14 March, 2008
In 2007, 3962 cases were heard in the Supreme Court. Although it is for 349 cases less than in the previous year, the report Plenary Session of the Supreme Court which was held on March 14 acknowledged it a good indicator.
It is alarming that the remainder of pending cases has increased. At the end of 2007 it was 1604 cases – for 258 more than in 2006. The chiefs of all the structural units – the Senate Departments and the Court Chambers stressed in their reports that the number of judges is not sufficient, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Andris Gulans also admitted that the Supreme Court judges work on the verge of exhaustion because the big work load remains already for several years, the court cases become more complicated, the proceedings – longer.
One of the solutions of the problem could be to increase the number of judges. There are 47 judges in the Supreme Court what is for six less than what the Saeima (Parliament) has confirmed. However, new judges cannot be invited because the court lacks premises. It has been promised that when the Ministry of Justice moves to the formed premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Supreme Court could acquire additional premises, however, specific terms when it could happen are not known. The long terms of reviews of cases is not the problem of the Supreme Court alone, it is a problem of the state, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stressed. The participants of the cases complain in the European Court of Human Rights about the unreasonably slow terms of court proceedings and the state might have to pay much bigger amounts for it than in the event if the issue regarding the premises of the Supreme Court is settled.
A solution would also be amendments to the procedural laws which would allow to make the work of the Supreme Court more efficient. For example, by stating a more narrow scope of categories of cases to be heard by the cassation instance, as well as a possibility to review more cases in written proceedings, etc. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appealed to the judges to be more demanding towards the legislators and more active in expressing suggestions. “The courts may not depend on the work of attorneys”, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said speaking about the problem that the court proceedings are frequently delayed due to the absence of attorneys.
A. Gulans noted that trust and authority of the court is created not only by due review of the cases, but also the quality of the court judgments. Therefore, last year the Supreme Court both organized and funded training of the judges and the staff, developed international cooperation and gaining of experience. However, both the cases filed with the European Court of Human Rights against Latvia and the scandal of tapping the telephone calls which shook the court system last year showed to what extent the understanding of judges of the human rights and ethical issues differs. Therefore the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court pointed out that the reserve of judges of the Supreme Court is insufficient. Although the judges are granted proper remuneration and social guarantees, “the bench of the candidates is short”, said the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He asked to think about the mechanism of nomination of candidates and to analyze why lawyers have no motivation to become judges.
A Plenary Session is a general meeting of the judges of the Supreme Court Senate and the court Chambers. It is within the competence of the plenary Session to analyze the results of the work of the Supreme Court, the financial and operative work reports, and to discuss further objectives.
Information prepared by Division of Communications of the Supreme Court
Author: Rasma Zvejniece, Manager of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court
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