Latvia has a strong and well-organized judicial system and processes for its improvement are successful – as observed by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), the report of which was presented at the meeting of the Council for the Judiciary on April 23.

The Commission has not identified any problems in Latvia that are related to violations or non-compliance with standards of the European laws, at the same time the commission has pointed out a number of options for improving the judicial system of Latvia. "Latvian society calls for greater independence of the courts, and this view on independence needs to be strengthened", was indicated as the most important task by Leonid Antohi, project coordinator. Research expert from Switzerland Pierre Cornu also said: "We have identified some aspects where we think improvements can be made. These are not just issues regarding the better functioning of the judicial system, but also the society’s perception of the judicial system, its independence, quality and efficiency."

The Commission recommended to increase the role of the Council for the Judiciary in resolving issues of importance to the judicial system, while reducing the role of the Ministry of Justice and the role of a minister as a "mediator" between the Council for the Judiciary and other judicial self-governing bodies on the one hand and the Saeima (parliament) and the executive power on the other. The composition of the Council of the Judiciary should be reviewed, reducing the number of ex-officio members in office, and increasing the number of elected representatives of the judiciary. The role of the judiciary's self-government in the judges' selection and career issues must be strengthened; the involvement of judges in the management of the system should be greater. The Council for the Judiciary should manage the implementation of the judicial reforms as pointed out by the Commission.

The Commission has identified certain risks regarding the mechanism for distribution of cases introduced in Latvia – the transfer of them to other courts in order to reduce the accumulation of cases. The Commission also indicated possible risks to independence regarding the process of specialization of judges, and also pointed out the excessive amount of court fees in cases of large claims and the complicated mechanism for calculating them.

The report also points to the issue of the remuneration of Latvian judges. The remuneration of the judiciary should be equal to the remuneration of the legislative and the executive powers. "If we want independent judges, they must be given an adequate status and an adequate income," said the Commission's experts.

Ivars Bickovics, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Chair of the Council for the Judiciary, evaluates positively the report of the Commission. First of all, it is gratifying that, in general, the legal system of Latvia is assessed as strong and well organized. Secondly, a number of issues indicated in the report have already been addressed by the Council for the Judiciary, which means that we are heading in the right direction. The Chief Justice pointed out that the analysis and recommendations made in the report would be a valuable input for the future work of the Council for the Judiciary.

The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice has prepared the evaluation of the judicial system of Latvia in the framework of the European Social Fund project "Justice for Development". The report is based on the framework approved by the Council for the Judiciary and based on the methodology developed by the CEPEJ.

 

Information prepared by

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

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 28652211