In cases before the Supreme Court where leave to appeal must first be granted before an appeal is allowed from a decision of a lower court, the proceedings before the Court have two stages: decision on admissibility and decision on the merits of the case. The admissibility of the case, i.e. the granting of leave to appeal, shall be decided on by one to three members of the Court upon presentation by a referendary. This means that the members make the decision on the basis of the preliminary work and opinion of the referendary. In case an application for leave to appeal is rejected, the case will be closed and the judgment of the court of appeal will remain final.

Should leave to appeal be granted, the merits of the case, i.e. the allegations presented in the appeal petition, will be decided on by five members of the Court. Under certain circumstances the case may be decided by three members of the Court instead of five. Also the decision on the merits is made upon presentation by a referendary, meaning that the referendary prepares the case and is partly responsible for the outcome of the case. Apart from documentary evidence and applicable legislation, the sources of law on which the decision of the Supreme Court may be based include case law, the legislative history of Acts of Parliament, textbooks and international conventions.

If a question of law to be resolved involves significant principles, or if the Supreme Court wishes to depart from an earlier precedent, the case shall be decided on by an enlarged chamber (11 members) or by a full court (all the members). Administrative matters, including the appointment of judges, shall be decided on by a full court.

Referendaries of the Supreme Court shall prepare cases for the Court and present them in the hearing. The referendaries are also mainly responsible for contacting the parties to the case and for the administrative work relating to hearings, as well as for sending court documents to the parties. The referendaries are to a certain extent specialised in different areas of law.

The Supreme Court mainly relies on written evidence when deciding on a case. The Court may, however, hold oral hearings in which the parties, witnesses and experts are heard in person. The oral hearings are public. The Supreme Court may also decide to arrange an on-site inspection, e.g. of a place which is the subject matter of the court proceedings.

Published 4.1.2019