25 October, 2007
Within the framework of the training project, already the second group of European judges and prosecutors visited the Supreme Court. On October 24, judges from Spain, Austria, Italy, Poland, and prosecutors from Belgium and Romania met with Gunārs Aigars, Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court and studied the Latvian court system and the role of the Supreme Court in it.
G. Aigars told about the three-tier court system of Latvia where the Supreme Court performs two functions: in the chambers of appellate court and cassation in the Senate. This situation for the guests seemed disputable as in many countries the Supreme Court functions only as the cassation instance. G. Aigars explained that there have been many discussions on it in Latvia, as well, already since 2002, when the new draft law on the court system was worked out which remains under discussions for already five years.
There were questions regarding selection of judges and the career possibilities in Latvia. A judge from a district (city) court or a regional court having at least the second qualification category which means 10 – 15 years being in the position of a judge, may apply for the position of a judge of the Supreme Court, as well as a person who has worked in total for 15 years in the academic staff of law specialty in higher education institutions, in the position of an attorney or a prosecutor. It was different when the Department of Administrative Cases was established as till that time there were no judges in administrative cases therefore the selection was conducted there by competition.
Walter Quirynen, a prosecutor from Belgium, asked about the role of the Supreme Court in developing court practice and interpretation of laws. In Belgium, for example, when new laws are being adopted, the lower courts do not deal with them but await the judicature of the Supreme Court. In Latvia, as G. Aigars admitted, the situation is not quite the same, however, the Senate should promote uniform conception regarding the interpretation of law.
The discussion dealt with the role of attorneys in court proceedings. In Belgium, for example, there are only 16 attorneys who may participate in cassation proceedings. In its turn, in Spain, as the judge Salvador Calero told, one and the same advocate participates in the entire proceedings – from the first instance till the cassation court. G. Aigars reminded that once in Latvia there was a requirement that a person’s interests in the Supreme Court could be represented only by an attorney. However, this requirement was acknowledged by the Constitutional Court as restricting a person’s choice and lobbying attorneys therefore it was abolished. However, as G. Aigars admitted, it is seen from the experience that about 45 – 48% of cassation complaints are rejected by the assignments sitting of the Senate because they have been prepared unprofessionally and do not comply with the requirements of cassation.
The European judges and prosecutors were interested in reviewing cases connected with corruption, the role of prosecutors in courts proceedings, observance of the principle of directness and verbal principle in the court, protection of rights of those seeking asylum, language in the court, security money and other details in the Latvian courts.
The guests visited also the museum of the Supreme Court and learned about the former Court Palace in which at the present time only part of the premises is occupied by the Supreme Court.
The group of judges and prosecutors from the states of the European Union came to Latvia for a two weeks training visit within the frame of the project for further education of judges funded by the European Commission. During the visit, the Latvia Judges training Center organized meetings with representatives of various institutions in the Supreme Court, the Parliament, Ministry of Justice, Judges Training Center, Court Administration, Vidzemes and Administrative Regional Courts, CPCB, Prosecutor’s Office, Probation Service, Council of Advocates, Ombudsman’s office, university of Latvia, as well as a visit to the Iļģuciems women’s prison.
Information prepared by Division of Communications of the Supreme Court
Author: Rasma Zvejniece, Manager of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: 7020396, 28652211