denmark has received the following exemptions (opt-outs) from the requirements of the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union:

  • common defense
  • common currency
  • EU citizenship; and
  • certain aspects of legal cooperation, including law enforcement.

The Constitution, most recently changed on June 5, 1953, established an unicameral Folketing of not more than 179 members, of whom two are elected from the Faroe Islands and two from Greenland. Elections are held at least every four years, but the prime minister can dissolve the Folketing at any time and call for new elections. Members are elected by a system of proportional representation; any party receiving at least 2% of the total national vote receives representation. This results in a multiplicity of parties, none of which holds a majority.

The Faroe Islands and Greenland enjoy home rule, with the Danish government represented locally by high commissioners. These home-rule governments are responsible for most domestic affairs, with foreign relations, monetary affairs, and defense falling to the Danish government.

Source: U.S. Department of State; CIA World Factbook

Courts & Judgments

Denmark's judicial branch consists of about 100 local courts, two high courts, several special courts, such as arbitration and maritime, and a supreme court. The supreme court consists of 15 judges appointed for life by the crown on the government's recommendation.

The regular courts of law are the Supreme Court, the Eastern and Western High Courts, the Maritime and Commercial Court of Copenhagen and the district courts. In addition, the courts include the justice systems of the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the Leave of Appeal Commission, and the Court of Special Appeals.

The regular courts deal with both civil and criminal cases. In addition, the district courts handle probate, insolvency, enforcement and auction cases. They are also in charge of land registration. For all law courts, independent judges are appointed. The appointment of judges is handled by a Judicial Appointment Panel.

Usually, all cases may be tried in two instances. First in a district court, and then in front of the High Court. However, certain minor cases may only be heard in one instance, by the district court, without any access to appeal to the High Court. The High Courts serve as courts of original jurisdiction in serious criminal cases, in which 12-person juries are impaneled. In some non-jury criminal cases, lay judges sit alongside professional judges and have an equal vote. A special Court of Complaints may reopen a criminal case and order a new trial. The Maritime and Commercial Court also use lay judges.

Source: U.S. Department of State; Denmark Ministry of Justice

Human Rights

The Danish Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in 2001, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with instances of individual abuse. Violence against women is a problem, but the Government took steps to deal with it. Trafficking in women for prostitution is a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Legal Profession

Law Schools

There are two universities in Denmark that offer law degrees, Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen.