Gunnel Norell Söderblom was the first woman in Sweden to be appointed parliamentary ombudsman, 178 years after the post had been created.
Gunnel Norell Söderblom was born in Malmö on 25 March 1930. Her parents were the chief district judge Trued Norell and Saga Norell (née Roth). After gaining her school-leaving certificate in Norrköping in 1949 Gunnel Norell Söderblom studied law at Uppsala university. She sat her Bachelor of law exam in 1954 and, following a period of service for Länsstyrelsen (the county administrative board) she began her journey towards becoming a judge. She completed her period of service as clerk at the district court during the years of 1958–1961. In 1962 she was appointed fiscal at Svea hovrätt (court of appeal) in Stockholm. Five years later she became a deputy judge. She then served as rapporteur for the justitieombudsman (JO) (parliamentary ombudsman) for two years before she became rapporteur for the constitutional committee in 1972. During her stint there she met Robert Söderblom, who was the head of the cabinet and appeal judge. They got married in 1986.
On 1 April 1987 Gunnell Norell Söderblom was elected by the parliament to serve as its ombudsman, and the very next day she took up the post, which had just been voluntarily vacated by Tor Sverne. She was re-elected in 1991 and remained as parliamentary ombudsman until she retired on 31 December 1995. She was then elected deputy JO, and retained that post until 2003. During her time as JO she supervised the implementation of the Social Services Act, laws regarding the care of minors (LVU), the care of addicts (LVM), and on health- and psychiatric care.
Gunnell Norell Söderblom died on 15 April 2009 in Danderyd. She was survived by her husband, along with his children and grandchildren from a previous marriage. Her colleagues and friends at JO provided moving tributes to her in Svenska Dagbladet and Dagens Nyheter. She was acclaimed as a very clever legal practitioner who had gained broad expertise and experience both in her earlier work as a judge and as a parliamentary servant. She was also considered to have the ability to understand and see beyond formal decisions and to respond to the thoughts and intentions which lay behind them.