First female Chief

After 200 years, Toril Marie Øie becomes first female Chief Justice of Norway’s Supreme Court

Photo: Tom A. Kolstad / Aftenposten Chief Justice Toril Marie Øie.

Photo: Tom A. Kolstad / Aftenposten
Chief Justice Toril Marie Øie.

Staff Compilation
Dagens Næringsliv & Aftenposten

On February 19, Minister of Justice Anders Anundsen announced the appointment of Toril Marie Øie as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Norway.

“Toril M. Øie has outstanding professional qualifications and excellent personal qualities for the office. She also has leadership experience and will be a unifying leader of the court,” said Anundsen.

The 55-year-old from Oslo comes from a family of lawyers and received her law degree in 1986. She then started working for the Ministry of Justice as a higher executive officer, became acting legal advisor in 1988, and served as the acting district court judge and magistrate for Strømmen county court from 1988 to 1990. Øie then returned to the Ministry of Justice and became the division director. In addition, she was an adjunct associate professor with the Faculty of Law at University of Oslo for many years starting in 1994 and has written several articles and textbooks. Since 2004, she has served as one of the Supreme Court’s 20 justices.

Øie replaced former Chief Justice Tore Schei on March 1, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 this February. She now holds the fourth most important position in Norway—preceded only by the king, president of the parliament, and the prime minister—and is the first woman to do so.

“The most important thing is that the best candidate is appointed, but having said that, it is fun to be the first woman. It’s been 200 years,” she said to Dagens Næringsliv. “There were female lawyers here long before there were judges. In 1968 came the first female judge, Lilly Bølviken; she paved the way.”

As Chief Justice, Øie’s biggest goal is to uphold the country’s confidence in the Supreme Court. “I don’t have any goals to steer the Supreme Court in a particular direction, that we should have more power or less power, that we should take more or less regard for human rights. We must resolve the concrete cases that we receive. One should not have decided in advance,” she said.

“I think that some have a flawed conception of how much room there is for our own opinions. We are bound by the legal sources … Within this framework we make decisions, not from what we would have done ourselves if we were legislators,” she responded when A-magasinet asked her about people’s misconceptions of Norway’s Supreme Court.

She states that there are major differences between the Norwegian and American processes and argues that party politics and agendas should be avoided in Norway’s Supreme Court in order to preserve its independence.

Øie could now serve as the Chief Justice for 14 years until July 31, 2030, when she reaches the retirement age. When asked if she would be the Chief Justice until she’s 70, she replied: “I expect so. I’m not one to change jobs often.”

This article originally appeared in the April 15, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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