From 11 to 13 November within the framework of the project “The role of judge assistants in effective work organization of the Supreme Court” a visit to the Supreme Court of Finland for experience exchange was paid by Santa Ozola and Mikelis Zumbergs, judge assistants of the Department of Administrative Cases, as well as Agnese Adgere, judge assistant of the Department of Criminal Cases, and Reinis Odins, legal research counsel of the Department of Civil Cases.

Within three days, the delegation of the Supreme Court visited the Supreme Court of Finland, the Supreme Administrative Court, as well as the Helsinki Court of Appeal and the Helsinki District Court. During the visits, the judge assistants of the Supreme Court of Latvia found that in Finland the functions of judge assistants are performed by advisers who are officials and belong to the public service. The Supreme Court of Finland employs 28 such advisers (and 18 judges) and they are divided into two groups: advisers in civil and criminal cases. Each group has a leader who is also one of the advisers and who is responsible for allocating the cases received to a specific adviser, regulating the workload. The main task of the advisers is to prepare an opinion on the case, summarizing the facts of the case, the legal framework, case law in similar cases and other sources of law, as well as expressing an opinion on the outcome of the case. They then present their report to the panel of judges. The advisers are also required to prepare a draft decision. Unlike judges of the Supreme Court of Finland, who have to deal with all types of cases (both civil and criminal), advisers specialize in specific issues. Therefore, the advisers are not attached to a specific judge, but they independently plan the work with the assigned cases, being responsible for the progress of specific cases (speed of examination). The position of adviser in Finland is prestigious and well paid.

The role of advisers in the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland is similar, but there are also some differences in the work organization. The court currently employs 27 judges and 40 advisers, divided into three departments, which deal with different categories of cases. It should be noted that a huge proportion (60%) of cases deal with immigration issues, while 14% deal with social and health care, with the rest constituting the remaining part.

The visitors concluded that there are significant differences in the work of Latvian and Finnish judge assistants. In Finland, judge assistants (advisers) belong to the public service, are not subordinate to a particular judge and are independent in their activities, but therefore they also have more responsibility, including they are responsible for the timely examination of cases. Despite these differences, in order to improve work efficiency, consideration may be given to introducing the specialization of judge assistants in the Latvian judicial system.

The Supreme Court is implementing the project “The role of judge assistants in effective work organization of the Supreme Court” in 2019 and 2020. The project is prepared by the Administration of the Supreme Court and supported by Nordic and Baltic Mobility Programme for Public Administration. The aim of the project is to provide mutual experience exchange between judge assistants from the Supreme Courts of Latvia and Nordic countries. 

 

Information prepared by

Janis Supe, Project Manager of the Supreme Court

E-mail: janis.supe@at.gov.lv; telephone +371 67020388