19 May, 2020
In 2020, there are two significant points of reference in the history of the Supreme Court, namely, in May we celebrate 30 years since the restoration of the Supreme Court of the independent Republic of Latvia, and in October there are 25 years since the restoration of the cassation instance – the Senate.
Following the adoption of the Declaration on the Restoration of the Independence of the Republic of Latvia by the Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR on May 4, 1990, Latvia began the practical phase of the restoration of its state and public administration institutions acquired not only new names, but also new content corresponding to the independent state. The Supreme Court of the Latvian SSR became the Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia – the highest instance of the judiciary of an independent state.
May 16, 1990 can be considered the beginning of the work of the Supreme Court of the restored Republic of Latvia, when Anatolijs Gorbunovs, Chair of the Supreme Council, nominated Gvido Zemribo for the position of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Council voted openly. With 149 votes in favour, 8 against, 10 abstentions, Gvido Zemribo was elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia and was instructed to submit a proposal on the personnel of the Supreme Court and its Presidium.
Gvido Zemribo, who has been the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court since 1985, admitted that he appreciates the second election to the position of the “first judge” of the Republic of Latvia, although not unanimously, much more than for the first time – unanimously.
Before voting, however, Members of the Parliament had questions to which Gvido Zemribo answered exhaustively, and, it must me recognized that some of these discussions are still relevant, even when 30 years have passed. Thus, Valdis Birkavs, Member of the Parliament asked, "What is the way to place the judiciary next to the legislature and the executive, because it is currently in lower position?" The candidate for the position of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court answered that “[..] in all democracies there is a division of power. Its author is the well-known French enlightener Montesquieu. His view could be summarized as meaning that a democratic state exists when the three powers - the legislature, the executive and the judiciary - are isolated, independent of each other. Something has already been done in this regard, but obviously you, honourable Members, will need a new Latvian law on the judiciary in the near future, where these issues will be formulated accordingly and guarantees for the independence of the judiciary will be given. That is the most important thing "
Following the approval of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a further political decision had to be made as to whether to allow judges who had served during the Soviet era to continue their work. This was especially true of the Supreme Court. Politicians agreed that the candidates for judges of the Supreme Court would be nominated by the Chief Justice, but the Supreme Council would evaluate the work and loyalty of each judge individually. On June 11 and 12, 1990, elections to the Supreme Court were on the agenda of the Supreme Council meeting.
Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
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