Last year, 2009, was tense and hard for the Supreme Court both due to cases received and reviewed, and also due to decrease of the budget for 25% that influenced operation and development of the Supreme Court – such conclusion was made at the plenum of the Supreme Court on March 5.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ivars Bickovics and Chairs of departments of the Senate and Chambers, and also the Head of the Administration in their reports and during press conference held after the plenum, considered problems to be topical and proposed also suggestions for solution. But the Supreme Court has no legislative initiative, in order to implement recommendations understanding and activity of legislator is necessary.

In the beginning of 2009 the number of cases pending from previous year was 2108 cases, in year 2009 4579 cases had been received. Although record number of cases – 4219 cases had been reviewed, it makes 63% of all cases being in litigation, and number of cases pending by the end of the year was 2468 cases. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court I. Bickovics indicated that execution of court function – qualitative litigation in sensible terms – is much inconvenienced. At present, having received the case in procedure of appeal, review of it is possible, the soonest, in October or November of 2011, but in criminal case first court hearing might take place, the soonest, in April or May of 2011. Judges of the Supreme Court can’t work more intensively than now, as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stressed, “physical abilities of a human being are limited”. In year 2009 each judge of the Supreme Court had reviewed in average 100 cases, in the Senate this index is even higher – each senator had in average 120 cases and it approves a serious and great load.

As possible solution in situation, when load is too big, first, increase of number of judges was mentioned. Although number of judges of the Supreme Court, approved by Saeima, is 53, finances were given to pay to 46 judges only. In 2009 four judges ended their work in the Supreme Court, this year – two more judges, but no judge started work in the Supreme Court.

Understanding that economic situation in the country and budget given to the Supreme court doesn’t allow to fulfil all vacancies of judges, range of other suggestions were made in order to make work of courts, inter alia the Supreme Court, more effective.

The Department of Civil Cases of the Senate

The Chair of the Department of Civil Cases of the Senate Valerijans Jonikans indicated that number of cases reviewed in the department – 1605 – is more than in previous years, and senators could not review more cases. Senators of the department have seriously worked also upon creation of the case-law, gave conclusions to the Constitutional Court and participated in work groups of working out draft laws.

Except for organisation of work of department and review of cases, the significant part of work of the Chair of the department is check of complaints and preparation of protests: last year more than 900 complaints were checked and 196 protests were submitted. The volume of this work has increased also due to increase of number of complaints and also because Division of Complaints of the Supreme Court was abolished last year. V. Jonikans indicated that at present protest on supervision may be submitted by three officials – the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Chair of the Department of Civil Cases of the Senate and General Prosecutor. Maybe it would be useful to review civil protest and leave this function for General Prosecutor only, thus making work of the Chief Justice and the Chair of the department of the Senate of the Supreme Court easier.

V. Jonikans also suggested evaluating, if it is necessary to argue decisions of assignments sitting of the department of the Senate while rejecting to initiate cassation litigation, as at present it has been established by civil proceedings.

The Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate

The Chair of the Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate Pavels Gruzins turned the attention to the fact that the Department of Criminal Cases rejects review of cassation claims submitted in 62% of cases, as they are not grounded by requirements established in procedural law. But preparation of rejections also takes time and work of senators.

In its turn, written proceedings used basically in review of cases in the Department of Criminal Cases, have been evaluated by P. Gruzins as example of rational use and economy of state resources, and he advised to think about broaden implement of this form in civil and administrative proceedings.

In the Department of Criminal Cases the volume of work also increased because of liquidation of the Division of Complaints. Last year approximately 400 applications had been reviewed in the Department of Criminal Cases, and answers had been given to them.

In order to help to judges and prosecutors of lower instances to get acquainted and use conclusions of the case-law of the Senate, decisions of general meetings of the department have been sent to all courts and prosecutor’s offices.

The Chair of the department expressed anxiety about instability of legislation. “Frequent amendments in laws show that there is no stability in legislation, and in its turn, it may cause legal nihilism in the society”, said the Chair of the department P. Gruzins. He indicated that in such situation it is hard for both employees of law enforcement institutions and courts to work.

P. Gruzins admitted that there are problems with quality of accusations brought by prosecutor’s offices – sometimes accusation is unclear, dim, cases with insufficient evidences have been sent to the court. It may be also seen that problems exist in beginning stage of investigation of economic and financial crimes in Economic and Financial Police.

The General Prosecutor Janis Maizitis also participated in the plenum. He agreed that Criminal Procedural Law is one of reasons of this problem, as it gave positive result, but, on the other hand, it formed a tendency that approximately 80% of cases in the court have been reviewed without check of evidences, so prosecutors lose their qualification. General Prosecutor admitted that it is necessary to improve quality of work of prosecutors and he called judges to report to Prosecutor’s Office about problems.

In general, P. Gruzins approved work of prosecutor’s office and cooperation with the Department of Criminal Cases. Taking into account that the Chief Justice has to choose a new candidate for the post of General Prosecutor soon, P. Gruzins evaluated work of J. Maizitis. “Only the one, who doesn’t work, doesn’t make mistakes. But I haven’t seen such mistakes, so that it might be said that J. Maizitis doesn’t conform to the post of General Prosecutor”. P. Gruzins expressed hope that correctness, skills and competence of J. Maizitis will be used in judicial system, and he will also participate in plenums of the Supreme Court in the future.

The Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate

Professional review of cases and improvement of quality of decisions were the most important priorities of the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate last year. “While preparing short and good decision high qualification of judges is necessary”, said executor of duties of the Chair of the department Andris Gulans.

Acceleration of flow of cases was the second priority in the work of the department. In the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate there have been received more cases than in previous year, and there have been reviewed for 7% more cases, thus balance is still positive, not taking into account a great number of cases pending.

As third priority of work of the Department of Administrative Cases last year A. Gulans mentioned educating of society. The Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate organised public conference “Five years of administrative proceedings and legislation in Latvia”, and senators also conducted lessons of law for pupils. A. Gulans indicated that it is mutually valuable process, because only this way judges can understand, how much society is informed about work of the court. Senators, inter alia A. Gulans himself, conducted lessons for 722 pupils from 30 Latvian schools, and it was interesting event, in which all judges of the Supreme Court should participate.

Number of cases pending in the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate has decreased, but A. Gulans indicates a tendency that doesn’t show an effective use of government means and human resources. “Very often court proceedings take place because of proceedings. If it can be seen that the Senate made similar decision in several cases and if the case-law has been established enough, sometimes it seems strange, why decisions have been appealed and appealed still”, said A. Gulans in the press-conference. He admitted than in some conversations with representatives of institutions it becomes clear that they understand there is no prospective, but they execute directions of the head of the institution – to appeal the decision. The senator assumed that similar situation may be seen also in the Department of Civil Cases of the Senate.

A. Gulans considered work of the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate to be collegial work of creative body and especially mentioned high qualification, self-discipline and self-motivation of assistants of senators.

The Chamber of Civil Cases

The Chair of the Chamber of Civil Cases Gunars Aigars admitted that so that chamber would work in normal circumstances and number of cases pending would decrease, five compositions of the court, it is, 15 judges are necessary in the Chamber of Civil Cases. Last year 11 judges worked in the court, and 1275 cases had been reviewed, 1186 cases were pending by the end of the year. As temporary solution of the problem G. Aigars indicates amendments made in the law “On Judicial Power” that give an opportunity to instruct the judge of regional court to execute a vacancy of the judge of the chamber temporarily.

The Chair of the chamber indicated that it is easy to think that “to review more cases faster a day, month and year” would promote review of civil case. In each case there are two parties, and each of them has rights to ask to check evidences and be listened to.

G. Aigars also marked that problem exists at the level of legal help – the more qualitative it is, the faster a problem is found that court has to solve. At present, 46% of claims submitted to the Chamber of Civil Cases in proceedings of appeal, are groundless.

The Chamber of Criminal Cases

The Chamber of Criminal Cases last year also worked with three incomplete compositions of the court. The Chair of the Chamber Ervins Kuskis pointed that prognoses haven’t fulfilled that at the same time with amendments of Criminal Procedural Law, according to amendments about competence of cases, number of cases in the Chamber of Criminal Cases would decrease significantly.

Still the most problem is number of cases postponed. Every second court hearing has been postponed, as participants of the case don’t arrive to court hearing. “Medical statements have been submitted, but let’s be real – approximately 80% of statements are about fictional diseases”, stressed the Chair of the Chamber of Criminal Cases during press-conference.

E. Kuskis notes that it would be necessary to control actions of participants of the case more strictly, so that they would be interested, within limits, in faster litigation. But about possible increase of number of judges the Chair of the Chamber is careful. In his opinion, future of chambers is so unclear that it would be careless step to employ new judges. Number of cases in the chamber during several next years should decrease approximately for one half, so it would be more rational for the period of decrease of number of cases pending to use opportunity, so that judges of regional court replaced vacancies for a time.

The Division of the Case-Law

The aim of the work of the Division of the Case-Law in year 2009 was improvement of availability of the case-law of the Senate. “It is necessary for the case-law to be available, so that it would be valuable”, stressed the Head of the division Zigrida Mita.

Since May 2009, the data base of the case-law of the Senate is available for readers in a site www.tiesas.lv. In a six months this data base was used for 221 391 times. The most frequently searched chapter in a home page of the Supreme Court are decisions prepared by the Division of the Case-Law. Assistance of the Division of the Case-Law was used not only by judges of all instances, but also by advocates, doctoral students, several government and public institutions, the Supreme Court of Lithuania and other interested persons. Z. Mita marks that it would be very necessary to make research about creation and use of the case-law of the Senate during 15 years, since the day of establishment of the Senate.

There is a hope that the Supreme Court still will find in its decreased budget means to make one such research. Last year, despite the fact that social partners of the Parliament considered creation of uniform case-law to be unnecessary function of the Supreme Court and means were not given for this purpose, the Division of the Case-Law made two researches of the case-law in fields of civil law and criminal law.

Speaking about availability of the case-law, Z. Mita mentioned one more problem, it is, anonymising of decisions according to Rulings of the Cabinet of February 10, 2009. Taking out from decisions all personal data, as it is has been established by these rulings, decisions become unclear and uncertain. The Ministry of Justice in a procedure of preparation of these rulings didn’t take into account objections and suggestions of the Supreme Court.

Suggestion to make a research of effectiveness of work of the Supreme Court

Making summary about the work of the Supreme Court in year 2009, the Chief Justice Ivars Bickovics thanked all judges and employees. He admitted that, evaluating work for all year, he concluded with satisfaction, how much good works court made, despite decrease of budget, and how much extra work was made by judges, despite overload in review of cases.

Of course, everything is not perfect, and there are no grounds to hope that economic situation in the country will improve suddenly or number of court cases will decrease significantly. So I. Bickovics made a suggestion to make research about effectiveness of work of the Supreme Court, in order to try to find additional internal reserves for making the work of the court more effective in existing situation. “It is not meant that someone works too little. Vice versa – it is necessary to try to arrange work processes, so that load of judges and employees would decrease”, explained the Chief Justice. For example, to use work of assistants to judges more rationally, to think, how to decrease too big number of incoming documents, inter alia, cases of low quality, to analyse and give resolution about suggestion to give certain categories of non-disputable cases to notaries for review, to prepare suggestions about simplification of assignments sittings of the Senate, etc.

I. Bickovics also summoned judges to follow legislation processes more actively, to make suggestions and opinion about amendments in laws that directly touch work of judges, for example, about creation of Judicial Disciplinary Court, re-attestation of judges, Board of Justice and other topical questions.

Minister of Justice Mareks Seglins, addressing judges of the Supreme Court, asked their opinion about possible decrease of judicial wages, about limit of 40 years age for judges, about Board of Justice, and also about transferring separate categories of cases from competence of the court to notaries. In the end of the plenum discussion arouse about these questions.


Information prepared by

Head of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court Rasma Zvejniece

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: 67020396, 28652211