Meetings of chairs of courts – a tool for clarifying the views of courts on issues relevant to the judiciary
8 February, 2021
The Judicial Council is becoming increasingly involved in the formulation of judicial policy and obtaining the views of the courts before decisions are taken is important to the Council. Therefore, from now on, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will meet regularly with chairs of regional courts and district (city) courts before considering issues important to the judiciary in the Judicial Council.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Aigars Strupiss and the chairs of Senate’s Departments met with the chairs of lower courts on February 8 to discuss an issue topicalized by the Prosecutor General regarding the observance of the principle of priority of cases regarding state officials specified in the Criminal Procedure Law. The message of the chairs of courts was that priority is ensured, but the examination of cases depends not only on this principle declared in the law. Examination of cases has been protracted last year and this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. In cases where the materials contain a state secret, the time for examination is also prolonged by the lack of appropriate recording equipment, due to which the entire minutes of the hearing are in some cases written by hand. The experience of courts also shows that if both parties – prosecution and defence are interested in faster examination of a case, the course of the proceedings is fast. At the same time, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court called on the chairs of courts to pay special attention to all categories of cases that have been pending for seven years or more.
The issue of participation of judges in various working groups of the Ministry of Justice and of the Court Administration was also discussed at the meeting of chairs of courts. Judges acting in such working groups express their views as experts, but cannot represent the views of the courts. The strategic opinion of the courts is represented by the Judicial Council or delegated representatives. This view is not always properly explored and heard.
Thus, for example, an E-Case project is being pursued without a regulatory framework, a strategic concept and a functional scheme agreed by the Judicial Council. The involvement of judges and court staff is fragmented, and the solutions already in place for courts of first instance are inefficient and they hinder rather than improve work of courts and access to services. The Judicial Council will communicate the opinion on the situation with E-Case to the Parliament.
Another issue discussed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with the chairs of courts is the training of judges, which is one of the priorities of the Judicial Council. The working group of the Judicial Council has discussed the possible structural transformation of the organization of judicial training, separating it from the executive.
The issue of complaints about the uniform circulation of complaints in the court system, the organization of court work during the Covid-19 restrictions, the updating of case handling standards and other issues of court work organization were also discussed. In turn, the Chair of the Department of Civil Cases and the Chair of the Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate shaped a discussion on several legal and procedural issues, where the cassation instance has observed non-uniform case-law.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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