Elaborated amendments to the Administrative Procedure Law, which envisage granting of legal aid provided by the State in administrative cases, observing complexity of the case and financial situation of an individual, must be supported, - indicated Veronika Krumina, the Chair of the Department of Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court, when presenting a report at the annual Ombudsman’s Conference on Human Rights and Good Governance.   

Representative of the Supreme Court stressed that, observing principle of impartial investigation in examination of administrative cases, namely, the active role of the court in clarifying of circumstances of the case and collection of evidence, legal aid provided by representative in these cases usually does not play crucial role. However, there may be single cases, in which, observing the complexity of the case, an individual would need legal aid.

The Chair of the Department drew the attention to the fact that the Administrative Procedure Law already now envisages an alternative mechanism of granting of legal aid provided by the state – in administrative cases, which are complex for the addressee, there is an opportunity, upon decision of an institution or a court, observing financial situation of an individual, to pay remuneration to his or her representative from the state budget. However, the society, obviously, is not informed enough about it and, in praxis, this mechanism actually has not been applied, - the judge recognised.

In its turn, when answering to the Ombudsman’s concerns regarding involvement of advocates to represent interests of state and municipal institutions in administrative proceedings, the representative of the Supreme Court pointed out that one may not affirm that it would affect individuals’ right to the fair trial, but use of such external service wastes state budget resources that might be used to expand service of granting of legal aid provided by the state. Moreover, such an external service quite often does not give any contribution to proceedings at all.

Krumina believes that the position of an institution must be represented before the court by the qualified lawyer, who is employed in the institution and specialises in issues related to proceedings.  Only in exceptional cases, when particularly complex case has been reviewed, institution should be allowed to attract external providers of legal services. At the same time, participation in proceedings of such representative of the institution, who only formally refers to substantiation included in the administrative act, but is unable qualitatively rebut individual’s objections or discuss mistakes of case-law, is impermissible. 

Individual’s right to the fair trial as civil right protected by the Constitution fell within scope of attention of the Ombudsman Juris Jansons during the whole of his term of office, which was five years. At this year’s conference, pointing out accessibility of courts as one of fundamental conditions of the fair trial, the Ombudsman particularly indicated necessity for legal aid provided by the state in administrative proceedings.  

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Information prepared by

Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: 67020396, 28652211