Lay Town Court Judges in Nineteenth-Century Finland: The Case of Kuopio and Vaasa

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This article examines lay judges at the town courts of Kuopio and Vaasa during the nineteenth century. Even after the annexation to Russia in 1809, the Finnish judiciary—traditionally lay-dominated—continued functioning largely in the same way as it had during the Swedish period. This meant, among other things, that laymen continued functioning as judges at small town courts. However, especially during the second half of the century, Finnish society changed in many ways. After the Diet began convening again after 1863, many legal reforms were also carried out, paving the way for legal modernization. This article examines Finnish town court judges in the context of the societal and legal changes of the nineteenth century. The backgrounds and careers of lay judges as well as their activities in the town courts are investigated. Finally, the article argues that despite the budding legal modernization and the profound changes that took place in Finnish society, the changes to the judiciary in small towns remained limited. Laymen continued to play an important role in small town courts, and the cases as well as the legal procedure remained simple.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Finnish studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)101-141
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 513 Law
  • judiciary
  • town courts
  • judges
  • legal modernization
  • nineteenth century

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