In the centenary year of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has published the book “The Senate Reads the Constitution”, containing the Senate's findings on the Constitution.

On May 27, at the opening of the book, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Aigars Strupišs reminded that in the centenary year of the Constitution the Supreme Court has joined other constitutional bodies in a joint initiative with the leading-motive “Open the Constitution!”, in order to show the role of the Constitution in our lives as widely and variously as possible. “When contemplating about the contribution of the Supreme Court to the ‘opening’ of the Constitution, we realized that we can share what is our unique valuable – the findings of the Senate on how the Senate applies the Constitution in the reasoning of its rulings, how the Constitution is interpreted and further developed,” said the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He emphasized that the Senate, through its daily work of passing rulings in court cases ensures a continuously functioning rule of law and administration of justice, which is laid in the foundations of the Constitution. In addition, the rulings of the Senate have a significance of cultural and historical value – the disputes resolved in rulings are historical testimony of the time, they also show how the constitutionality has progressed through the everyday application of the law.

The book “The Senate reads the Constitution” contains two summaries of the findings of the Senate. The interwar practice of the Latvian Senate in the application of the Constitution has been summarized by doctors of law Jānis Pleps and Jānis Priekulis. The second summary of contemporary findings in Senate’s rulings has been prepared by the Division of Case Law and Research of the Supreme Court.

At the opening of the book, Jānis Priekulis emphasized that the aim of the researchers was to create a useful summary of Senate’s case law – so that it could be used in practice today. They have been pleasantly surprised that, firstly, they have found much more useful rulings than expected, and secondly, they have concluded that the findings of that time have not really lost their relevance today.

Whereas Anita Zikmane, the Head of the Division of Case Law and Research of the Supreme Court, has concluded that a special method has to be used for application and interpretation of the norms of the Constitution. And it is not only because the Constitution has a special status, but also because this kind of interpretation provides an understandable and comprehensible meaning of the Constitution. She called to think about a special training course on the interpretation and further development of the norms of the Constitution in court rulings, which would be useful not only for students, but also for judges.

Senators Rudīte Vīduša and Ivars Bičkovičs shared their experience and thoughts on how opinions on the Constitution are formed in Senate’s rulings, how senators implement the norms of the Constitution in accordance with the circumstances of specific court cases.

Rudīte Vīduša said that the application of the Constitution is a ‘habitat’ of administrative judges, because disputes between the state and a private person are resolved in administrative proceedings. The Constitution is present here on a daily basis. "It is the most living normative act we have ever had," said the senator, comparing the Constitution with a house – which has doors, windows, walls, floors – but all this is quite invisible, transparent. When interpreting the Constitution, a judge must feel and explain the structure of this house without really seeing it. A step in the wrong direction – and the stability and balance of the house is threatened.

Whereas, Senator Ivars Bičkovičs pointed out that in criminal cases the Constitution is not as often mentioned and interpreted as in administrative cases and civil cases. This is because "the Criminal Procedure Law is a kind of rendering of the Constitution or even a commentary, in which the norms of fundamental rights contained in the Constitution are not only duplicated, but even expanded, providing for a mechanism, guarantees, application, exceptions, etc."

The opening of the book continued with a discussion “The Constitution in the Hands of a Judge”, moderated by Edvīns Danovskis, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Latvia. Former senator Edīte Vernuša and senator of the Department of Administrative Cases Ieva Višķere, associate professor of the Faculty of Law of the University of Latvia Jānis Pleps, as well as people who have studied law but work in other fields – actor Gints Andžāns and writer Māra Svīre took part in the discussion.

 

Information prepared by

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

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 286522

 

In the centenary year of the Constitution, the Supreme Court emphasizes the contribution of the Senate to the strengthening of the fundamental values of the Constitution, namely democracy and the rule of law, and to ensuring the fundamental rights of a person. The project “Senate about the Constitution” researches and analyzes how the Senate reads and interprets the values set forth in the articles and principles of the Constitution and applies them in its rulings. Other activities are taking place, which are organized both by the Supreme Court itself and by Court’s participation in joint events organized by other institutions and the judicial system. More information is available on the Supreme Court website in the section “Senate about the Constitution” and on the inter-institutional website www.Satversme100.lv.