Højesteret simply translate into English and the highest court and is the supreme court of Denmark. Højesteret is located on Slotsholmen right next to the parliament and in the same courtyard as the prime ministers offices. Hence the three branches of government in Denmark is located side by side on a tiny island where the city of Copenhagen has had its center since it was founded in 1167.
There is public access to the different cases in the court but there is not a general access for tours in the supreme court. If you have a special interest group you can try to get a tour of the court otherwise there is only access for the general public one time a year. It is during Kulturnatten which mean the night of culture which takes place every year the day before the schools autumn holiday in October – it is always on the second or third Friday in October.
Since we are not a special interest group we had to join the line and wait for a tour during Kulturnatten. After a bit of a wait in line we finally got in and got a tour with one of the actual judged sitting on Højesteret. We got inside the main chamber where the Supreme Court justices hear the cases which have been appealed from a lover court and make their decision which like in all other countries set the precedence for future cases in the lower courts.
We walk around the building and at one place there is a collection of all the people who has been sitting on the Supreme Court. It is pretty interesting to see the older pictures because some of the names sound familiar – for instance there is a man called Niels Juel on the portraits – he was one of the most famous naval commanders in Danish history famous for his victory in a decisive naval battle against Sweden in one of the many wars between the two countries.
So how come a navy admiral became a member of the supreme court in Denmark? Well back a few centuries ago there weren’t actually professional lawyers in Denmark – so pretty much anybody who had decent educations and were one of the leading members of society could serve on the highest court. Of course this has changed many years ago and today the men and woman on the supreme court are all the among the finest legal minds in Denmark with a long track record of legal work.
At the end of the tour we got to see the library of the Supreme Court. It was actually in a pretty funny location. Since the Christiansborg castle has burned down two times there have been some reconstructions which have taken place over the years. And during the last fire part of the old stables actually survived the fire. When the new castle was built they also built a new stable – so the old stable had become obsolete. Hence today they use the old stables as the library of the court. You can actually see where the horses used to get their water and food when it was a stable.