Developments until 1940

The print version

The first six justices were followed by the following exceptional jurists who invested their talent in the honorable service to justice: Bronislavs Nagajevskis, Andrejs Simanis, Aleksandrs Gubens, Fridrihs Vesmanis, Baldvins Disterlo, Janis Kalacs, Aleksandrs Petersons, Karlis Purins, Fricis Zilberts, Fridrihs Konradi, Janis Balodis, Osvalds Ozolins, Janis Rudolfs Alksnis, Mintauts Cakste, Vladimirs Bukovskis, Jekabs Grots, Janis Skudre, Karlis Ducmanis, Peteris Leitans, Peteris Sterste, Janis Ankravs, Teodors Bergtals, Augusts Rumpeters, Aleksandrs Haritonovskis, Voldermars Kanepitis and others. During the Senate's existence, 30 judges were elected Senators, but no more than 17 senators held office simultaneously.

Senate and creation of laws

During the dawn of the Latvian state, the justices of the Senate managed and supervised the application of the many former Russian laws, and engaged in the uniform and correct interpretation of the newly passed Latvian laws. The Senate made a major contribution to the strengthening of case-law and to developments of national law. On August 1, 1933 a festive meeting was held in the Senate’s main courtroom for the occasion of the coming into force of the Penal Code. At the meeting, the Justice Minister Ozols read the prescript by the President, and presented the first copy of the new Penal Code to the chair of the Senate’s Criminal Cassation Department, Aleksandrs Gubens, acknowledging the Senate’s supreme status in the implementation of the laws.

Justices of the Senate participated in the drafting of the Civil Law that was enacted in 1937. The law drafting commission was managed by Justice Vladimirs Bukovskis. Justices Osvalds Ozolins and Augusts Lebers also worked in the commission. Justice Karlis Ducmanis prepared a preamble to the law.

Rulings of the Senate

The numbers of the cases reviewed by the Senate speak for themselves with regard to the amount of work done by the Senate during its 22 years of existence. The Senate’s Criminal Cassation Department reviewed 18,458 cases, the Civil Cassation Department reviewed 16,299 cases, and the Administrative Department reviewed 28,397 cases, a total average of 3000 cases yearly or 10 cases every working day.

Approximately 4800 judgments were published by the Senate. Collections of Senate rulings cover more than 6000 pages.

Work of the Senate gained recognition not only in Latvia, but also abroad. Methodically convincing interpretation and application of the law deserves attention. There were translations of judgments in German and Russian languages, often together with commentaries. At least 70 translated Senate judgments appeared in a journal published by the German Lawyers' Association of Latvia. Over 30 Senate judgments summarized and issued in Russian in the journal "Zakon i sud" were published in Riga and 20 translated Senate judgments were published in legal journals abroad. In this way Senate activities were promoted abroad.

Senate after the coup d’etat

The work of the Senate was profoundly affected by new fundamental regulations enacted after the coup d’etat of May 15, 1934 that required the judges and the justices to refrain from theoretical opinions and practical expressions in support of the principle of separation of powers. In its stead, the judiciary was required to express its support of a unified and indivisible state power "supported by which the judicial bodies can independently perform their judicial function in cooperation and harmony with other bodies of the state power" (quoted from a speech by Justice Minister Apsitis at a meeting of the Senate on May 15, 1936).

 However, the Senate was also able to protect the judiciary during the autocratic period, even though Kristaps Valters, Chair of the Senate assembly, lost his post. The Senate then received an authoritative hint to send a letter of congratulation to Prime Minister Karlis Ulmanis, emphasizing the legal meaning of the coup d'etat. Kristaps Valters tried to decline this request, indicating that he could send a letter of congratulation, but could not recognize the legality of the coup d'etat.

Both the Ministry of Justice and the Prime Minister of Justice propagated the idea of "Latvian law" and "Latvian courts", indicating that "a judgment may not be appropriate, if the judge's convictions are not in full harmony with the ideas of 15 May". In fact, the legal system was required to serve political objectives. However, the judgments of the Senate paid no "fees" to the ideas of 15 May. Notably, Karlis Ulmanis expressed a wish to become Judge Emeritus, but several senators raised objections and Ulmanis was not granted his wish.