During the meeting of April 24 the Council for the Judiciary discussed the amendments to the Judicial Disciplinary Liability Law, analyzed the work and progress made since the implementation of the Court Communication Strategy, took note of the European Commission's report on the rule of law in the European Union, in which Latvia is rather highly rated, decided on career issues of judges and approved the representative for work in the Examination Commission of Insolvency Administrators.

Having examined the draft law submitted by the Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee of the Republic of Latvia on 10 April 2017 "On Amendments to the Judicial Disciplinary Liability Law" before the second reading in the Saeima (Parliament), the Council for the Judiciary supported the procedures for making decisions in disciplinary cases available to public. The amendments stipulate that the name of responsible judge shall not be concealed after the decision’s its entry into force. Already in December 2015 Council for the Judiciary conceptually supported that regarding the final decision in disciplinary proceedings, there is no need to conceal the name of a judge involved in disciplinary proceedings. Similarly, the Council for the Judiciary supported the proposal to increase the responsibility of chairpersons of regional courts regarding the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, because decisions in many cases are not appealed and do not reach the Supreme Court. Therefore, the maximum possibility to initiate proceedings should be at regional level, without minimizing the possibility for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to initiate disciplinary proceedings.

Council for the Judiciary evaluated the implementation of the Court Communication Strategy, recognizing the receipt of high praise from professionals as positive phenomenon, namely the receipt of awards in the greatest competition in communication in the Baltic States "Mi:t&Links. Baltic Communication Awards 2017", receiving two awards – a gold award in category “Issues and Crisis Management” and a silver award in “Public Affairs”.

Council for the Judiciary took note of the survey carried out by the Supreme Court, clarifying opinions on court communication with the media. Gathering the opinions of regional, national and specialized media journalists, it was found that in general in the past two years the judicial communication has improved, as expressed by 68% of respondents. The media stated that court communicators – employees responsible for cooperation with the media are the most useful in media work (noted by 96% of respondents); as well as Tiesas.lv – accessible judicial decisions and the opportunity to follow the progress of the proceedings (78%); classified case-law at the Supreme Court's website (70%); and court’s press releases (61%). The survey also clarified unclear issues regarding the communication with courts, such as audio or video recording, the accessibility of court rulings, etc. Court communicators will analyze these issues in order to achieve a common understanding and procedure in all courts.

Council for the Judiciary discussed the annual report of the European Commission of April 10, 2017 the “EU Justice Scoreboard 2017”, which provides an overall comparison of the functioning and effectiveness of judicial systems of the Member States. Regarding the speed of adjudication of cases, Latvia has good results (14th place in adjudication of disputes in civil/commercial cases at courts of 1st instance; one of the highest rates in adjudication of administrative cases). This year, the EU Justice Scoreboard compared the accessibility to courts from the financial perspective, assessing both the range of legal aid and the rates of state fees. It concluded that Latvia has one of the highest rates of state fees in civil cases (for example, rates of state fees are higher than in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Lithuania), furthermore in several European countries (Spain, France, Luxembourg and Romania) there are no state fees at all. In this context, indicators of expenditure of state budget allocated to courts are available, which shows that Latvia, for example, is ranked as 5th in Europe, assessing the public expenditure of GDP, expressed in %.

The novelty in this year's study is a special section dedicated to the standards of judicial quality. In fact, in all EU countries one of the indicators for monitoring the quality is the number of postponed court cases. Mostly all countries take necessary actions (judges are appointed for a period of assistance, management solutions are created, etc.) in case there is non-compliance with standards.

This report includes information about how the public evaluates the independence of the judiciary, where the highest rates are traditionally recorded in Scandinavian countries, England, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. The public rating of the independence of the judiciary in Latvia is similar to that in Poland and the Czech Republic. Interestingly, the citizens of Estonia have often noted that they "do not know" how to assess the judiciary (40%), apparently avoiding to evaluate the processes which they have not faced in their daily lives.

In the context of independence of the judiciary the question about which institutions are involved in the appointment of judges is addressed. Latvia is the only country in the European Union, where there is a Council for the Judiciary, which is not involved in decision-making regarding the appointment of judges.

The latest EU Justice Scoreboard marks the following trends:

«Strong points» of Latvia: stability and improvement of time limit necessary for adjudication of cases; IT and electronic communications; accessibility to rulings; relationship between courts and media.

«Weak points» of Latvia: Budget: criteria for drawing up the budget; budget investment vs return on investment; the society’s perception of independence of the judiciary; application of judicial standards, the appointment of judges.

When examining the issues regarding personnel, the Council for the Judiciary decided to appoint judge of Riga Regional Court Sandra Strence to fulfill duties of a judge of Riga City Latgale District Court during the period of vacancy for two years. Council for the Judiciary appointed judge of Riga City Latgale District Court Inese Rubina for the position at the Examination Commission of Insolvency Administrators.

 

Information prepared by Baiba Kataja, the Press Secretary of the Supreme Court

Tel.: +371 67020396; e-mail: baiba.kataja@at.gov.lv