Judicial review provisions in Finnish Local Government Act could be improved

Restrictions on the right to request judicial review of municipal decisions in certain civil matters could be justified, according to a recent doctoral dissertation by Sami Sarvilinna.

– The broad availability of judicial review of decisions made by municipal authorities is not necessarily needed in cases where the decision is clearly interpersonal by nature, for example, when concluding an employment contract or paying damages, argues Sami Sarvilinna, who will publicly defend his doctoral thesis in public law at the University of Vaasa on Friday 3 November. 

A Finnish municipality (local authority) has a dual role. It is a public authority, but also a legal person that can enter into contracts, buy and sell property, act as an employer or, for example, be held liable in damages due to an error or omission.

However, as a public authority, a municipality must also make administrative decisions concerning its private legal relations, and these decisions are themselves subject to a wide range of public-law controls, such as administrative review and judicial review.

In the Finnish legal system, an appeal (request for review) against the decision of a municipal authority serves two purposes. On one hand, it is a legal remedy for the party concerned and, on the other hand, it is a means for residents to monitor the legality of the acts of their municipality.

In his doctoral dissertation, Sarvilinna distinguishes between transactions of a municipality that serve various societal purposes, such as the sale of real estate or a guarantee given by the municipality for another person’s debt, and more interpersonal transactions, such as an employment contract or payment of damages.

– The more interpersonal the matter, the less reason there is for judicial review. The party concerned does not need review as a due process protection because there are other, more effective remedies available, and the residents of the municipality cannot be considered to have a strong interest in having the legality of decisions in such matters reviewed by a court of law, says Sarvilinna.

In contrast, this is not the case where, for example, a municipality pursues land policy or economic policy goals through transactions under private law: In such matters, Sarvilinna argues, there is still a justification for the decisions of municipal authorities being subject to review.

Sarvilinna’s study is positioned at the interface between public law and private law. Its methodological approach is based mainly on a form of teleological interpretation particularly well known in Swedish jurisprudence, and it also contains legal policy proposals for the future development of legislation.

Doctoral dissertation

Sarvilinna, Sami (2023) Kunta yksityisenä: Kunnan yksityisoikeudellisten oikeustoimien julkisoikeudellisesta valvonnasta. Acta Wasaensia 517. Väitöskirja. Doctoral thesis. Vaasan yliopisto / University of Vaasa.

Publication pdf

Public Defence

The public examination of LL.Lic. Sami Sarvilinna’s doctoral dissertation "Kunta yksityisenä: Kunnan yksityisoikeudellisten oikeustoimien julkisoikeudellisesta valvonnasta" will be held on Friday 3 November 2023 at noon in Nissi auditoriumat the University of Vaasa.

Professor (emer.) Heikki Kulla (University of Turku) and Professor (emer.) Juha Karhu (University of Lapland) will act as opponents and University Lecturer, Docent Kristian Siikavirta as a custos. The defence will be held in Finnish.


Further information

Sami Sarvilinna, tel. +35840 3342 111, sami.sarvilinna(@)welho.com

Sami Sarvilinna was born in Helsinki and graduated from the SYK (Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu) Upper Secondary School in 1986. He graduated from the University of Helsinki with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1993. He holds a Magister Juris degree from Oxford University in 1996, a Master of Philosophy degree from the University of Helsinki in 1999 and a Master of Public Policy degree from Princeton University in 2003. Sarvilinna graduated from the University of Helsinki as a Licentiate of Law in 2012. He has previously worked as a civil servant in the City of Helsinki and as a civil servant in the administration of the Ministry of Justice. At the time of his thesis defence, Sarvilinna is working as a judge at the Helsinki Administrative Court.

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