The conference emphasizes three aspects of judicial independence: external independence, independence of the system and judge's independence
3 November, 2017
The central axis of the concept of the independence of a judge is a judge as personality – as emphasized by Ivars Bickovics, Chair of the Councilf for the Judiciary and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, on Friday, November 3, at the Latvian Judges’ Conference.
Having analyzed the results of the survey conducted by the European Network of the Councils for the Judiciary, which indicates that Latvian judges' self-assessment of their independence is the lowest in all European countries, the basic topic of the conference – the judicial independence – was divided into three thematic blocks. The first, the so-called external independence, includes the analysis on how the judicial system interacts with the public and other authorities, including informal and the fourth authority – media. The second – the internal independence of the system. The third is the self-assessment of each individual judge. "That is – how constrained or free the judge feels, also thanks to the guarantees and despite the risks arising from the two previous fields of analysis," said the Chair of the Council for the Judiciary.
"A judge must have firm and determined personality, the judge must be open, but not sensible," said Egils Levits, Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It is in the public interest to have a fair trial, and a fair judgment requires the judge's professionalism, ethics and independence. Egils Levits pointed out that a court decision should not allow abusive use of law, when "formally everything is right with the judgment, but the result is not fair because the judgment is unlawful or unethical". He urged Latvian judges to refrain from instrumentalizing the judicial system, and recognize and prevent the misuse of rights.
Speaking about the reduction of external influence on the judiciary, Chair of the Council for the Judiciary Ivars Bickovics, Chair of the Saeima Legal Affairs Committee Gaidis Berzins and the Minister of Justice Dzintars Rasnacs pointed out the positive steps made in this area. Just the day before the conference, the Saeima adopted amendments to the Law "On Judicial Power", which undermine the role of the executive power and the Saeima, transferring many issues of the judicial system and judges' career in the competence of the Council for the Judiciary. In its turn, the judgment of the Constitutional Court of 26 October not only calls for a review of the system of judges' remuneration but also clarifies the special role of the judge in a democratic society.
The relevance of justice and media relations is evidenced by survey data of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, where Latvian judges pointed out the impact of media on their work as the most significant external pressure, as well as these relations were addressed by many speakers also at the conference. Rita Rudusa, Chair of the Board of the Association of Latvian Journalists, said that the problem lies in the lack of trust between the judiciary and the media, due to several factors on both sides – the courts lack proactive communication, while media professionals often lack the legal knowledge and therefore errors occur.
When analyzing the independence of judges within the framework of the system, both Maris Vigants and Anita Kovalevska, Chairs of the Judicial Qualification Committee, Juris Silins, Chair of the Judicial Ethics Committee, and Adrija Kasakovska, Chair of Tukums District Court, emphasized the importance of the active and responsible position of judges, expressing both opinions and giving their objective evaluation of their colleagues when needed. It also requires the judge's internal independence, because "neither the law nor the guarantees can create an independent judge," said the Chair of the Judicial Ethics Committee.
The Judges’ Conference is a judicial self-government body, convened by the Council for the Judiciary not less than once a year. This year's conference was attended by 386 of 567 Latvian judges.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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