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Norway: Supreme Court Holds First Web-Based Court Hearing

(Apr. 22, 2020) On April 17, 2020, the Norwegian Supreme Court held its first web-based court hearing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Act and the Civil Procedure Act, cases may be held as remote hearings in specific situations. (Straffeprossessloven (LOV 1981-05-22-25); Tvisteloven (LOV 2005-06-17-90).) Moreover, on March 28, 2020, the Norwegian government adopted a regulation increasing the use of remote-based court hearings.

The web-based court hearing at the Supreme Court was open to a limited number of members of the public who, via a link on the Supreme Court website, could receive a link and PIN number to view the event live using the web-based video-link technology.

Even though the hearings are held online, the same rules as those for in-court proceedings apply, meaning that screen shots of web-based hearings are illegal just as photographing during live court hearings is. On its website, the Court also points out that court hearings are subject to “order and dignity,” meaning counsel must dress and act as if they were present in person before the Court. The judges, however, three of whom were participating via video-link from their homes, are not obliged to wear their regular court robes for a web-based hearing.

The appellant of this first remotely held web-based Supreme Court hearing has been reported as commenting that

[the web-based hearing] was justifiable, but it is not the same as the level of communication one has with [the Court] when physically present. It is a bad replacement for a hearing held in person, but it is much better than [a written submission process]. In order to have the case completed it was justifiable, but I am happy that the Supreme Court is concerned about it and that this is not intended to be a continuous practice.

For the week of April 20 to April 24, 2020, the Supreme Court has three criminal cases scheduled as web-based hearings. No civil cases are scheduled.