Bailiffs in Denmark
Professional Activities and Legal Framework: Pantefogeder – Bailiffs
Enforcement in Denmark is the responsibility of 3 different, organisationally separate units:
- The sheriffs – appointed by the local authorities – Pantefogeder. They alone can recover certain public sector claims, e.g., real estate tax, personal taxes, as well as child support and maintenance payments.
- Customs and Tax Administration sheriffs – Told- og Skattefogeder- appointed by the Ministry of Taxation in the Customs and Tax Regions. These sheriffs alone can also recover public sector claims, e.g., claims concerning inheritance taxes, VAT and corporation tax.
- Sheriffs appointed by the enforcement court – Fogedretten.
(Lawyers and assistants. The lawyers are members of the Dommerfuldmægtigforening). The enforcement court is a part of the district court. In principle, the local district court judge, or the chief judge if there are several district judges, is the head of the enforcement court. In practice, this function is nearly always delegated to a senior deputy judge or a deputy judge so that the enforcement court is always presided over by a lawyer, i.e., lawyers who can act as judges. (In summer 1999 a judicial reform will take effect which will mean that all lawyers employed at courts of law will be covered by employment protection which is comparable to a judge’s).
The enforcement courts recover all private claims and certain public claims, and the enforcement court can deal with complaints concerning sheriffs and local Customs and Tax sheriffs. All enforcement officers are civil servants.
Section 478 of the Danish Administration of Justice Act is the central statutory provision.
Enforcement can take place on the basis of:
- Judgements and court settlements. According to section 480, subsection 1, of the Administration of Justice Act, the date of enforcement is determined such that the law already stipulates when a judgement can be enforced.
- Agreements and provisions regarding parental custody and access which are either agreed before the Statsamt (the relevant county authority) or determined by the Statsamt in question.
- Out of court settlement on debt due. THE VOLUNTARY SETTLEMENT . The voluntary settlement is agreed directly between the creditor and the debtor, often with a solicitor as intermediary. The voluntary settlement is signed by the debtor if he can acknowledge the size of the debt. The acknowledgement of debt is often combined with an amortisation scheme. If the debtor observes the amortisation scheme, the matter will generally be settled out of court. If the amortisation scheme is not adhered to or the debtor does not offer to repay the debt, the creditor’s solicitor will file a motion for enforcement with the enforcement court.
- Instruments of debt and mortgage deeds, bills of exchange and cheques
Other “private” documents can also serve as the basis of execution. Instruments of debt – i.e., unilateral declarations of debt – and mortgages – i.e., declarations of debt in combination with the mortgage of either chattels personal or real estate – can make up the basis for enforcement proceedings. As far as I know, this is not usual in the rest of Europe. The Danish position has been – and continues to be – that documents of this type usually have a degree of clarity such that they can form the basis of enforcement proceedings, in particular because the debtor can present all objections – both objections with regard to the validity of the document in question and subsequent reasons for termination – to the enforcement court and have these reviewed by a lawyer who also generally functions as a judge. To use Central European terminology – the sheriff’s decision to proceed with the enforcement proceedings is in reality an “exequatur” ruling. In everyday terms, this decision is generally made informally.
With regard to bills of exchange and cheques, the opportunity to present objections is limited.
Bailliffs are covered by the general Directives on mutual recognition of diplomas, unless they can show that their activities are exempt under the Treaty exceptions to free movement to be found in Articles 39 (4) or 45 EC. This is unlikely as the European Commission reportedly (Law Society Gazette) has recently decided (November 2000) that notaries are not to be considered as immune from the effects of the free movement articles of the Treaty.
The clerks in “fogedretten” are special trained in courses held by the Danish Courts. They have to attend these courses and have brush-up courses regularly.
The senior deputy judges have studied law for at least 5 years before leaving University. Starting work in the Danish courts every new deputy judge enters a 3-year training period. The training program is obligatory and includes a special course in bailiff’s work. They would normally be offered brush-up seminars and courses. These are offered by The Courts of Denmark (or The Danish Courts – which is the department in charged of the administration of the courts in general).
At fogedretten most common cases are handled by special trained clerks. The manager of fogedretten is a jurist/ a senior deputy judge. The head of fogedretten would handle claims against the work done by the clerks. Decisions made by the senior deputy judge could normally be brought to High Court by appeal. Claims concerning the way of conduction work would be handled by the local judge or the president of High Court. If a major fault had occurred and the sanction would be firing, this case has to be decided by Den særlige klageret, a special court.
In Denmark the sheriffs working in court are organized in Dommerfuldmægtigforeningen.
Author: J Lonbay (A), 2008
Other Legal Professionals
There is an entry about lawyers in Denmarkin this European legal encyclopedia. Information about lawyers in Europe countries is provided here.
There is an entry about notaries in Denmark in this European legal encyclopedia. Information about notaries in Europe is provided here.
Bailiffs in some other European Countries
- Information on bailiffs in Austria
- Information on bailiffs in Belgium
- Information on bailiffs in France
- Information on bailiffs in Germany
- Information on bailiffs in Luxembourg
- Information on bailiffs in the Netherlands
- Information on bailiffs in Portugal
- Information on bailiffs in the United Kingdom