Saturday, May 8, 2004 Latvia’s judiciary will gather for its annual conference at the World Trade Center "Riga". Minister of Justice Vineta Muižniece and Director of Court Administration Ilona Beierbaha will be in attendance as well.

In his address to the participants, which comes at the historic time when Latvia has just become a full member of the EU, Chief Justice Andris Guļāns will evaluate the progress that has been achieved during the years since Latvia regained its independence. He will also invite the participants to think about future tasks that would lead to the development of such a court system in Latvia that would be an equal to the court systems of other European countries.

When assessing the development of legislation in Latvia, its tempo and quality is a prime concern. For example, laws of procedure have not been passed in a uniform manner as the Code of Civil Procedure became effective as early as 1999, while the Code of Administrative Procedure became effective only this year but the Code of Criminal Procedure has not been passed yet. In addition, the legislation is not stable; new amendments and supplements are often initiated as soon as a piece of legislation is passed.

The second area of concern is the draft law “On Judicial System” that has been changed many times with the numerous changes in the political leadership of the Ministry of Justice over the last several years. It is important to ascertain the future of this law as well as the reasons for its necessity, if any, the consequences of implementation and whether Latvia is ready for such a law at this time.

The third area of concern is the penal system. An analysis of Latvian court opinions leads to a conclusion that the application of penalties is not uniform throughout the country. The consistency and predictability is lacking in many instances. There are no uniform criteria for determining the applicable penalties and the reasoning for probation is not always convincing.

At the judicial conference, Chief Justice Andris Guļāns will address these three areas of concern. He encourages the conference participants to take an active part in discussing the current state of the judicial system and in setting tasks and goals for the future.