When Willem Korthals Altes, a judge from the Netherlands, visited the Supreme Court on December 10, an interesting discussion opened with the judge of the Chamber of Criminal Cases Anita Polakova. He has worked in the appellate instance court, too, but returned to the Amsterdam District Court as he found the work in the first instance court more interesting.

W. Altes was interested in the Latvian court system where the regional court functions both as the court of the first level and the appellate instance, but the Supreme Court – both as the appellate instance and the cassation instance. In the Netherlands, all the cases in the first instance are reviewed by the court of the first level. A different system existed with the taxation courts, but they underwent a court reform when many judges had to transfer to the courts of a lower level, and this caused an emotional problem. Therefore he understands why the new draft Law on Judiciary proceeds so hard.

The judges exchanged information regarding the similarities and differences in the criminal proceedings of both countries, the understanding of legalization of proceeds from crime. The colleague from the Netherlands was particularly interested in the institution of lay judges which does not exist in his country, however, discussions about it take place once in a while. He was interested whether there are cases with the Chamber of Criminal Cases in which, when adopting a judgment in the first instance, the opinions of the judge and the lay judges varied.

Speaking about the society’s attitude towards the courts both judges admitted that it is developed to a great extent by assessing the quality of the judicial work. The parties in the case and the society judge such quality by the judge’s manner of conducting the court proceedings, whether it is done so that the parties of the case feel that they are listened to and the judge delves in the case. Another criterion for the assessment of the judge’s work is the ability of the judge to make his/her judgment understandable. The judge Polakova thinks that it is not only the work for the court communication specialists, it is – how understandable a judgment can be written by the judge. W. Altes who is also a lecturer for the new judges teaches them that a judgment should be written as if for the losing party – a good judgment will be the one which although not favorable for a party will be understandable.

W. Altes visited Latvia within the framework of the exchange program of the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN). The Network covers all the EU state institutions which are responsible for the training of judges. The Latvian Judicial Training Center, as well, is a EJTN member and participates in the exchange programs for judges.


Information prepared by

Head of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court Rasma Zvejniece

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: 7020396, 28652211