The role of judicial power in promotion and maintenance of the rule of law - this was the theme of the International Judicial Conference which was organized on July 2 – 3 by the US Embassy in cooperation with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia and the Ministry of Justice.

The Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court, the Chairman of the Chamber of Civil Cases Gunars Aigars together with the US Professors Steve Burbank and Geoffrey Hazard and the Head of the Legal Office of the Saeima (Parliament) Gunars Kusins debated in the conference on the relations of the judicial power and the legislative power.

The opinion of USA is that judges do not have to participate in working out and discussing the laws as in seeking compromises what is a part of the legislative process, the judges may not be involved. The judges have to avoid participation in groups of interests, only informal interaction of judges and legislators is allowed.

In his turn, the Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court admitted that there are no grounds for concern in Latvia regarding interference of courts in the competence of the legislative power, except the Satversmes (Constitutional) Court. The problem of Latvia is also not the dependence of the judicial power on the legislative power, but on the executive power. G. Aigars reminded how much effort it took to protect the independence of the Supreme Court not allowing it to become subjected to the Ministry of Justice. However, the notion judicial power has disappeared in general from the Law on judicial power which is being worked out. G. Aigars considers that in Latvia, however, the judges should participate in working out the laws. It is not about political decisions and laws, but about issues which are current for the very court system. The experience of other countries is to delegate such functions to the Judicial Council. But the prospective law on judicial power stipulates only the role of expressing opinions to it. The Head of the Legal Office of the Saeima also admitted that in Latvia, compared to America, a prohibition for judges to participate in working out and discussing the draft laws cannot be implemented due to various circumstances. One of them is the issue of competence. Latvia cannot allow to forget and not to listen to the opinions of professionals as we do not have so many experiences lawyers, G. Kusins admitted.

More than 200 judges and representatives of other professions of the judiciary, law specialists, academic staff and state officials from seven different countries attended the international judicial conference and participated in discussions on independence of judiciary, ethics and transparency, relations with the mass media and legislative power, and other issues.

The conference was also attended by foreign experts – the US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, US Academicians Geoffrey Hazard and Ronald Rotunda, as well as high-level representatives from Moldova, Georgia, Romania, Estonia and Lithuania.

Information prepared by Division of Communications of the Supreme Court

Author: Rasma Zvejniece, Head of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: 7020396, 28652211