22 February, 2013
The Supreme Court has worked in overload last year – Ivars Bickovics, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Chairs of departments of the Senate and the Chambers admitted at the annual Plenary Session, which took place on the 22nd of February. Eriks Kalnmeiers, the Prosecutor General, when addressing judges, gave an assessment that the Supreme Court had worked at maximum, even at the end of its tether, previous year.
In 2012, the Supreme Court received 5282 cases and examined 5194 cases; however, taking into account accumulation of cases increasing annually, 3152 were pending in the Supreme Court by the end of the year. In five years, accumulation of cases has doubled in the Supreme Court, although the number of cases examined by the court has increased for 24 per cent, increasing the number of judges insignificantly.
The most number of cases are civil cases – those make 49 percent of cases received in the Senate and 91 per cent of cases received in court chambers. Criminal cases make 24 per cent of all cases received in the Senate and 27 per cent are administrative cases. The greatest number of cases pending also is established in the Department of Civil Cases of the Senate and in the Chamber of Civil Cases.
In average, one judge of the Supreme Court has reviewed 103 cases a year, and in the Senate this number is even bigger reaching 115 cases, at average. As both the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and chairpersons of structural units admitted – it is unacceptably great load for judges of the highest instance, whose rulings develop case-law; it is impossible to work more intensively, preserving quality of work. Except for review of cases, judges of the Supreme Court have also executed range of other duties: they read lectures in high schools, in Judicial Training Centre, in judicial and other conferences, worked in institutions of judicial self-government, prepared references on work of judges of lower instances, participated in task groups of the Ministry of Justice and in sessions of the committees of the Saeima, when drafting legal standards, prepared comments on laws, etc.
Of course, increase of number of judges would become a solution to reduce accumulation of cases pending and work load of judges, but, as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has pointed out – funds are not allocated in the budget for this purpose, moreover, the situation related to changes in structure of the Supreme Court, when due to transfer to court system of so called clear court instances, the Chamber of Criminal Cases of the Supreme Court will be eliminated as from 2015 and the Chamber of Civil Cases – as from 2019, is unclear as well. To invite new judges to the Supreme Court would be even irresponsible step in a way, if reduction of number of judges is planned in couple of years. It is also impossible at present to reduce number of judges in the Chamber of Civil Cases, extending the Department of Civil Cases of the Senate, as number of cases received in the court chamber doesn’t decrease and it is impossible to foresee that, if jurisdiction of cases will not be changed procedurally, by giving review of all cases to district (city) courts as the first instance and to regional courts as to courts of appeal.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has indicated – although the Supreme Court doesn’t have rights to legislative initiative, in this situation, it would be unwise to be only observers and to “go with the tide”. So it has been planned to develop working team in the Supreme Court, which would both define vision of the court to regulation of court chambers, when reforming the structure of the Supreme Court, and prepare and express other proposals to reduce work load of the court.
You may read more about the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court here:
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
E-mail: email@example.com, telephone: 67020396, 28652211