The Plenary Session of the Supreme Court of 6 March decided not to support extension of authority of the Disciplinary Court, which envisages that the Disciplinary Court would be appellate instance not only in disciplinary cases of judges, but also those of prosecutors, sworn advocates, notaries and bailiffs, and to review decisions on judges’ careers adopted by the Council for the Judiciary.

The Ministry of Justice prepared draft law, which envisages establishment of unite appellate instance to challenge disciplinary cases of officials related to court system.  The Council for the Judiciary conceptually supported the draft law, but the Plenary Session points out that common opinion of judges of the Supreme Court is not heard yet.

Marite Zagere, the Chair of the Disciplinary Court, reminded that the goal of the establishing of the Disciplinary Court was to eliminate violation of judges’ rights, as decisions of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee were irreversible; moreover, it is possible to appeal against decisions regarding other officials related to court system is possible under procedure stipulated in the Administrative Procedure Law..

The Disciplinary Court was established in the Supreme Court in 2010, electing, in accordance with the law, by two judges from each cassation department therein. Judges discharge their duties in the Disciplinary Court additionally to their direct judicial duties. At present, number of cases received in the Disciplinary Court increases – in first years, there were only 1-2 cases, but, in 2015, five cases have been reviewed already. Certainly, having expanded authority of the Disciplinary Court, number of decisions appealed will increase, moreover, it is envisaged that the decision might be appealed not only by the person, to whom disciplinary punishment is imposed, but also by the person, who initiated the case.    

Veronika Krumina, the Chair of the Department of Administrative Cases, pointed out that proposal on expanding of authority of the Disciplinary Court must be assessed critically from several aspects, namely, systemic, procedural, functional aspect, and also from the aspect of inexpedient use of budget means. Disciplinary cases of persons related to court system are classical administrative cases, and administrative courts ensure unified standards and case-law in review of disciplinary cases. The Chair of the department points out that each case transferred by legislator to the Supreme Court for review at appellate instance, as it would be in this case, prolongs length of other cases being processed at cassation instance. From the procedural aspect, it must be observed that, by transferring disciplinary cases of persons related to court system to authority of the Disciplinary Court, amount of procedural rights of advocates, notaries and bailiffs called to disciplinary responsibility, namely, forbidden opportunity to appeal against decision, reduced terms of appeal, forbidden temporary protection, will be decreased significantly. Moreover, principle of objective investigation will not be ensured in this procedure. 

From the functional aspect, it must, in turn, be observed that the Disciplinary Court has limited capacity, and, when expanding its authority, additional financial and human resources are necessary. Ivars Bickovics, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, also pointed out – it could mean establishment of one more department – the Department of Disciplinary Cases – in the Supreme Court.

The Plenary Session of the Supreme Court urges the Council for the Judiciary and the executive power to re-assess necessity of expansion of authority of the Disciplinary Court. The Department of Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court is ready to provide proposals to make existing system more effective.  

Eriks Kalnmeiers, the Prosecutor General, in turn, when addressing the Plenary Session, appreciated the fact that judges’ attitude towards disciplinary violations committed by their colleagues, has changed significantly – the court system reacts to violations and penalties are adequately severe.  

See all information about the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court here

 

Information prepared by

Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court

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