4 July, 2022
The strength of a strong and democratic state and society is found in the dialogue. The country needs a respectful and independent mutual dialogue between all branches of state power – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The public is an equally important player, and an open dialogue with the public may serve as one of the means to guarantee the independence of the judiciary.
These are some of the conclusions that crystallized in the duel between judges and political scientists at the LAMPA conversation festival organized by the Judicial Council in Themis tent. The discussion "Who needs judicial independence?" was attended by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Chair of the Judicial Council Aigars Strupišs, judge of the European Court of Justice Ineta Ziemele, political scientist Filips Rajevskis and professor of the Department of Political Science of the University of Latvia Žaneta Ozoliņa. The discussion was moderated by political scientist, lecturer at Riga Stradins University Lelde Metla-Rozentāle.
All the participants of the discussion agreed that in a democratic, legal state there is no questionable need for the independence of the judiciary. The point of view about how and to what extent it is ensured in Latvia varied the most.
Representatives of the judiciary expressed the opinion that some political scientists and the public see the concept of the state very narrowly, namely only as the power of the legislature and the executive and the political technologies associated with these branches of power. Having such a limited vision, the court disappears from view as a state authority, whose status is different and which therefore cannot engage in a political struggle for power, because the court does not and cannot have political capital. At the same time, the judiciary has been given a special task – to administer justice and to ensure that political arbitrariness does not occur in the country. Having such a narrow vision, the lowering of the status of the courts in the power-sharing mechanism opens up risks for arbitrary use of power and for corruption.
Whereas, political scientists pointed out the importance of society in maintaining the balance of power, because in fact power does not belong to the executive power, nor to the court, but to the people. Therefore, it is important for the public to understand and trust the work of the court, and for this an open dialogue with the public is essential.
There remained disagreements on the issue of whether or not the situation with the non-acceptance of a decision on the confirmation of the former President of the Constitutional Court as a judge of the Supreme Court, based on the political attitude towards her rulings as a judge, can be considered a constitutional crisis. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Aigars Strupišs expressed the opinion that the situation where one power influences another power by unconstitutional means should be considered as constitutional crisis. Political scientist Filips Rajevskis, on the other hand, believed that if it were a crisis, it should be solved through legislation.
The participants of the discussion agreed that the independence of the judiciary should be strengthened, including the financial independence from the executive power, because finances is an effective means of influence.
In particular, the role of an independent judiciary has increased due to current geopolitical situation, as pointed out by political scientist Žaneta Ozoliņa. The judge of the Court of the European Union Ineta Ziemele emphasized that Latvian judges are also European judges, and Latvia has to live up to European expectations, demonstrating that it is a legal state with a democratic division of state power. This is also crucial for the functioning of the rule of law in Europe, because Latvia is a strong player in Europe. The CJEU judge emphasized that the development of the judicial system of Latvia is going in the right direction, judges are beginning to request for more and more independence, the judiciary is being strengthened, and the legal culture of the society is also developing, the society understands and accepts the judiciary.
- The videorecord of the discussion "Who needs judicial independence?" is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY8LCgg2jk4 (in Latvian)
This year, at the LAMPA conversation festival on July 1 and 2, the Judicial Council invited interested persons to a joint Themis tent ensuring a varied program not only in terms of the covered topics, but also in terms of event formats – there were both a duel of opinions and discussions, book presentation, children's morning improvisation theatre, quiz and joint movie-watching.
All judicial authorities were involved in the course of eight events, and the Supreme Court, Riga Regional Court, Association of Administrative Judges of Latvia, Association of Latvian Judges, Prosecutor's Office, Council of Sworn Advocates, Council of Sworn Bailiffs, Council of Sworn Notaries and "Jurista Vārds" magazine took on the responsibilities of organizers.
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