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Court Leadership, Agenda Transformation, and Judicial Dissent

A European Case of a “Mysterious Demise of Consensual Norms”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2022

Henrik Litleré Bentsen*
University of Bergen
Contact the author at


The previous literature debates whether rising rates of dissent are best explained by changes in court leadership and the composition of justices or by greater judicial discretion and changes in agenda. This article examines the influential hypotheses derived from the literature in the relevant and testable European case of the Supreme Court of Norway. It shows that the rising rate of dissent in the Court in the 1990s was mainly catalyzed by fundamental changes to the Court’s discretionary power and by its newfound agenda to work more actively with the development of the law and the protection of human rights.

Research Article
© 2018 by the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

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I am grateful to Gunnar Grendstad, Eric Waltenburg, William Shaffer, Jon Kåre Skiple, Jørn Øyrehagen Sunde, Mark McKenzie, and Lee Epstein for helpful comments. The article is better for their advice. I presented earlier versions of this article at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, and at the Seventy-Third Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association in 2015. I am grateful for the comments offered on the article at these and other venues. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are mine.


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