“The highest court instance – previously the Senate, now the Supreme Court – always, including the soviet times, has been an establishment proving stability, professionalism and strong backbone. The thread binding together the thick book called the history of the Latvian courts is RESPONSIBILITY. In the work of the Supreme Court this word has always been a self evident notion, the essence and the mission of the work”, said the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ivars Bickovics at the ceremonial meeting of the Supreme Court. The ceremonial meeting on December 19 was dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the highest court instance of Latvia – the Senate.

I. Bickovics mentioned several decisions of the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court at the beginning of the 90-s which prove the civic courage of the Supreme Court judges to show their stance in positive attitude to the State of Latvia and to go ahead of time by adopting nationally important decisions before such were adopted by the legislators. For example, the decision of February 14, 1990, of the Plenary Session on incompatibility of the position of a judge with the participation in political parties and social political organizations, the decision of March 11, 1991, of the Plenary Session on independence of the courts of the Republic of Latvia, the decision of March 15, 1993, on the Court Palace, the decision of October 31, 1994, on acknowledging invalid the regulation of the Ministry of Justice which stipulated the subordination of the Supreme Court to the executive power, as well as other decisions.

For those who work in the Supreme Court now and will work in the future the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wished to salvage the feeling of responsibility inherited from the first senators who held the position in the Senate in the period the first independence of the Republic of Latvia in 1918 – 1940.

The link with the Latvian Senate is maintained by the Supreme Court not only by legal succession, but also by studying and maintaining the history of their predecessors. Gaida Skudre and Balva Gutmane, the daughters of the senator of the Latvian Senate Janis Skudre, and the senator Teodors Bergtals’ daughter Olga Helena Kaziorova and her grandchildren took part in the meeting, too. But the senator Jekabs Grots’ grandson Andris Grots, the priest of the Sigulda evangelic lutheran church, praying for and blessing the staff of the Supreme Court, spoke also about the responsibility of the judicial work – not only to the law, the state and the people, but also to the God.

As well, the Chairman of the Satversmes (Constitutional) Court Gunars Kutris in his speech stressed the responsibility of the Supreme Court. Although in Latvia there does not exist case law and the decisions of the Supreme Court do not have the effect of a law, the interpretation of law given in the rulings of the Supreme Court is used by the courts of all instances, and these rulings fill the empty space – the idea unclearly expressed in the laws. “When a law is unclear, but the court practice is clear, then the law becomes clear, as well,” said the Chairman of the Satversmes Court and wished the judges of the Supreme Court time – to have enough time to weigh every case with care and to have time to write books which the lawyers could quote and use in their work.

The role of the Supreme Court in strengthening the rule of law, development of judicial cognitions and case law both in the period of the first independence of the Republic of Latvia and in the restored Latvia was stressed also by the Minister of Justice Gaidis Berzins. “The Supreme Court is an independent state value, and as such it has to remain in future, as well”, the Minister said.

On the 90th anniversary of the Senate twenty five judges and employees of the Supreme Court received the highest award of the court – the Diploma for long-term and decent work.

“The Provisional Regulation on Courts and Judicial Proceedings in Latvia” adopted by the People’s Council on December 6, 1918, determined the Latvian Senate as the cassation instance in all the cases. On December 7 the first senators Janis Graudins and Kristaps Valters were appointed in the position, on December 19 – five more senators, and this date is regarded the day of establishment of the Latvian Senate. The Senate functioned till November 26, 1940, when the senators received the order of the People’s commissar of justice on their dismissal. The work of the Senate in the restored Republic of Latvia is continued by the Supreme Court where there is the cassation instance – the Senate and the appellate instance – the Court Chambers.


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