28 November, 2011
Latvian Judicial Conference, which took place on the 25th of November, was the first judicial conference convened by the Board of Justice, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court addressed judges also as the Chair of the Board of Justice for the first time.
“The first year of operation of the Board of Justice has marked place and role of this institution in activity and development of judiciary. Experience of the first year showed ability of the Board of Justice to work, as well as its opportunities which haven’t been used yet”, Ivars Bickovics pointed out.
The Chair of the Board of Justice provided detailed information about opinions given by the Board of Justice about draft laws important for court system and issues of court budget. The Chair admitted that officials of legislative power and executive power could not always understand place and role of the Board of Justice. Possibly, that is why opinion of the Board of Justice is often asked for too late and formally, and, apparently, it is done not on the merits, but because the law demands so.“The Board of Justice should not be perceived as an opposition to executive power of legislator, and its statements should not be disclaimed or ignored,” the Chair of the Board of Justice stressed.
The Board of Justice hasn’t supported inclusion of judges’ wages in uniform remuneration system, considering such inclusion to be improper to principle of judicial independence, international recommendations, as well as judgment of the Constitutional Court rendered in case about judges’ wages, hasn’t been executed in this case. When reviewing budget request for 2011, the Council of Justice admitted that sufficient funding for remuneration of court employees, as well as for other priorities stated in government declaration is not provided in courts’ budget. The Council of Justice also expressed its negative attitude towards amendments to the “Law on Budget and Financial Management”, adopted by the Saeima. These amendments were adopted in urgent procedure, not listening to the opinion of the Council of Justice. The Council believed that amendments to the law do not provide execution of the judgment of the Constitutional Court and do not avert imperfections of legal regulation related to guaranteeing independence of budget request of the Bureau of the Ombudsman and constitutional institutions.
“The Constitutional Court will have to assess, how grounded objections of the Council of Justice were, as cases about remuneration of judges and issues of courts’ budget were lodged to the Court repeatedly,” I.Bickovics indicated.
The Chair of the Council of Justice hoped that negative statement of the Council of Justice would suspend advancement of amendments to the Judicial Disciplinary Liability Law, which provide to reduce representation of judges of the Supreme Court in Disciplinary Committee, including the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor General instead of them. I.Bickovics indicated that discussion on creation of uniform disciplinary committee and extension of powers of the Disciplinary Court might become one of directions of further development of regulation related to disciplinary responsibility of judges and other officials belonging to court system.
The Board of Justice supported amendments to the law “On Judicial Power” providing inclusion of departments of landbooks in composition of district (city) courts as from the 1st of January, 2012, transferring review of cases of several categories to judges of departments of land books.The Council of Justice also gave recommendations for amendments to the law “On Judicial Power” providing to change procedure of selection of judges, requirements put down to candidates and refusal from qualification classes of judges, implementing new system of evaluation of professional activity of judges. The Judicial Qualifications Committee has to perform regular assessment of professional activity of judges between 2013 and 2016.
“Creation of the Council of Justice was long awaited step in direction of strengthening of independence of judiciary. I think that the first year of operation proved correctness of this step and the Board of Justice, despite limited authority and insufficient financing, is proved to be judicial institution able to operate,” Ivars Bickovics, the Chair of the Board of Justice concluded, evaluating the first year of operation.
Gaidis Berzins, the Minister of Justice, also evaluated work of the Board of Justice in its first year of operation positively, pointing out that the council undertook active role in judicial reforms and so, alongside with accumulation of experience, the Council of Justice has a potential to become an important cooperation partner to government and the legislator in field of judiciary and to give its contribution also in development of new initiatives.
Ilma Cepane, the Chair of the Legal affairs Committee of the Saeima, considered creation of the Board of Justice to be a component of judiciary conformable to democratic and judicial state.
The Board of Justice is a collegiate institution, which takes part in development of policy and strategy of court system, as well as in improvement of organisation of work of court system. Creation of the Board of Justice was established by amendments to the law “On Judicial Power” of June 3, 2010. The Council of Justice consists of fifteen members – eight permanent members (officials) and seven judges elected by the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court and the Judicial Conference. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Chair of the Constitutional Court, the Minister of Justice, the Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Saeima, the Prosecutor General, the Chair of Latvian Board of Sworn Advocates, the Chair of the Board of Sworn Notaries, and the Chair of the Board of Sworn Bailiffs operate as permanent members of the Council of Justice.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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