12 September, 2022
Moderators and speakers of the Constitution Centenary Conference organized by the Supreme Court: Sigita Rudėnaitė, Zdeněk Kühn, Sanita Osipova, Gerhard Kuras, Julia Laffranque, Inese Lībiņa-Egnere, Jānis Pleps
The judiciary's view of the application of the Constitution. Interesting experience of older countries, a detailed insight into the experience of the Baltic region. Development trends and new ideas. Such is the summary of the international conference "The role of the Supreme Court in strengthening the values of the Constitution" held on Friday.
The conference was held by the Supreme Court within the framework of the centenary of the Latvian Constitution, inviting colleagues from Estonia, Lithuania, Austria, the Czech Republic and the USA to participate and share their experiences.
A valid more than 100 years old constitution is a relative rarity nowadays. Such constitutions exist only in some European countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Luxembourg, Austria and Latvia. When opening the conference, Chief Justice Aigars Strupišs, emphasized the purpose of this exchange of ideas: to share the experience of what it is like to live today with an "old" constitution, which was created for a society of a completely different era; what are problems faced by colleagues of the Supreme Courts in other countries in the evolution of constitutional values; the modern interpretation of 100-year-old norms; how the perception of society's values has changed during this time; how the interaction between the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court takes place within the mechanism of constitutional supervision and other aspects.
When speaking about 100-year-old values, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stated, "I have not heard that anyone has encountered the problem that any of the values of a democratic and legal state defined in the Constitution are not suitable for today. Classical values – democracy, human dignity, freedom, right to life, property, etc. – have not changed in human society. The fact that many areas of human activity, such as cybernetics, informatics, space flights, social networks, etc., were created long after the Constitution, has not changed the principles and values underlying a civilized society. New technical challenges do not cancel human rights to dignity, freedom, property and a fair trial."
Whereas, when summarizing the conference, Jānis Pleps, Associate Professor of the University of Latvia, emphasized the role of courts and judges in strengthening the values of the constitution, stating that "The Constitution is just a lifeless text if there is no one to speak on its behalf. The Constitution needs a judge who applies the Constitution, sees a problem when constitutional enforcement is needed, and does not stop before has resolved a problem fairly. It depends on the judge whether the Constitution will work and be effective, or whether it will remain on the bookshelf as a beautiful book." The power of the Constitution is created by the judges who bring it to life and implement the Constitution in each country.
The conference was addressed both in person and via video-records by President Egils Levits, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Inese Lībiņa-Egnere, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, President of the Constitutional Court Aldis Laviņš, Former US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
The first part of the conference focused on the challenges of applying constitutional provisions in these days. The keynote speech on the purpose of separation of powers and the role of the court in achieving it was given by Sanita Osipova, Professor at the Law Faculty of the Latvian University. Gerhard Kuras, Judge of the Supreme Court of Austria, gave a presentation on the challenges of applying the Austrian Constitution in the context of European Union law. Zdeněk Kühn, Judge of the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic, spoke about the challenges of the direct application of the Constitution.
The topic of the second part of the conference highlighted the Constitution as a source in the rulings of the Supreme Courts. The presentation on the limits of the constitutionality review in Latvian Senate judgments was given by Chief Justice Aigars Strupišs. Julia Laffranque, Judge of the Supreme Court of Estonia, shared the hybrid experience of the Supreme Court of Estonia, namely how the court should be between cassation and the Constitution. Whereas, Sigita Rudėnaitė, Acting President of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, analyzed the Constitution as a source in the rulings of the Supreme Court of Lithuania.
The materials of the conference will be available in the next issue of the Supreme Court Bulletin.
- Welcome address by Chief Justice Aigars Strupišs (in Latvian)
- Welcome address by State President Egils Levits (in Latvian)
- Welcome address by Deputy-Speaker of the Parliament Inese Lībiņa-Egnere (in Latvian)
- Welcome address by President of the Constitutional Court Aldis Laviņš (in Latvian)
- Closing remarks by Associate Professor of Latvian University Jānis Pleps (in Latvian)
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 28652211