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'Mess' awaits Swedish courts as judges retire

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'Mess' awaits Swedish courts as judges retire
14:10 CEST+02:00
Sweden is struggling to fill vacancies left by a wave of retiring baby boom-era judges, especially in the country's smaller towns, prompting fears that younger judges will make a "mess" in the country's courts of appeal.

One in ten judges currently working in Sweden will retire within the next four years, with about 23 percent of judges already in their sixties, according to figures from the Swedish court system. As a result, many judges who are already retired are occasionally pulling shifts to fill in the staffing gaps, Sveriges Radio (SR) reported on Tuesday.

"The Swedish courts system lives and dies with its pensioners," Conny Jörneklint, legal counsel at Kalmar District Court (tingsrätt), told The Local.

Jörneklint warned that the impending generational shift could also affect how Swedish law is interpreted, especially in the regional courts of appeals (hovrätt). New graduates know the letter of the law, he pointed out, but have no real-life experience.

"If all court of appeals judges end up being young, we'll have a mess on our hands because they are more likely to overturn district court rulings," said Jörneklint.

"Young judges more often interpret the law on a theoretical level and we already see that appeals court overturn district court rulings 50 percent of the time."

At the Kalmar district court in southern Sweden, Jörneklint is sifting through applications for two judge vacancies.

"Many of them are too young," he said. "So they instead go to Stockholm and work for the government ministries, but by the time they are professionally mature enough to become judges they've built an entire life for themselves up there."

Jörneklint added that because wages for judges are the same across the entire country, the courts in smaller towns cannot bate talent by waving a fatter pay check in potential candidates' direction.

Sanna Håkansson

Follow Sanna on Twitter here

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