Sweden, this office was the most important one of regional governments, where each "lagsaga" (usually the same as the traditional province) was the jurisdictionof a lawspeaker who was subordinate to the lawspeaker of Tiundaland. The lawspeaker presided over the Things, worked as a judge and formulated the laws that had been decided by the people. The lawspeaker was obliged to memorize the law and to recite it at the Thing. He was also responsible for the administration at the thing and for the execution of the decisions, and it was his duty to safeguard the rights and liberties of the people and to speak in their behalf to the king or his representative. It was the lawspeaker who, on the behalf of the people, recognized the elected king when he passed on the Eriksgata. However, after the establishment of the province laws, ca 1350, he would participate at the Stone of Morawith twelve companions from his jurisdiction.
According to the
Westrogothic law, the lawspeaker was appointed for life by the yeomenof the province. The office was not hereditary, but he was usually selected from the more powerful families.
From the mid-
13th centuryand onwards, the lawspeakers became more attached to the king, and it was common that lawspeakers were members of the king's council. King Magnus Eriksson decided that the king would influence the appointment of the lawspeakers. Six nobles and six yeomen would in consultation with two clergymen appoint three men from the jurisdiction among whom the king would select the one he deemed to be most fit. This procedure would be in effect until the 16th centurywhen the whole process of selection was transferred to the king.
From then on, the lawspeakers only came from the nobility, and it had turned into a pension, in which a member of the
Privy Council of Swedenwas selected and received a salary, but had other people taking care of the work. This privilege was abolished during the reduction of 1680, after which the lawspeakers were obliged to take care of the work themselves, and there were checks on the appointment of members of the privy council. Still, the appointment remained restricted to noblemen until 1723.
By then, the functions of the office had become restricted to that of a judge, a function which also became less important by time. In
1849, the office was abolished, but the title remained occasionally in use as a title of honour for governors.
1947, the title was reintroduced for the presidents of the courts of appeal and with the reform in 1969, the presidents of the district courts and the county administrative courts were named lawspeakers (lagmän), whereas the presidents of the courts of appeal were named "court of appeal lawspeakers" (hovrättslagmän).
Norway, the lawspeakers remained counselors versed in the law until king Sverre I of Norway(1184–1202) made them into his officials. In the laws of Magnus VI of Norway(1263–80), they were given the right to function as judges and to preside at the lagtings (the Norwegian superior courts). The lagtings and the office of lawspeaker were abolished in 1797, but it was reinstuted in 1890together with the introduction of the jurysystem.
Iceland, the office was introduced in 930, when the Alþingwas established. He was elected for three years. Besides his function as the president of the thing, his duties were restricted to counselling and to reciting the law. It was the sole government office of the mediaeval Icelandic Commonwealth. The lawspeaker was elected for a term of three years and was supposed to declaim the law at Alþingi, a third of it each summer. In fact, Grímr Svertingsson's term was cut short, not because of incompetence or illness, but because his voice was too weak for the job. Apart from his function as a lawsayer and chairman of the court, the "lögsögumaðr" had no formal power, but he would often be appointed as an arbitrator in the frequently arising disputes. The office lingered on for a few years in the transitional period after 1262, after which it was replaced with a "lögmaðr". The traditional date for the founding of Alþingi is 930 with Úlfljótr appearing as a founding figure and the original author of the laws. After the union with Norwayin 1264, two royal lawspeakers were appointed who had an important influence on the legal processes at the thing. The office was abolished together with the Alþing in 1800.
List of Icelandic lawspeakers
Scholars are understandably suspiciousww of the fact that Úlfljótur's first two successors have been assigned a period in office of exactly 20 summers each, but from "Þorkell máni" on, the chronology is probably correct. Names are given in their modern Icelandic form.
Lögsögumaður Term in office Úlfljótur ca. 930 Hrafn Hængsson 930– 949 Þórarinn Ragabróðir Óleifsson 950– 969 Þorkell máni Þorsteinsson 970– 984 Þorgeir LjósvetningagoðiÞorkelsson 985– 1001 Grímur Svertingsson 1002– 1003 Skafti Þóroddsson 1004– 1030 Steinn Þorgestsson 1031– 1033 Þorkell Tjörvason 1043– 1053 Gellir Bölverksson 1054– 1062 Gunnar hinn spaki Þorgrímsson 1063– 1065 Kolbeinn Flosason 1066– 1071 Gellir Bölverksson 1072– 1074 Gunnar hinn spaki Þorgrímsson 1075 Sighvatur Surtsson 1076– 1083 Markús Skeggjason 1084– 1107 Úlfhéðinn Gunnarsson 1108– 1116 Bergþór Hrafnsson 1117– 1122 Guðmundur Þorgeirsson 1123– 1124 Hrafn Úlfhéðinsson 1135– 1138 Finnur Hallsson 1139– 1145 Gunnar Úlfhéðinsson 1146– 1155 Snorri Húnbogason 1156– 1170 Styrkár Oddason 1171– 1180 Gissur Hallsson 1181– 1202 Hallur Gissurarson 1203– 1209 Styrmir hinn fróði Kárason 1210– 1214 Snorri Sturluson 1215– 1218 Teitur Þorvaldsson 1219– 1221 Snorri Sturluson 1222– 1231 Styrmir hinn fróði Kárason 1232– 1235 Teitur Þorvaldsson 1236– 1247 Ólafr hvítaskáld Þórðarson 1248– 1250 Sturla Þórðarson 1251 Ólafr hvítaskáld Þórðarson 1252 Teitur Einarsson 1253– 1258 Ketill Þorláksson 1259– 1262 Þorleifur hreimur Ketilsson 1263– 1265 Sigurður Þorvaldsson 1266 Jón Einarsson 1267 Þorleifur hreimur Ketilsson 1268 Jón Einarsson 1269– 1270 Þorleifur hreimur Ketilsson 1271
* [http://runeberg.org/nfbo/0467.html An article in Nordisk familjebok]
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