The Saeima (Parliament) has adopted and the President of the State has announced amendments to the Judicial Disciplinary Liability Law, which stipulate changes regarding the initiation of disciplinary proceedings and the availability of case materials, the procedure for the election of the Chair of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee, ensuring the administrative work of the Committee and other changes. The amendments to the law will come into force on July 19.
- The jurisdiction of the Disciplinary Court with regard to complaints from prosecutors has been clarified
In accordance with the Public Prosecutor's Office Law, a prosecutor may appeal the decision adopted or disciplinary sanction imposed upon him/her before the Disciplinary Court and his/her complaint is reviewed in accordance with the procedure established by the Judicial Disciplinary Liability Law. With the aim of harmonizing the two laws, the legal provisions of the Judicial Disciplinary Liability Law that determine the procedure for the examination of a complaint submitted to the Disciplinary Court and regulate the procedure for drawing up the decision of the Disciplinary Court are clarified, including in the law the powers of the Disciplinary Court regarding the complaints from prosecutors.
- The Minister of Justice will not be able to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges of the Supreme Court; the authority of the chairs of the regional courts has been extended
The amendments to the law provide that the Minister of Justice will no longer have the right to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges of the Supreme Court.
Such a change in the Judicial Disciplinary Liability Law was prompted by the Council for the Judiciary. The necessity of the adopted changes is based on ensuring the independence of the judiciary. And the Council for the Judiciary explains that since January 1, 2017, the Supreme Court has only a cassation instance and the Minister of Justice has no administrative, organizational or controlling functions regarding the Supreme Court.
The provision which states that disciplinary proceedings can be initiated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court against judges of the Supreme Court maintains its force.
Powers of chairs of district courts are extended regarding the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, without limiting this right only by initiating case on deliberate violation of law during the proceedings. Chairs of regional courts will be able to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges of both regional courts and district (city) courts and land registries in all cases specified by law.
- The limitation period for the imposition of a sanction is specified
The amendments to the law clarify the limitation period thus strengthening the procedure established in practice, that the three-month deadline for imposition of a sanction is to be counted from the day when the disciplinary proceedings were initiated or the administrative offence was discovered. At the same time, the amendments stipulate that during this term the time period of judge’s temporary absence, namely, the time when the judge is on leave, the period of temporary incapacity for work or the time when the judge does not fulfill his/her duties for other justified reasons. The time period of temporary absence of a judge does not include the time period when a judge been suspended from office.
- The names of judges liable to disciplinary action will be publicly available
The amendments to the law provide that a decision made in a disciplinary case shall be published on the Internet within one day by covering only that part of the information which discloses personal data, including the sensitive data, except for the name and surname of the person held liable. At the moment, when publishing a disciplinary decision, the part of the information revealing the identity of the judge must be covered.
An exception is the decision to send a disciplinary case to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for deciding to initiate criminal proceedings. In order to respect the principle of the presumption of innocence and not to damage the interests of the investigation, this decision shall not be published on the website.
Similarly, the law is supplemented by the procedure for deletion of published decisions from the website. The published decision shall be deleted within one day after one year from the date of its entry into force. If a disciplinary sanction has been removed before the deadline, the published decision shall be deleted within one working day from the day of the adoption of the decision to remove disciplinary sanction.
In the event that the Judicial Disciplinary Committee decides to initiate a judge's removal from office and sends materials of disciplinary case to the Saeima for deciding on the resignation of a judge, while the Saeima vote againsts the resignation of a judge, the disciplinary case shall be referred back to the Judicial Disciplinary Committee for its re-examination and the previously published decision on proposal to resign the judge from office must be deleted from the website within one day of receipt of the case materials before the Judicial Disciplinary Committee.
- The Chair of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee will be elected by the Committee
In the future, the Chair of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee, as heads of other self-governing bodies of the judiciary, will be elected from among the members of the Committee.
Previously, the law provided that the work of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee was chaired by the Chair of the Department of the Supreme Court.
- The disciplinary court session will be managed not only by its chair
To make efficient use of human resources and make the work of Disciplinary Court faster, if necessary, the possibility for the Disciplinary Court to act and examine cases during the absence of the Chair of Disciplinary Court is envisaged, by stating in the law that the meeting shall be chaired by the Chair of the Disciplinary Court or a member of the Disciplinary Court appointed by the Chair.
This proposal was submitted by the Supreme Court, indicating that the currently in Saiema pending amendments to the Law "On Judicial Power" will expand the authority of the Council for the Judiciary regarding the decisions on judges' career issues related to establishment, modification or termination of legal relationship. It is envisaged that it would be possible to appeal these decisions before the Disciplinary Court, which can increase the number of complaints reviewed by the Disciplinary Court.
- Judicial Disciplinary Committee work will be ensured by the Court Administration
The law stipulates that in the future the Judicial Disciplinary Board will be administrated by the Court Administration. So far, its functioning was financially supported by the Supreme Court.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 28652211