Chair of the Department of Administrative Cases highlights the need for strategic planning of the number of judges
18 February, 2020
In 2019, the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate achieved outstanding results; 25% more cases than in the previous year were examined and the backlog of cases was reduced by 11%. Chair of the Department Veronika Krumina points out that such positive dynamics of the examined cases is the result of increase in the number of senators and optimization of the form of decisions of assignment sittings.
The number of senators in the Department of Administrative Cases was increased by the temporary transfer of one senator of the Department of Civil Cases to the Department of Administrative Cases, and a judge of the Regional Administrative Court temporarily replaced the absent senator. Veronika Krumina points out that the involvement of the senator of the Department of Civil Cases in the review of administrative cases has also demonstrated that often the issues to be solved in civil and administrative law are overlapping and it is important to evaluate them by specialists of both fields. In the future, it would be necessary to look for a way to ensure that the Senate’ departments discuss legal issues jointly.
Speaking about the still relatively high backlog of cases as well as lengthy proceedings in administrative cases in the cassation instance, Veronika Krumina mentioned one of the reasons for this situation, namely, the lack of strategic planning of the number of judges. “The number of judges is an essential factor affecting the efficiency of courts. Increase in the number of judges at one instance improves the efficiency of proceedings at the particular instance, but at the same time correlates with the workload of a higher instance court,” Veronika Krumina said. Therefore, before increasing the number of judges in a lower court, it is necessary to analyze how this would affect the work of a higher court. In the absence of such an analysis, the problems of length of proceedings are not resolved, but are transferred from one court to another. As a result, the system as a whole continues to work inefficiently and long time periods are necessary for examination of cases.
Veronika Krumina believes that such a system should be created in Latvia in order to increase the number of judges where necessary in a flexible manner. When filling the vacancies of judges, it must be analyzed whether the filling of the vacancy is objectively necessary. According to the chair of the department, “If a comparison is made between the appellate court and the cassation court regarding the administrative cases, there is now a reversed situation where the appellate court both receives and examines significantly lesser cases per judge than the cassation court.” In 2019, a judge of the Administrative Regional Court received an average of 54 cases and handled 51 cases, while a senator of the Department received 84 cases and examined 86 cases. Today, 651 cases per 21 judges are pending in the District Administrative Court, while the Department has 853 cases per 10 senators. The workload of judges in the Regional Administrative Court is optimal, but the number of senators in the cassation court, whose decisions are final and which deal with important issues of interpretation of legal norms, is insufficient.
This year it is planned to increase the number of senators of the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate adding one vacant position. However, the chair of the Department is of the opinion that, given the number of cases received and the complexity of the issues to be resolved, this will not be sufficient to significantly reduce the length of administrative proceedings in cassation court. The chair of the Department encourages to consider the planning of an additional budget request for two more temporary vacant positions of senators.
In 2019, the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate received 844 cases, reviewed 951 cases; the ratio of adjudicated cases is 113%. The number of pending cases at the end of the year was 851, 50% of which were received in 2019. The average length of proceedings was 397 days.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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