The law of Finland is a civil law, in essence statutory law. The country does not, however, have codes of the kind that exist in France or Germany. The constitution of Finland, originally approved in 1919 and rewritten in 2000, has supreme authority and sets the most important procedures for enacting and applying legislation. Judicial decisions may be authoritative as to the interpretation of legislation, but they are not judge-made law. Generally only Supreme Court decisions can be cited, and even they are not actually binding. As in Sweden, administrative law is interpreted by a separate administrative court system. Besides law proper i.e. acts of parliament (laki), permanent government regulations (asetus) form an important body of law. They can clarify and guide implementation, but not contradict an act. As a member of the European Union, European Union law is in force in Finland.
Finnish law and legal traditions are based on Swedish law and in a wider sense, on the Scandinavian and German legal tradition, a subset of Roman law. Olaus Petri's instructions for judges date from 1530, although as instructions they are not binding. The oldest act still in force, in part, is the Swedish Civil Code of 1734. Books of Court Procedure (oikeudenkäymiskaari), Trade (kauppakaari) and Construction (rakennuskaari) formally remain in force; many of these acts have been overturned in Sweden. In practice, many parts are no longer enforced, e.g. references to fines denominated in the ancient currency of Swedish riksdaler. Due to transfer of sovereignty to Russia, a divergence begins from 1809. Important codifications were made during Imperial Russian sovereignty, e.g. the Criminal Code was promulgated by Czar Alexander III in 1889. There was a Finnish parliament, the Diet of Finland, convened in 1809 and dissolved in 1906. The Diet was actually active only from 1863; in 1809-1863 the country was governed by administrative means only. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Imperial Russian government began restricting Finnish autonomy, and often refused to give Royal Assent. The Diet was replaced by the modern Parliament of Finland (eduskunta) in 1906. After independence in 1917, the Constitution of Finland was promulgated in 1919.
All laws are published in the official journal Suomen säädöskokoelma (the Statutes of Finland) when promulgated. Most law is available from the online Finlex database, published by Edita Publishing Oy, and in a two-volume book set Suomen laki, published by Talentum Media. These collections are however not exhaustive.
- Sarvilinna, Sami. In Winterton and Moys (eds). Information Sources in Law. Second Edition. Bowker-Saur. 1997. Chapter Ten: Finland. Pages 163 to 176.