Chief Justice highlights the main task of the Senate – the development of a unified and stable case-law
25 January, 2021
Last year, the Senate successfully managed quantitative indicators, reducing the backlog of cases, so in future work more thought should be given to qualitative indicators, given that the Senate's primary and most important task is to develop a unified and stable case-law as indicated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Aigars Strupiss at the annual Plenary Session on performance of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice also called on the Departments to establish more closer cooperation, because the Senate is a single court and not three separate courts.
Aigars Strupiss has been chairing the Supreme Court since mid-2020, and in the Plenary Session he spoke about the main activities and achievements that have taken place during this time.
The Chief Justice is pleased that there is a good start to one of the goals set by him as he took the office, namely to make the judiciary an equal partner in negotiations with other branches of government. There have been meetings with the State President, the Speaker of the Saeima (parliament), the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance, the Prosecutor General, the management of the State Chancellery, the Director of the Court Administration, and the Chair of the Association of Sworn Advocates. Issues relevant to the Senate were also discussed, especially that of the fiscal autonomy of the Senate, and, as the Chief Justice noted, he had not heard of a negative attitude towards resolving topical issues of the judiciary. It is considered a significant achievement that on the stage of the Conversation Festival LAMPA all the highest state officials have confirmed that the rule of law should be the number one priority in the country.
Within the framework of the judicial dialogue, regular meetings have been initiated with the chairs of all courts, discussing both topical legal issues and organizational issues important for the judiciary. It is planned to continue such meetings. A valuable event was the meeting of senators with the judges of the Constitutional Court, such meetings will also be continued.
Regular meetings of the chairs of Senate’s Departments have been introduced, promoting the exchange of information between the Departments and promoting the implementation of common values in the cassation instance. "In the strategy of the Supreme Court, one of the priority tasks is to promote interdepartmental cooperation, emphasizing that we are one court with common values. The Departments need to communicate more with each other, because there is one justice system in the country,” pointed out the Chief Justice. One of the first positive highlights was the discussion on understanding the secret of the deliberation room.
A valuable achievement of the Supreme Court last year was a study for the Judicial Council on the length of court proceedings. "The results are very valuable, and this opinion, which also includes an excellent overview of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights on time limits for court proceedings, should become a handbook for every judge," said the Chief Justice. The opinion will also be presented to the Crime Prevention Council, as it contains many recommendations not only to the courts, but also to various state institutions, the prosecutor's office, the Ministry of the Interior, and the government.
At the proposal of the Supreme Court, the Judicial Council approved the new procedure for the selection of candidates for the position of senator, which provides comparable opportunities for both judges and lawyers in other fields to apply for the position of senator. The aim is to ensure that the best and most experienced Latvian lawyers become senators.
As another positive achievement of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice indicated the new form of training for judges on the methodology of civil proceedings, launched in cooperation with the Judicial Training Centre, which is highly demanded and highly valued and should be adapted in criminal and administrative proceedings as well.
Vision of the future
The strategy of the Supreme Court for the next five years has been approved, on the basis of which specific plans and specific tasks will be developed. In the Plenary Session, the Chief Justice emphasized the central guideline of the strategy, the mission of the Senate – the implementation of the rule of law, creating a unified and stable practice of law enforcement. "The main task of the Senate is not simply to adjudicate specific cases. Cassation is cassation, it is not an extension of appellate instance. Our primary and most important task is to develop a unified and stable case-law. Therefore, the development of stable case-law is the number one priority in the strategy,” emphasized the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The statistics provided by the Division of Case-law and Research of the Supreme Court also confirmed that this emphasis is correctly placed in the strategy, that only about 40% of the rulings of the Senate are added to the database of case-law findings of the Senate. The question of why the percentage is so low will be examined, because “if the function of cassation is to ensure unified case-law, then practically every ruling of the Senate should result in some contribution to ensuring unified case-law. [..] every ruling of the Senate should become a brick in the construction of institutions of case-law and law.”
Both the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the chairs of Departments emphasized the increase of the support personnel of senators, the release of senators from additional duties outside direct duties, and the approximation of standards for initiating cases under all procedures as important issues for the Senate to play an effective role in the development of case-law. The goal is to reduce the workload of senators. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court agrees with the statement of the chairs of Departments that the workload of senators, namely 90 or more cases per year is inadequate for a judge of the cassation instance. "It is much too much for the development of case-law, the legal system and the institution of law. We will discuss the ways to solve it with the chairs of Departments, developing work plans for the implementation of the strategy.”