Pointing out a positive trend that number of cases pending in the Supreme Court decreases, representatives of departments, having participated in the sitting of the Judicial Policy Subcommittee of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Saeima (Parliament), recognised – the workload of the cassation instance has still been excessive, and the legislator’s will is necessary to search for opportunities to solve a problem jointly with the court.  

In 2015, the Department of Civil Cases, where the number of cases pending is the largest one, managed to significantly reduce number of cases pending – for 21 per cent.  As the main reasons of comparatively long terms of adjudication of cases and accumulation of cases pending, Edite Vernusa, the Chair of the department,  pointed out increase of civil disputes caused by the economic breakdown, loading the cassation instance with small claims before the amendments to the Civil Procedure Law, and last year, in its turn, comparing to previous year, number of ancillary complaints increased more than twice, and number of applications on initiation of a case due to newly discovered circumstances increased nearly three and a half times.  E.Vernusa stressed that it is important to implement measures, which will result in not only elimination of remaining accumulation of cases and decrease of terms of adjudication,  but also in ensuring wholesome work of the Department of Civil Cases as the cassation instance court.

Fundamental measures to be taken to increase efficiency of the court have been increase of number of judges and anticipation of so called cassation filters. However, as E.Vernusa has pointed out, these are not measures of equal importance, because the increase of number of judges is limited by the particular substance of the highest court. 17 judges is the optimal number in the Department of Civil Cases, because even currently the work of the department becomes heavy, number of cases heard in expanded composition increases, demanding additional time resources. Therefore, it is more important to improve cassation filters and other mechanisms, ensuring the primary function of the cassation instance – operation in the interest of the entire society, instead of particular litigants. “Judicial policy must be aimed at receipt of fair resolution of the dispute by litigants in first two instances, and the third instance ensures resolution of issues, which are fundamental and important for entire legal system and national economy, by developing of corresponding judicature,” E.Vernusa pointed out.

Veronika Krumina, the Chair of the Department of Administrative Cases, stressed that length of litigation is affected by such factors as number of incoming cases, capacity of the court, litigation culture, and chaos in legal policy, for example, concerning new categories of cases, which should be heard by the Supreme Court as the only court instance. Latest amendments to the Administrative Procedure Law have positively affected proceedings in general; however, they have negatively affected adjudication of cases in the cassation instance. Now the Department of administrative Cases decides on the cassation complaint and the ancillary complaint, instead of lower courts, and appeal in the cassation instance only, instead of the appellate instance, has been envisaged for several categories of cases. As a result, length of adjudication of cases in the department increases.

However, one should not speak on long terms of litigation in general terms, but it would be necessary to study particular cases of all categories, adjudication of which has, to great extent, exceeded average terms. Having analysed particular cases, particular reasons, either systemic or individual, would be seen, and more particular action would become possible. V.Krumina pointed out such factors affecting quality and speed of proceedings, as selection and preparation of new candidates to offices of judges to direct proceedings, and expansion of competence of judicial support personnel.

Arturs Freibergs, the representative of the Department of Criminal Cases, in his turn, pointed out that current load of a judge – approximately 100 cases per year, in the cassation instance is a number of times too large and it does not provide an opportunity to devote sufficient time to significant function of development of case-law. As the possibility to reduce the load, the judge indicated release of the Supreme Court from the function of accept of operations carried out in the special way, and, within the concept of simplification of investigation of less serious crimes, which has currently been advanced, to assess usefulness of appeal before the cassation instance in these cases.

On 16 February, in the sitting of the Judicial Policy Subcommittee of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Saeima, parliamentarians reviewed an issue regarding terms of adjudication of cases in Latvian courts. Parliamentarians became convinced that there are many opportunities to improve procedural regulation; therefore they urge the Ministry of Justice to summarize these ideas and to address the Parliament with legislative initiatives.  

 

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