In Sweden, there is a legal principle that any case settled in court is settled in the public eye, with full transparency, and most often the proceedings are open to the public. However, this has sometimes led to disruptive or disorderly conduct from spectators. For instance, law clerks that train to become judges in Sweden are advised during training not to request a person in a courtroom to take off their hat or put down their phone, as there is no way to enforce a request of that nature. Rather than risk losing authority, a judge might let that type of behaviour pass.
The lack of order and sanction for poor behavior in the past has affected the willingness of workers to participate in trials, whether as a witness or claimant. New legislation has been introduced that aims to instill more discipline and address this issue. Even though the proposed legislation primarily focuses on increasing security in criminal proceedings, it affects civil cases as well. The legislation includes the following provisions:
- Witnesses may give evidence via videoconference so that they are not subject to pressure.
- The public may be ordered to observe proceedings from another room.
- Judges may remove persons who act disturbingly or in a disorderly manner.
In order to prevent audio recordings in the courtroom (which are prohibited but not always monitored), a judge is entitled to request that any electronic devices be turned off and stowed away.
The legislation took effect on July 1, 2019. Practitioners have long clamored for increased security for witnesses, which should have a positive effect in civil proceedings concerning Swedish employment cases, primarily in cases regarding wrongful termination, in which former coworkers may not be inclined to give evidence against a discharged coworker or may feel pressured to withhold important information. The downside for both practitioners and the environment is that laptop computers are considered electronic devices; thus, their use may be restricted by the court. Hopefully, judges will allow attorneys to use any electronic devices necessary to present their cases.
Written by Jakob Nortoft of Glimstedt and Roger James of Ogletree Deakins
© 2019 Glimstedt and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.