2 April, 2012
The Board of Justice agrees to concept of “clear court instances”, indicating necessity to increase number of judges in Riga
The Board of Justice agrees to concept of implementation of “clear court instances”, indicating simultaneously that further concrete steps of reorganisation of Latvian court system should be evaluated and coordinated with the Council of Justice.
Concept prepared by the Ministry of Justice and presented at the session of the Council of Justice on the 2nd of April, provides transition to a system, in which district court will be the first court instance in all cases – both civil and criminal, regional court will be an appellate instance and the Senate of the Supreme Court will be cassation instance. It means that Chambers of the Supreme Court will be removed.
Gaidis Berzins, the Minister of Justice, when explaining the concept, indicated that it was planned to implement system of “clear court instances” gradually: as from the 1st of January, 2015 – in criminal proceedings, and gradually, in 7-10 years – in civil proceedings. An opportunity would be observed to give separate categories of cases in civil proceedings (cases on intellectual property, cases on insolvency and liquidation of credit institutions) to one concrete district (city) court as to the court of first instance, providing training for judges of this court; to give cases on voluntary sale of immovable property in auction to judges of departments of land register, and to give other cases being reviewed by regional courts as by courts of first instance at present, to district (city) courts in two years, evaluating possible changes of workload for district (city) courts. The Ministry of Justice also promotes other proposals to decrease total workload of courts, for example, Draft law on mediation.
As to career of judges of Chambers of the Supreme Court, two opportunities are rafted in concept: to continue working either in the Senate of the Supreme Court or in regional courts.
The Board of Justice, having stated that legislator had made political decision and has actually started reform of court system already, asked the Ministry of Justice to make further concrete steps of reform, having listened and taking into account opinion of the Council of Justice on the merits. Necessity to increase number of judges in district (city) courts and to improve qualification of judges of courts of the first instance and courts of appeal was indicated as issues to be resolved primarily.
Ivars Bickovics, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, indicated that removing Chambers, the Supreme Court plans to shift financial resources and personnel released to increase capacity of the Senate and to decrease work load of senators and accumulation of cases pending.
The Board of Justice supports creation of system of unified disciplinary responsibility of officials belonging to judiciary
Discussing the issue on possible creation of unified procedure of review of disciplinary cases initiated against officials belonging to judiciary raised by the Judicial Policy Subcommittee of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Saeima, the Council of Justice listened to information given by all institutions belonging to court system (judges, advocates, prosecutors, notaries and bailiffs) about present procedure of disciplinary responsibility for each profession and to opinion about possibility, usefulness and form of creation of unified system.
The Board of Justice concludes that representatives of all institutions support unified review of disciplinary misdemeanours in appellate instance, keeping for each institution belonging to judiciary autonomy to review disciplinary misdemeanours initially. Issue on creation and competence of appellate institution, as well as on regulation of disciplinary responsibility – ground and procedure of initiation of disciplinary case, types of punishments and procedure of appeal – equal for each professions belonging to court system should be discussed.
The Board of Justice invites to form work group in the Ministry of Justice to draft regulation of unified disciplinary responsibility of officials belonging to judiciary, including representatives of all institutions interested in its work. The Council of Justice indicates that reform should be thought-out, with goal defined clearly and results.
Number of posts of judges in district courts is not re-divided, increase of total number of judges is
The Board of Justice in its session on the 2nd of April hasn’t decided on giving vacant post of a judge of Kuldiga district court to Riga city Zemgale Suburb court, as it was advised by the Ministry of Justice.
One vacancy of a judge might become unoccupied in Kuldiga district court, if the Council of Justice could support transfer one of Kuldiga judges to Talsi district court, as he applied for this post in competition announced as the only candidate. Evaluating work load of judges of district (city) courts in 2011, the Ministry of Justice concluded that it would be more necessary to give vacant post of a judge of Kuldiga district court to Riga city Zemgale Suburb court, as number of civil cases and materials to be reviewed beside court hearing received in this court was the biggest in the state, calculating per a post of a judge approved - these were 25.6 civil cases and 23.3 materials to be reviewed beside court hearing. Average number all over the state was 14.9 civil cases and 18.7 materials to be reviewed beside court hearing per a judge a month, and indices of work load of judges of Kuldiga district court were lower than average ones of district (city) courts.
Not contravening the fact that work load of judges in district (city) courts is different and work load of judges in Riga courts is the biggest, the Council of Justice believes that situation should be assessed in total, taking into account reform of court system launched that provides implementation of “clear court system”, where district (city) courts will review all cases as courts of the first instance. Problem of overload of Riga city courts can not be solved by re-division of one single post of a judge, but increase of number of judges in district courts is necessary in Riga city courts, not decreasing number of judges in other district courts.
The Council of Justice invites the Ministry of Justice to prepare complicated analysis of work load of judges and to prepare suggestions about increase of number of judges necessary in Latvian courts.
Electronic election of the Committee on Judicial Ethics is proposed
Discussing issue of organisation of Latvian Judicial Conference to re-elect the Committee on Judicial Ethics, the Council of Justice in its session on the 2nd of April listened to proposal of the Court Administration not to organise judicial conference to re-elect self-governmental institution, but to arrange electronic elections.
The Council of Justice accepted such proposal conceptually that would allow to save financial means and time, and instructed Court Administration to prepare detailed explanation of organisation of electronic elections, as well as to prepare proposals of amendments to laws and regulations establishing procedure of creation of judicial self-governmental institutions.
The Committee on Judicial Ethics is collegial judicial self-governmental institution consisting of ten members elected in secret vote by Judicial Conference. Term of office of a member of the Committee on Judicial Ethics is four years. The Committee on Judicial Ethics was founded in 2008.
Decisions of the Council of Justice in issues related to judicial careers
The Board of Justice determined courts, in which judges appointed to posts of judges by decisions of the Saeima of the 8th and the 15th of March, will execute their duties: Adrija Bulina – in Riga city Kurzeme district court, Inese Snikere – in Riga city Vidzeme Suburb court, Ivonna Adamsone-Struza – in Riga district court, Liga Baltmane-Zepa – in Aizkraukle district court.
According to application of Zenta Krumina, the judge of Vidzeme regional court, and pursuant to Paragraph 11, Section 81 of the law “On Judicial Power”, the Council of Justice will provide a proposal to the Saeima to dismiss the judge due to her state of health.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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