On 13 June 2013, the Saeima adopted amendments to the law “On Judicial Power”, envisaging transition to a three-instance system of courts and providing that in all cases the first instance court was the district (city) court, the appellate instance – the regional court, whereas the Supreme Court comprised only the cassation instance. The Chamber of Criminal Cases was part of the Supreme Court until 31 December 2014, the Chamber of Civil Cases – until 31 December 2016.
This is the most important reform of courts since the restoration of independent statehood and establishment of the current judicial system in the 1990s. The Supreme Court in most significantly affected by the reform, as its appellate instance is liquidated.
Chamber of Criminal Cases
The statistics shows that during 19 years the Chamber of Criminal Cases has heard more than 7600 cases.
The Chamber of Criminal Cases has had three Chairs – Andrejs Lepse, Ivars Bičkovičs and Ervīns Kušķis, 18 Judges and 16 Judge’s assistants have worked under their management over these years. Together with the employees of the Chancery – the Chamber of Criminal Cases has been a part in the working life of 89 people.
Apart from the cases that have been heard, an important value that the Chamber of Criminal Cases has contributed to Latvia’s judicial system has been development of the appeals proceedings in criminal procedure and its implementation in practice, preparing the collections of rulings by the appellate instance, a number of judge’s assistants of the Chamber have become judges, prosecutors, advocates, the Judges of the Chamber of Criminal Cases Andrejs Lepse and Aija Branta became the Justices of the Constitutional Court, almost all Judges of the cassation instance – the Department of Criminal Cases – are former Judges of the Chamber, and also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ivars Bičkovičs prior to coming into this office was the Chair of the Chamber of Criminal Cases.
Chamber of Civil Cases
During 21 years of operation the Chamber of Civil Cases has heard about 24 000 cases.
Chair of the Chamber had for 19 years been Gunārs Aigars, later the work of the Chamber was led by Raimonds Grāvelsiņš and Ineta Ozola. In total 33 judges, 31 judge’s assistants have worked in the Chamber, as well as there were 90 employees of the Chamber’s Chancery.
The contribution of the Chamber of Civil Cases to the Latvian judicial system is not merely thousands of cases that were adjudicated and the creation of appellate court case-law, but it was also a school for both judges and employees. 17 of the judges of the Chamber of Civil Cases have become judges of the cassation instance - judges of the Department of Civil Cases - and three former judge’s assistants have become judges.
Chairpersons of the Supreme Court and judges of the Chamber of Criminal Cases participate in opening of the renovated courtroom for the Criminal Cases in 1998
Former judges and employees of the Chamber of Criminal Cases during the event of termination of operations of the Chamber on December 2014
Former judges and employees of the Chamber of Civil Cases during the event of termination of operations of the Chamber in 2016. First row (former judges): Ojars Druks-Jaunzemis, Skaidrite Lodzina, Gunars Aigars, Aiva Zarina un Raimonds Gravelsins