Survey of judges shows that the Judicial Council's direction towards strengthening independence is right
19 May, 2021
The survey of Latvian judges on independence shows a relatively high self-assessment of the independence of the judiciary. Judges rate the independence of the Latvian judicial system with 6.95 points, but their independence as a judge with a higher score of 8.24 points in a 10-point system.
Presenting the study at the Judicial Council and at the press conference, its author Aivita Putnina, a leading researcher in the field of Anthropology at the University of Latvia, pointed out that although the situation is generally assessed as good, judges do not feel safe. Safety is threatened by both internal organizational factors - hierarchical relations between court instances and judges themselves, and external factors.
The influence of the media and political influence are indicated as the strongest external influence factors in the survey of judges, which has most often manifested themselves as pressure from the Ministry of Justice and the Minister. Judges are also concerned about the pressure from the parties, the quality of the work of other law enforcement authorities, which also affects the work of judges.
Whereas, one of the strongest internal factors is the lack of mutual support among judges themselves. On the one hand, judges see shortcomings in their representation and disregard for their views in shaping the political and legal framework of the judiciary. On the other hand, support in the judges' own environment is insufficient. Judges appreciate the role of judicial self-government bodies, but lower-level judges in particular would like to expand cooperation with the support of higher-level judges.
- Summary of the results of the judges' survey
- Presentation of A. Putnina at the press conference
- Study report
- Video recording of the press conference
Chairman of the Judicial Council states that results of the survey will be a work tool for the Judicial Council.
The Chairman of the Judicial Council and the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court Aigars Strupiss evaluates the study on the independence of judges as very rich material for the future work of the Judicial Council. Commenting on the fact that judges feel the greatest external threat from the Ministry of Justice, Aigars Strupiss emphasizes – this shows that the direction of the Judicial Council towards the separation of the judiciary from the executive is correct. The strategy of the Judicial Council is aimed at making the judiciary an equal branch of state power.
The Chairman of the Judicial Council also emphasizes the fact that judges are not concerned about their individual independence, but rather the dependence of the judiciary from the executive. "Judges do not feel pressure regarding specific cases, but see systemic dependence on the Ministry – through budget, training, court administration."
On the other hand, the fact that one third of judges, when delivering a judgment, intends for it not to be annulled by a higher instance court, is assessed positively by the Chairman of the Judicial Council, as that is why there is a hierarchy and three levels of courts in the judiciary. However, the judge is not absolutely bound by the judgment of a higher instance – it is possible to deviate from the case law on the grounds. A very important aspect demonstrated by the survey was that virtually all judges recognize the need for training. It is a tool that actually serves to improve the quality of judges' work. This is one of the top priorities of the Judicial Council.
The Chairman of the Judicial Council also draws attention to the fact that this survey overturns the interpretation of the results of the survey of European judges spread in the public space, that 70% of Latvian judges doubt the honesty and possible corruption of their colleagues. A survey of judges shows that only 2–5% of judges have such doubts more or less often, and that these doubts are caused, at least in part, by information in the media rather than personal experience.
The Chairman of the Judicial Council is most pleased with the active participation of judges in the survey; 61% of judges took part in it – which is twice as much as in the European survey. The attitude of the new colleagues is especially encouraging – the judges aged 30-40 have all participated 100%. "This means that the younger generation cares about the prestige and future of the judiciary. They are also more open to learning and communication with the media. They will be the ones who will shape the future of the courts,” emphasizes Aigars Strupiss, Chairman of the Judicial Council.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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