Since the restoration of the Republic of Latvia in 1990, the Supreme Court has had four Chief Justices. Aigars Strupišs, the fourth Chief Justice, has been holding the office since 2020.
Each period has its own challenges, during which the Chief Justices have been not only the first "faces" of the Supreme Court, but of the entire Latvian judicial system.
Gvido Zemrībo 1985-1994
Mr. Zemrībo was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during the National Awakening, the restoration of Latvia's independence, and during the formation of the new Supreme Court.
Under his leadership, the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court made decisions on the political independence of the judge and on the independence of the judiciary even before the declaration of independence of Latvia and before it was established by law.
He headed the working group of the Law “On Judicial Power”, is an author of the text of the judge's oath.
Andris Guļāns 1994-2008
Mr. Guļāns was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at the time when the Senate and Court Chambers were established in the Supreme Court.
During his leadership, the establishment of the Administrative Courts and of the Department of Administrative Cases and the Senate, and the entry of the new generation of judges into the court system took place.
That was also the time of Latvia's accession to the European Union, integration of the Latvian judicial system into the European legal system.
Ivars Bičkovičs 2008-2020
Mr Bičkovičs was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during reorganization, when the Supreme Court became merely a cassation instance, liquidating the Court Chambers (appellate instance within the Supreme Court).
That was the period of crises – economic crisis, crisis of confidence, Covid crisis.
During that time, the establishment of the Judicial Council took place. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court also became the Chair of the Judicial Council.
Approval of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and term of office
The procedure for nomination and approval of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is determined by Section 50 of the Law “On Judicial Power”.
The first wording of the law, which entered into force on January 1, 1993, provided that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was approved by the Saeima (parliament) from among the appointed judges on the proposal of the State President for seven years.
With the amendments to the law of June 15, 1994, the procedure was changed – a candidate for the approval to the position of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the Saeima were nominated under the proposal of the Cabinet of Ministers.
The amendments to the law of October 31, 2002, transferred the competence to nominate a candidate for the position of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court.
In turn, the amendments to the law of June 13, 2013, reduced the term of office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, now it was five years instead of seven, and a limit was set for one person to hold this position for no more than two consecutive terms.
Gallery of portraits of the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court
On October 3, 2020, on the 25th anniversary of the restored Senate, a gallery of portraits of former Chief Justices was opened in the Supreme Court. All three former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court since the restoration of Latvia's independence – Gvido Zemrībo, Andris Guļāns and Ivars Bičkovičs – took part in the opening ceremony.
The author of portrait photos is Linda Ratuta.
Along with the portrait gallery, the book of the Chief Justices of the Latvian Senate | the Supreme Court was created, in which, together with the signature, each Chief Justice left his well-wishing or opinion in the book.
This book of honour also includes portraits and opinions of the chairmen of the General Assembly of the first period of Latvian Senate (1918-1940) Kristaps Valters, Miķelis Gobiņš, Kārlis Ozoliņš, and Aleksandrs Gubens.
Chief Justices of the Supreme Court in the discussion "Senator's Personality"
The basis of every institution, including the courts, is the human being. The basis of the Senate is a senator – a judge who administers justice in a court of cassation. Therefore, the central event of the 25th anniversary of the restored Senate was the discussion “Senator's Personality”, which was attended by all the Chief Justices of the renewed Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia (Gvido Zemrībo, Andris Guļāns, Ivars Bičkovičs, and Aigars Strupišs). The discussion was chaired by Veronika Krūmiņa, Chair of the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate.
Three former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court Gvido Zemribo, Andris Gulans and Ivars Bickovics – at the opening of the portrait gallery in the Supreme Court on October 2, 2020
Chief Justices of the Supreme Court Gvido Zemribo, Aigars Strupiss, Andris Gulans and Ivars Bickovics in a discussion on the role of the senator's personality in the history and development of the Senate on October 2, 2020
In the garden of Kuldiga city there is an oak in memory of the first Chief Justice of the Latvian Senate Kristaps Valters planted in 2017 by three Chief Justices of the restored Supreme Court of Latvia Andris Gulans, Ivars Bickovics and Gvido Zemribo together with the Head of Kuldiga municipal council Inga Berzina