Department of Comparative Politics

Judicial Behavior

Norwegian Supreme Court
Sturlason: Norges Høyesterett.

Main content

Supreme Court justices are overlooked, but important, national policy-making players who render final and consequential decisions across a wide range of cases. The decisional behavior of an individual justice is a function of his or her notion as to what makes ‘good’ law, pursued in a cultural-collegial setting that is oriented by majoritarian requirements, while constrained by the legal nature of the case being considered.

Since the 1990s, the Norwegian Supreme Court has transformed itself from a court of resolving individual cases into a powerful policy-making court of precedents. A key part of the research project on judicial behavior includes the Doranoh database that links cases, justices and votes. 


Gunnar Grendstad

William R. Shaffer

Eric N. Waltenburg

Henrik Litlerè Bentsen

Jon Kåre Skiple


Key publications:

Ghavanini, Anna Wallerman, Gunnar Grendstad, and Johan Karlsson Schaffer. forthcoming. "Institutions that Define the Policy-Making Role of Courts: A Comparative Analysis of the Supreme Courts of Scandinavia." International Journal of Constitutional Law.

Nie, Mintao, Gunnar Grendstad, Eric N. Waltenburg and William R. Shaffer. 2022 «The Impact of Female Leadership in Collegial Courts on Time to Render Merits Decisions: Evidence from the Norwegian Supreme Court», Justice System Journal. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0098261X.2022.2095944 
Replication files: https://doi.org/10.18710/5NP4DG 

Meland, Ida Marie Støp, Welat Akman Westrheim, and Gunnar Grendstad. 2022. "Spørsmål og dialog i muntlige forhandlinger i Norges Høyesterett." Lov og Rett 61 (2):117-128. https://doi.org/10.18261/lor.61.2.5 

Bentsen, Henrik L., Gunnar Grendstad, William R. Shaffer, and Eric N. Waltenburg. 2021 "A High Court Plays the Accordion: Validating Ex Ante Case Complexity on Oral Arguments." Justice System Journal. 42 (2):130–49. (https://doi.org/10.1080/0098261X.2021.1881667) Replication files: https://doi.org/10.18710/DWIX6Y

Skiple, Jon Kåre, Mark Jonathan McKenzie, and Henrik Litleré Bentsen. 2021. "How Docket Control Shapes Judicial Behavior: A Comparative Analysis of the Norwegian and Danish Supreme Courts." Journal of Law and Courts 9 (1):111-36.

Grendstad, Gunnar, and Jon Kåre Skiple. 2021. "Tilfeldighetsprinsippet i Norges Høyesterett: Fordelingen av Saker Mellom Dommere og Fordelingen av Dommere på Avdeling. En empirisk undersøkelse." Tidsskrift for Rettsvitenskap 134 (1):46-76. (https://www.idunn.no/tfr/2021/01/tilfeldighetsprinsippet_i_norges_hoeyesterett) Replication files: https://doi.org/10.18710/6ECTTE)

Grendstad, G., W.R. Shaffer, J.Ø. Sunde, & E.N. Waltenburg. 2020. Proactive and Powerful. Law Clerks and the Institutionalization of the Norwegian Supreme Court. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing.

Grendstad, G., Shaffer, W. R., Sunde, J. Ø., & Waltenburg, E. N. (2020). From Backlogs to Quality Assurance. The Development of Law Clerk Units at Norwegian Courts. International Journal for Court Administration 11(3), 1-17. doi:http://doi.org/10.36745/ijca.352 

Bjørnebekk, O.L., G. Grendstad, W. R. Shaffer, & E. N. Waltenburg. 2020. "Case inertia and a better lawyer secure victory in court." Retfærd 43(2):51-70.  (request pdf and replication files)

Skiple, Jon Kåre, Henrik L. Bentsen, and Chris Hanretty. 2020. "The Government Deference Dimension of Judicial Decision Making: Evidence from the Supreme Court of Norway." Scandinavian Political Studies 43 (4):264-85

Bentsen, Henrik Litleré. 2019. "Dissent, Legitimacy, and Popular Support for Court Decisions: Evidence from a Survey-Based Experiment." Law & Society Review 53 (2):588-610

Bentsen, Henrik Litleré. 2018. "Court Leadership, Agenda Transformation, and Judicial Dissent: A European Case of a 'Mysterious Demise of Consensual Norms'." Journal of Law and Courts 6 (1):189-213.

Arnesen, Petter Kristiansen, Henrik L. Bentsen, and Gunnar Grendstad. 2018. "Internasjonalisering, sakskompleksitet og arbeidsmengde i Norges Høyesterett." Lov og Rett, 57(7):391-411. (request pdf and replication files).

Grendstad, G., Shaffer, W. R., & Waltenburg, E. N. (2017). Norway - Managed Openness and Transparency. In R. Davis & D. Taras (Eds.), Justices and Journalists: The Global Perspective (pp. 235-254). New York: Cambridge.

Cappelen, Cornelius, Gunnar Grendstad, and Jon Kåre Skiple. 2016. Avveiningen mellom justismord og falske frifinnelser: en surveyundersøkelse av folks rettsoppfatning. Tidsskrift for Rettsvitenskap 129 (2-3):107-137. (request pdf)

Grendstad, Gunnar, William R. Shaffer, and Eric N. Waltenburg. 2016. Ideologi og grunnholdninger hos dommerne i Norges Høyesterett. Svar til høyesterettsdommer Clement Endresen. Lov og Rett 55 (7):443-454. (request pdf)

Skiple, J. K., Grendstad, G., Shaffer, W. R., & Waltenburg, E. N. (2016). Supreme Court Justices’ Economic Behavior. A Multi-Level Model Analysis. Scandinavian Political Studies, 39(1), 73-94. 

Grendstad, G., Shaffer, W. R., & Waltenburg, E. N. (2015). Policy Making in an Independent Judiciary. The Norwegian Supreme Court. Colchester, UK: ECPR Press.

Shaffer, W. R., Grendstad, G., & Waltenburg, E. N. (2015). Is Diversity Just for Show? Diversity and Appointment to the Norwegian Supreme Court 1945-2011. Retfærd, 38(1), 18-42.

Skiple, J. K. (2015). Ei konkret vurdering i kvart enkelt tilfelle. Ein fleirnivåanalyse av økonomisk stemmegiving i Høgsterett i tidsrommet 1991-2011. Norsk Statsvitenskapelig Tidsskrift, 31(4), 278-304.

Grendstad, G., Shaffer, W. R., Skiple, J. K., & Waltenburg, E. N. (2015). Statsvennlighet i Norges Høyesterett 1963-2013. Norsk Statsvitenskapelig Tidsskrift, 31(4), 305-332.

Bentsen, H. L. (2014). Dissenser i Norges Høyesterett. Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning, 55(1), 3-22.

Grendstad, G., Shaffer, W. R., & Waltenburg, E. N. (2011). When justices disagree. The Influence of Ideology and Geography on Economic Voting on the Norwegian Supreme Court. Retfærd, 34(1), 3-22.

Grendstad, G., Shaffer, W. R., & Waltenburg, E. N. (2010). Revealed Preferences of Norwegian Supreme Court Justices. Tidsskrift for Rettsvitenskap, 123(1), 73-101.