16 May, 2016
Study of activity of the Judicial Ethics’ Committee shows that active process of development of professional ethics has begun in Latvia – the Professor Aivita Putnina and the Associate Professor Signe Mezinska from the University of Latvia, who carried out study of regulations on judicial ethics upon invitation of the Council for the Judiciary, point out.
The goal of the study was to assess the activity of the Judicial Ethics’ Committee since the establishment thereof in 2008, analysing achievement of purposes of establishment and subject of activity. The study pays attention to recommendations of international institutions on judicial ethics, which are binding to Latvia, and understanding of Latvian judges about goals and tasks of activity of the Ethics’ Committee.
The significant conclusion of this study is the high assessment of activity of the Judicial Ethics’ Committee in judicial environment. The Committee was able to initiate a discussion among judges and commenced formation of unified standards of ethical praxis of judges with its explanations and opinions. Researchers point out that gradual work commenced by the Judicial Ethics’ Committee, assessing and discussing issues, which are topical in judicial environment, establish deep fundamentals for alteration of understanding bout judicial ethics and its place in professional activity. Judges trust the activity of the Ethics’ Committee and see it as organisation representing the profession, which undertook function of adviser and supporter to judges, and less as repressive and controlling institution. Sometimes judges point out that single opinions of the Committee, when reviewing cases on infringement of ethics, were too mild.
In assessment of the Committee, Guidelines on communication with media may be recognised as the most important achievement. However, the Ethics’ Committee has not dealt with the improvement of the Code of Judicial Ethics due to lack of resources and due to situational approach to solution of issues related to ethics. As the most urgent problems for judges, the study indicates attitude and action of judges in court room and in public, conflicts of interests and communication with media.
Along with positive assessment of activity of the Ethics’ Committee, the study identifies several risks regarding the further activity of the Committee. Changes in composition of the Committee causes risk. The composition of the Committee had been relatively constant during two terms, and significant change thereof has been envisaged. The Committee in its work put large stress to informal agreement on principles of activity thereof, discussion and openness to signals coming from the public, which is not set forth in the regulation. It creates a problem to ensure succession. The second risk refers to lack of resources to ensure operation of the Committee and to non-reduction of load of judges, who work in the judicial self-governmental institutions.
Within framework of the study, interviews with members to the Judicial Ethics’ Committee, prosecutor’s office and advocacy were carried out to, and focus discussion involving judges of different levels was organised. Moreover, the survey of judges was carried out, and all Latvian judges were asked to answer questions. Researchers also analysed explanations, opinions and decisions of the Judicial Ethics’ Committee, and carried out content analysis of the regulation of the Ethics’ Committee and the Code of Judicial Ethics.
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Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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