Courts of some Nordic countries started reviewing the constitutionality of legislation long before judicial review was established elsewhere in Europe. This study examines the influence of American law and theories of judicial review on the development, practice and theorization of judicial review in Norway, Denmark, and Iceland from the 19th century to the present. The study describes how Nordic scholars in the late 19th century rationalized judicial review based on American theory and how American law influenced both their views of the institution and their way of thinking about substantive constitutional rights. These views in turn influenced Nordic jurisprudence for decades. The author then shows how the changes that took place in American constitutional jurisprudence in the 1930s and 1940s influenced Nordic constitutional theory and constitutional jurisprudence. These changes received significant attention in Nordic legal circles and the study examines how these changes, as well as the American and Nordic theory that built on them, influenced Nordic jurisprudence. Finally, it is argued that American influence in this area of law changed after 1965. Direct references to and discussions of American law almost disappeared from Nordic jurisprudence. American constitutional law was, however, an important influence on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, which importance increased in this period. The European Convention of Human Rights and the Court’s decisions have in turn immensely influenced Nordic constitutional law.
Ragnhildur Helgadóttir is an Assistant Professor of Law at Reykjavík University, where she specialises in constitutional law, legal theory and legal history. She has written articles and book-chapters on constitutional law and human rights in national and international law.