According to a survey of those involved in the court proceedings, ensuring the presence of witnesses, late submission of evidence and the need to obtain additional evidence are among the most common reasons for lengthy court proceedings. The survey, conducted by a working group set up by the Supreme Court, involved almost 1,000 judges, lawyers and prosecutors.

By its decision of 10 February, the Judicial Council called on the Supreme Court to establish a working group to assess the factors influencing the duration of civil, criminal and administrative proceedings in Latvian courts. Three senators, representatives of the Bar, the Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as representatives of the Division of Case-law and Research of the Supreme Court have been invited to take part in the working group. At the first meeting of the working group, it was decided, among other issues related to the length of the proceedings, to conduct a survey to hear the views of officials, involved in the various stages of proceedings, on the length of proceedings and possible solutions.

The survey prepared by the working group on the causes of lengthy proceedings was well received; 256 judges, 321 prosecutors and 372 advocates took part in the survey. The participants of the survey expressed their opinion on the factors negatively affecting the speed of criminal, civil and administrative proceedings, the means of delaying proceedings and procedural means to avoid delays in proceedings, as well as they provided suggestions on what changes would be needed to reduce the duration of proceedings, that is, the possible amendments to regulatory framework, increasing of court resources, further training of judges and other solutions.

The working group appreciates the respondents' contribution to the preparation of the responses and thanks each judge, prosecutor and advocate who responded and expressed their views. The answers received will be useful for the future work of the working group.

At the meeting on April 16, the members of the working group agreed that further work would be divided according to the procedural framework, performing an initial analysis and evaluation of the collected proposals and opinions. The issue of postponement of court hearings due to the incapacity of employment of the parties will be examined separately. 

 In accordance with the decision of the Judicial Council, the summary of decisions on the factors influencing the length of proceedings and the conclusions reached in the course of the investigation must be submitted to the Judicial Council by 1 October.

 

Insight into the answers provided in the survey

The most significant factors negatively influencing the length of civil proceedings are as follows (answers by the number of respondents):

Judges

Prosecutors

Advocates

Sending documents abroad (95)

Late submission of evidence (92)

Conduct of the parties during the hearing ('procedural hooliganism') (87)

Defendant's failure to appear (22)

Absence of witnesses (20)

Complexity of the case (18)

 

Planning of court’s (judge’s) working time (173)

Late submission of evidence (154)

Conduct of the parties during the hearing ('procedural hooliganism') (150)

The most significant factors negatively influencing the length of criminal proceedings are as follows (answers by the number of respondents)

Judges

Prosecutors

Advocates

Ensuring the presence of witnesses (77)

Defendant's failure to appear (70)

Quality of pre-trial investigations (52)

Ensuring the presence of witnesses (261)

Defendant's failure to appear (257)

Complexity of the case (150)

Ensuring the presence of witnesses (165)

Quality of pre-trial investigations (155)

Complexity of the case (99)

The most significant factors negatively influencing the length of administrative proceedings are as follows (answers by the number of respondents)

Judges

Prosecutors

Advocates

Additional evidence required (70)

Absence of witnesses (58)

Complexity of the case (47)

Absence of witnesses (97)

Complexity of the case (93)

Additional evidence required (73)

 

Additional evidence required (136)

Complexity of the case (118)

Low quality procedural documents (78)

 

 

Information prepared by

Anita Zikmane

Head of the Division of Case-law and Research of the Supreme Court