Strasbourg, 1 February 2007

CCJE REP(2007)29
English only

Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)

Questionnaire for 2007 CCJE opinion concerning the councils for the judiciary : Reply submitted by the delegation of Latvia

Part I – General context concerning the judiciary

Is there possible interference of the legislative power concerning judges? If yes, please specify.

It could be said that Parliament has unnecessarily broad discretion in areas of judicial administration, which could more properly be conducted by judges themselves. For example, judges may only be granted tenure by a vote of Parliament after to five years of service.

There were some cases when politicians have publicly voiced opinions to influence judicial decisions in pending cases, and individual judges have been exposed to serve criticism.

Is it possible for the legislative power or the Parliament to order investigations or to establish commissions:
in general concerning judges? If yes, please specify.
concerning judicial performance?
concerning facts already submitted to courts?
concerning procedural acts (eg. Telephonic tapping, police custody)

The Constitution and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament provide limited guidance for parliamentary investigation committees. Law on Parliamentary Investigation Committees has been adopted in 2003. There is no possibility referring to law to order investigation concerning judges.

Is there possible interference of the executive power concerning judges?
Yes.
If yes, is it possible for the executive power to interfere:

in selection, training, career, disciplinary procedures of judges? (if yes, please specify which authority from the executive power)

[selection and career]
The executive exercises considerable influence over the career path of judges with relatively few clear established rules to restrain its discretion, such that it is in a position to hinder judicial independence. Particulary problematic are the removability of judges for their first three to five years in office and discretionary decisions to extent judges’ terms beyond the mandatory retirement age.

District (city) court judges are nominated by the Ministry of Justice and appointed by the Parliament. Apart from confirming the threshold legal eligibility requirements, there is no other standards limiting Parliament’s discretion to approve or reject a candidate. Judges are initially appointed only for a term to five years.

The Ministry of Justice makes nomination based on an assessment issued by the Judicial Qualification Board following reviews of a candidate’s examination results and an evaluation of performance during apprenticeship. The law is unclear as to whether an assessment of the Board is binding or merely a recommendation.

Regional court judges are nominated by the Ministry of Justice on the basis of the opinion of the Judicial Qualification Board, and appointed by the Parliament for unlimited terms.

Candidates for the Supreme Court are nominated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on the basis of the opinion of the Judicial Qualification Board, and appointed by the Parliament to unlimited terms.

Discretionary political involvement in judges’ careers remains a problem. Parliament’s power to delay the vesting of tenure and irremovability – up to five years after appointment – threatens judge’s decisional independence for that period. Discretionary extenuation of retirement – over which the Minister of Justice and senior judges have effective vetoes – gives judges incentives to be co-operative with the executive.

According to the Constitution, judicial appointment is irrevocable. Once appointed to an unlimited term, judges are guaranteed tenure until a mandatory retirement age. However, judges are not given tenure until three to five years into their service. The final decision to grant them tenure is based, in part, on their performance in office and in part on the Ministry of Justice and Parliament’s discretion, which inevitably creates incentives for judges to avoid adjudicating in ways, which might displease the executive.

The mandatory retirement age is sixty-five for district (city) courts and regional courts judges and seventy for Supreme Court justices. A judge’s term of office may be extended beyond the mandatory retirement age. The Minister of Justice and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, upon receiving a favourable opinion from the Judicial Qualification Board, may extend, with a joint decision, the office of a district (city) or regional court judge for up to five years. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court alone has the same power with regard to the Supreme Court judges. This discretionary power may give judges approaching retirement improper incentives to ensure that their rulings do not jeopardise their chances for extension, especially as judges’ pensions are lower than their salaries. The authority for this decision is dispersed, but at the same time, as all three bodies – the Ministry of Justice, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Judicial Qualification Board – must give their consent, any can also veto a judge’s request to remain on the bench.

[disciplinary procedures]
Minister of Justice is entitled to initiate a disciplinary matter regarding judges of district (city) courts and regional courts in all cases specified in Judicial Disciplinary Liability Law.

[training]
According to the Law on Judicial Power Court Administration plans and provides training for judges. Court Administration collaborating with chief judges prepares the training programmes for each year. Training programmes includes initial training and in-service training. Court Administration supports also judges’ participation in international conferences, seminars etc.

There has approved instruction on “The procedures regarding apprenticeship for candidates for district (city) court judges”. This Instruction provides for the apprenticeship of candidates for judges in courts before taking qualification examinations of the Judicial Qualification Board.

In accordance with the agreement, Ministry of Justice has delegated the function of the improvement of qualification of judges and court staff to the Judicial Training Centre, which is non-governmental non-profit organisation. The Judicial Training Centre also organises the instruction of representatives of other legal professions closely related to judiciary, such as bailiffs, prosecutors, notaries and advocates.

in designation of presidents of courts? (if yes, please specify which authority from the executive power)

A chief judge of a district (city) court and his/her deputy shall be appointed by the Minister of Justice for five years on the basis of recommendations of the Court Administration.
A chief judge of a district (city) court and his/her deputy may be dismissed from office by the Minister of Justice, based on an opinion of the Judicial Disciplinary Board.

in management of courts? (if yes, please specify which authority from the executive power)

Ministry of Justice is charged with task to formulate and implement state policy on the improvements of court system.

Court Administration is responsible for providing the managerial issues of the judicial work.

Is the judicial staff working under the authority of:
a judge?
the president of
the court?
the Ministry of Justice?

According to the Law on Judicial Power court staff shall be appointed and dismissed from employment in accordance with the legislative enactment’s on employment.
Court Administration is responsible for providing managerial issues of the work of courts. According to law Court Administration shall:
confirm job descriptions of the court employees;
after co-ordinating the issue with the chairmen of the court employ and dismiss from the post the employees of the court as well as issue decrees on leaves and missions;
plane and secure training of court employees;
arrange personnel files of court employees;
charge court employees with disciplinary liability for violations of labour discipline

What are the competence of the president of the Court:

to evaluate the work of the judges of the court?
to distribute the work between judges?
to act as a disciplinary authority vis-à-vis judges?
to intervene in the career of judges?
other? If yes, please specify.

According to Law on Judicial Power chief judge of a district (city) and regional court:

operate with financial and other recourses belong to a particular court;
determine competencies of court staff;
determine duties of judges in relation of effective functioning of the work of particular court (for example, co-operation with foreign courts and other institutions, generalisation of court practice, render opinions on draft law, participation in law drafting process, render opinion for the Judicial Qualification Board);
assigned judges as presiding judges for sitting of a court, as well as allocated other duties among the judges;
is responsible for useful realisation of court resources.

Part II – General context concerning Councils for the Judiciary

Is there a Council for the Judiciary in your judicial system?
No.
What is the exact title/denomination of this body? (In the case there is no such body, which department or structure – for example the Ministry of Justice – is responsible for the tasks of the Council?).

Court Department of the Ministry of Justice is responsible for the tasks of the Council. Court Department has three divisions – Division of Courts’ Operation, Division of Courts’ Statistics and Division of Judicial Co-operation.
The Court Department is subject to the control of the Deputy State Secretary on Court Matters. The main tasks of the Department are as follows:

to ensure the organisational management of all district (city) and regional courts;
to ensure the implementation of international conventions and agreements on co-operation; to ensure the gathering of statistics of the court activities;
to examine applications and complaints of natural and legal persons within the competence of the Court Department.

What is the legal basis for the Council for the Judiciary:
the Constitution?
the law?
other? If yes, please specify.

Please, give a brief historical overview (when was it created, what were the reasons for setting up the Council, etc.) (in the case there is no such body, why there is no such Council and why do the tasks lay within for example the Ministry of Justice?).

Prior to the Second World war, Latvia had a civil law system. With the introduction of the soviet system, the executive powers were greatly expanded, and legal institutions were viewed as instruments of unitary state-party control. The role of prosecutor was expanded and given a significant measure of authority over the judiciary.

Latvia’s independence was re-established de facto in 1991. The Constitution, first adopted in 1922, was fully restored in 1993. In 1992, the Law on Judicial Power was adopted, with the purpose of reforming the judicial system by establishing a modern, efficient court system based on the continental European model.

The Constitution and the Law on Judicial Power established three-tier court system, consisting of district (city) courts, regional courts and the Supreme Court, collectively considered the courts of general jurisdiction.

There is no independent institution to speak on behalf of the judiciary and represent it in its relations with other branches. In practice, Ministry of Justice and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court act as representatives. The Ministry’s involvement raised concerns about conflicts of interests and also weakened the separation between the branches.

In 2001 Monitoring the EU Accession Process it is stated that as a consequence of the poorly separation of powers and persistent executive interference, the judiciary has a little legal or practical control over or input into its own financing. The regional and district (city) courts have no say in the process of drafting their budgets. The Ministry of Justice, acting on a discretionary basis represents them.

Recommendation to the Latvian government (among others) were:

Develop comprehensive reforms aimed at reorganisation and modernisation of the judiciary, in particular by increasing its institutional autonomy and funding.

Emphasis the importance of comprehensive rather than fragmentary judicial reform to address numerous problems related to a lack of institutional independence and capacity of the judicial system.

Ensure that reforms already undertaken or proposed do not actually harm judicial independence or decrease the judiciary’s administrative capacity.

In response to criticism the Minister of Justice declared that the judiciary should be a priority for the 2002 State budget, and acknowledged that funding for the judiciary to date has been insufficient for the judiciary to fulfil its responsibilities. The Program for Developing the Judicial System in 2002-2006 identifies increasing judicial salaries as a priority.

Concerns expressed regarding insufficient de facto independence of the judiciary led the Ministry of Justice to propose the creation of a judicial administration, with the idea of enhancing the representation of the judiciary vis-à-vis the other branches of power and consolidating the judiciary’s control over its own affairs, including finances.

Followed by the recommendations, the Ministry of Justice prepared a Framework Paper on Court Administration. This document mentioned a possibility to transfer administrative responsibility from Ministry of Justice to an autonomous State institution.

The goal of the Paper was to establish the administration of court’s work in order to promote independence of judiciary and strengthen capacity and efficiency of court system. However, deliberation on the new framework had been quite slow.

Taking into consideration several factors and the necessary additional budget expenses, transition to the court self-governing was planned gradually.

It was envisaged that from January 2004, during the very first stage, Court Administration would be recognised and is an institution, subordinate to the Ministry of Justice.

During the second stage – from April of 2004 – the Court Administration would commence its activities and take over the following main functions for ensuring the activities of district (city) courts, administrative courts, and regional courts:
personnel management;
ensuring of the training of judges;
accountancy and budget planning;
ensuring of logistic;
informative management of the courts;
issues on public relations.

From May F 2004 – during the third stage – another consultative institution, co-ordinating the court activities, namely – the Council of Judiciary would be created. The Court Administration would perform the function of the Secretariat of the above institution, as well as ensures realisation of functions of the conception, envisaged for the second stage also as regards the Supreme Court.

It was anticipated that activities of the Ministry of Justice in the sector of justice, would be concentrated mainly on strategic issues: elaboration and improvement of the State policy, submitting of the budget, drawing up by the Council of Judiciary for the review to the Cabinet of Ministers as well as co-ordinating of international co-operation in the legal sector.

For realisation of the conception it was necessary to make amendments to several legal acts. It was envisaged that activities of the Court Administration and Council of Judiciary would carry out their activities on the basis of the Law on Judicial Power and the Regulations of the above institutions.

Even though the Council of the Judiciary had to be formed and performing, the Draft Law on Judicial Power is still at the Parliament.

Many judges believe that introduction of an independent Consul of Judiciary would enhance representation of the judiciary vis-à-vis the other branches and help consolidate the judiciary’s control over its own affairs, including finances. Unfortunately there has been no widespread public discussion of the question.

Part III – Composition

What is the composition of the Council for the Judiciary:
number of members
qualification of the members
for the “judges” members, do they need specific qualification or experiences
can non-judges be members of the Council. Please specify (number, qualification/specific functions)

Please describe the whole procedure of appointment:
who designates the members (judges or other institutions or authorities – please specify)
what is the appointment system (voting, individual candidates, designation, etc.)

How is appointed the President and/or Vice-President of the Council?

What is the term of office for a member of the Council?

May a member be removed from office against his/her will and, if so, under what circumstances?

Part IV – Resources

Where does the Council receive its financial resources?

Does the Council have its own staff?

If not, is the personnel provided by:
the Ministry of Justice?
the Supreme Court?
other institution? Please specify

What is the staff number?

What are the qualification of the staff?

Must the staff be composed, albeit only in part, by judges?

What are the tasks of the staff of the Council:
preparing materials for the Council members?
providing them with analysis and evaluation of the courts’ practice?
other? Please specify.

Part V – Tasks

Please describe the different tasks of the Council for the Judiciary (in the case there is no such body, please specify which bodies are responsible for the below listed tasks – see also part VIII of this questionnaire):

in area of personnel policy (appointment and promotion of judges, appointment of the President or the Administrative Director of the courts, determining the number and location of judges or courthouses, transfer of judges, etc)?
Ministry of Justice, Court Administration

in area of initial/or continuous training for judges and/or courts’ staff?
Ministry of Justice, Court Administration

in area of courts’ performance in general (assessment of quality of court performance, setting policy and performance standards and targets four courts, imposing penalties for the misuse of funds)?
Ministry of Justice, Court Administration

in area of the individual work of a judge (evaluation of his/her work, setting up evaluation criteria as quality and/or quantity of judgements)?
Ministry of Justice, Court Administration, Judicial Qualification Board

in area of disciplinary procedure against judge (has the Council power of initiative or sanction, is appeal or other legal remedy available against sanctions, when the Council has power in disciplinary matters does it respect the provisions of Article 6 of the ECHR)?

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is entitled to initiate a disciplinary matter concerning judges of the Supreme Court. Concerning judges of district (city) courts and regional courts Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is entitled to initiate a disciplinary matter only when intentional violation of law is committed during the adjudication of a matter in court.

Minister of Justice, chairpersons of regional and district courts is entitled to initiate a disciplinary matter concerning judges of district (city) courts and regional courts.

Disciplinary proceedings may be initiated against judge for an intentional violation of the law committed while conducting court proceedings, for failure to carry out the responsibilities of his/her office, for activities incompatible with a judicial position, for a flagrant violation of the Code of Ethics, for and administrative offence.

Disciplinary proceedings may be initiated based on a complaint by any member of the public, or based on a publication in mass media. In addition, disciplinary proceedings may be initiated as the result of the review of the case by a higher court (as a result of an appeal or a cassation) when it becomes clear that the lowest court judge has committed a professional violation. Each disciplinary proceeding is conducted separately by evaluating whether the violation was intentional, the consequences of such a violation and whether it was repeated violation.

The revocation or modification of a judgement or decision of a court shall not of itself be a reason for subjecting a judge, who has participated in its acceptance, to liability, if they have not allowed an intentional or negligent violation of law.

The Judicial Disciplinary Board is an institution that ensures that those named official who do not follow the law while in the office, are held accountable. If judicial discipline were enforced by an outside governmental entity, it may be able to influence the judiciary. For that reason, the disciplinary function should be exercised by judicial branch. In addition, it requires judicial experience to be able to evaluate in a professional manner whether a judge has committed a violation and to be able to apply an appropriate disciplinary penalty.

The Judicial Conference elects ten members to serve on the Judicial Disciplinary Board. The members represent court of all levels and have equal power in its decision – making process. It is the Chief Justice’s responsibility to supervise the work of the Judicial Disciplinary Board and to ensure that it is conducted in accordance with the law. The Judicial Disciplinary Board’s members include one of the deputy Chief Justices, three justices of the Supreme Court, two chairpersons of the regional courts, two chairpersons from district (city) and two chairs of the district offices of the Land Registry.

In advisory capacity may participate the Minister of Justice, Prosecutor General or any person authorised by them, and any person authorised by the Board of the Latvian Judges Association. The members of the Judicial Disciplinary Board (except Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) shall be elected by secret ballot at a Conference of judges.

The Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor General, or persons authorised by them, as well as a person authorised by the Board of the Latvian Judges Association, may participate in the sitting of the Judicial Disciplinary Board in an advisory capacity.

The Supreme Court shall financially ensure the work of the Judicial Disciplinary Board.

There is no possibility to appeal the decision of the Judicial Disciplinary Board.

In area of the budget for the judiciary (does the Council take part in the budget negotiations with the Government or Parliament, does the Council have competence for the subdivision of financial resources allocated to the courts, for the deployment of funds by individual courts, which courts)?

The Court Administration prepares the draft of budget request for securing of the court performance and submits it to the Ministry of Justice. Department of Plans and Finances prepares and submits draft budget to the Ministry of Finances.

The Ministry of Finance is responsible for drafting the overall State budget, and negotiates with, the Ministry of Justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court over their respective sections. Disagreements are forwarded to the Cabinet of Ministers.

While reviewing the draft budget, the Government may, at its discretion, invite the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to participate in the review, and such an invitation has been issued occasionally. After the Government has given its approval, the budget is sent to Parliament, which adopts the annual State Budget Law. The judiciary does not participate in the parliamentary debates over the budget.

The Court Administration handles the budget recourses of the courts and ensures goal-directed and efficient use of the State budget resources.

There is a separate budget line in the State Budget Law for the Supreme Court, which prepares its own budget request and submits it directly to the Ministry of Finances.

In other areas not already mentioned above (e.g. participation in the law-drafting process, reporting to the Government/Parliament about substantial problems in the court system)? Please specify.

A judge may participate in the law drafting process, may render opinions on draft laws, may submit proposals on issues concerning the explanation of laws to a Conference of Judges, as well as directly to the Supreme Court.

The Conference of Judges is a self-governing judicial institution. All judges of the Republic of Latvia shall participate in its work. The Conference of Judges:

examines current issues of court practice;
submits requests to the Supreme Court Plenary Session to issue explanations on the application of laws;
discusses financial, social security, and other significant issues concerning the work of judges; etc.

The Conference of Judges also elects Judicial Qualification Board and its chairman and elects the Judicial Disciplinary Board.

Despite of that all judges participate and vote in the Conference of Judges, the powers of it, are purely advisory.

Does the Council have investigation powers? If yes, please specify.

How can the members of the Council have information on the concrete functioning of courts (where do they receive information from, is the information analyses)? Please describe.

What are the types of norms that the Council can issue:

opinions on the functioning of the judiciary?

recommendations?

instructions to the courts?

decisions?

Are the functions or responsibilities of the Council described in law or other norms? Please specify.

If yes, is the formulation of these tasks by legislation general, even declarative, or rather concrete and specific?

Does your country have a code of ethics for judges and is it one of the tasks of the Council to guarantee its observance?

The Latvian Judges Association adopted Code of Judicial Ethics in 1995 but the Code in fact is not applied in practice.

Does the Council handle external relationships of the courts:

has it a public relations department?

how does it ensure the transparency of its functioning and organisation?

Are decisions of the Council published and available to all?

Part VI – Assessment of the self-governance and the independence of the judiciary

To what extent is the work of the Council influenced by:

the executive power?

the legislative power?

Is the Council independent from other States entities, so that it is not subject to control liability in their respect?

Which is the division of responsibilities and powers between the Council for the Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice?

Which is the division of responsibilities and powers between the Council for the Judiciary, the Supreme Court and the Presidents of the Courts?

Is the Supreme Cur or are the highest courts also subject to the exercise of the powers of the Council for the Judiciary, or do special rules apply to that respect?

Who decides which the priorities of actions of the Council are?

Is it possible for the individual courts or judges to appeal the decisions of the Council? How?

Which instruments or practices are used by the Council:

to guard the independence of judges?

to protect judges from undue interference and/or attacks coming from the general public, the media and other powers of the State?

to intervene in case of attacks against its own interests?

to improve the working methods of judges?

Part VII – Future trends of Councils for the Judiciary

Are there particular fundamental problems concerning the administrative management of the court vis-à-vis the role of the Council? If yes, please specify.

41. Are reforms concerning the Council under discussion or envisaged in near future? If yes, please describe.

Are there relations between the Council for the Judiciary and judges’ professional organisations or associations?

If your country is member of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), what are the concrete added values of your membership:

concerning the national actions of your Council?

concerning international co-operation?

Are there some other features concerning the Council for the Judiciary, which might be of special interest to others from a comparative point of view? If yes, please describe.

Part VIII – Countries without a Council of the Judiciary

Are there mechanisms to ensure the functioning of the principle of separation of powers with respect to the judiciary?

The principle of separation of powers is not explicitly stated in the Constitution. The clearest expression of a separation of powers is found in the Law on Judicial Power, which declares that “an independent judicial power exists in the Republic of Latvia, alongside the legislative and the executive power” and that “only a court shall deliver justice. The independence of the courts shall be guaranteed by the State.”

However, the principle may be applied in the division of the Constitution into chapters addressing “The Parliament”, “The State President”, “The Government” and “Courts”.

Moreover, the Constitutional Court made it clear in its opinion that the Latvian system is based on the separation of powers.

According to Article 11 of the Law on Judicial Power state institutions, public and political organisations and other legal and natural persons have a duty to respect and observe the independence of a court and the immunity of judges.

No restriction of, bringing pressure on, influence on, direct or indirect threats to or other unlawful interference with the adjudication of a court shall be allowed, irrespective of the goal or intention thereof. Demonstrations and picketing on the premises of a court building are prohibited pursuant to procedures provided for in legislative enactment. Any influencing of judges or interference with adjudication of a court shall be punished in accordance with the procedures provided by law.

No one has the right to require from the judge an accounting or explanations concerning how a particular matter was adjudicated, or also the disclosure of the views expressed during deliberations.

According to Article 12 of the Law on Judicial Power persons guilty of non-compliance with a court, evasion of appearing before a court, infringement of the honour of a judge in regard to the adjudication of a court, as well as of other actions with which contempt of court has been expressed, shall be punished in accordance with the procedures provided by law.

According to Article 13 a judge has immunity during the time he/she fulfils his/her duties in relation to adjudication in a court.

A criminal matter against a judge may be initiated only by the Prosecutor General on the Republic of Latvia. A judge may not be detained or be subject to criminal liability without the consent of the Saeima (Parliament). A Supreme Court justice specially authorised for that purpose should take a decision concerning the detention, forcible conveyance, arrest, or subjection to a search of a judge.

An administrative sanction may not be applied to a judge, and he/she shall not be arrested pursuant to administrative procedures. A judge is subject to disciplinary liability for the committing of administrative violations in accordance with the provisions of this law, which stipulates disciplinary liability for judges.

A judge is not financially liable for the damages incurred to a person who participates in a matter, as a result of unlawful or unfounded judgement of a court. In the cases provided for by law, damages shall be paid by the state.

A person, who considers that a judgement of a court is unlawful and unfounded, may appeal it in accordance with the procedures provided by law, but may not make a claim in court directly against judge who has adjudicated the matter.

How and by whom are judges appointed and promoted?

According to the Law on Judicial Power judges of a district (city) court shall be appointed to office by the Parliament, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, for three years.

After a judge of a district (city) court has held office for three years, the Parliament, upon the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice, and on the basis of an opinion of the Judicial Qualification Board, shall confirm him/her to office, for an unlimited term of office, or shall re-appoint him/her to office for a period of up to two years.

After the expiration of the repeated term of office, the Parliament, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, shall confirm in office a judge of a district (city) court for an unlimited term of office.

If the work of a judge is unsatisfactory, the Minister of Justice, in accordance with an opinion of the Judicial Qualification Board, shall not nominate a judge as a candidate for a repeated appointment to or confirmation in office.

The number judges of district (city) courts shall be determined by the Parliament, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justie.

Judge of a regional court shall be confirmed by the Parliament, upon a recommendation of the Minister of Justice, for an unlimited term of office.

Justices of the Supreme Court, upon the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, shall be confirmed in the office by the Parliament, for an unlimited term of office.

Chief judge of a district (city) court and his/her deputy shall be appointed by the Minister of Justice for five years on the basis of an opinion of the Judicial Qualification Board.

The Minister of Justice may remove chief judge of a district (city) court and his/her deputy from office pursuant to his/her own request. Chief judge of a district (city) court may be dismissed from office by the Minister of Justice, based on an opinion of the Judicial Disciplinary Board.

The number of judges of a regional court shall be determined by the Parliament, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice.

Chief judge of a regional court shall be appointed by the Parliament, for five years upon the joint recommendation of the Minister of Justice and the Qualification Board.

Chief judge of a regional court shall be removed from office, upon his/her own request, by the Parliament. Chief judge of a regional court may be dismissed from office by the Parliament, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice or the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, on the basis of an opinion of the Judicial Disciplinary Board.

The Minister of Justice shall appointed deputy chief judges of a regional court, for five years, on the basis of an opinion of the Judicial Qualification Board.

The Minister of Justice shall remove deputy chief judge of a regional court from office, upon his/her request. Deputy chief judge of a regional court shall be dismissed from office by the Minister of Justice, based on an opinion of the Judicial Disciplinary Board.

The total number of judges in the Supreme Court, as well as the number of judges in the Senate and in the Chambers of the Supreme Court, shall be determined by the Parliament, pursuant to the recommendation of the Chief Justice.

The composition of the Senate and the Chambers of the Supreme Court shall be approved by, and the chairpersons of the Departments of the Senate and the chairpersons of the Chambers of the Supreme Court shall be elected by, the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court.

The term of office of the chairperson of the Department of the Senate and the chairpersons of the Chambers of the Supreme Court shall be five years.

The work of the Supreme Court shall be managed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who, from among the judges appointed, upon the nomination of the Cabinet of Ministers, shall be confirmed by the Parliament for seven years.

The Deputy Chief Justices of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the Plenary Session for seven years from among the chairpersons of the Departments of the Senate and the Chairpersons on the court Chambers.

In case of a vacancy or the temporary absence of a judge of a district (city) court, the Minister of Justice may, for a period not exceeding two years, assign a judge of another district (city) court or a judge of a regional court, if such person has given written consent, to fulfil the duties of a judge of a district (city) court.

During the time of temporary absence of a judge of a regional court, the Minister of Justice may, for a period not exceeding two years, assign a judge of another regional court, if such person has given written consent, to fulfil the duties of a judge of a district (city) court.

During the temporary absence of a judge of a regional court, the Minister of Justice may, upon the recommendation of the Judicial Qualification Board, assign a district (city) court judge to substitute for a judge of a regional court.

During the time of a temporary absence of a judge of the Senate of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may assign a judge of a Chamber of the Court to substitute for him/her.

During the temporary absence of a judge of a Chamber of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may assign, upon a recommendation of the Judicial Qualification Board, a judge of a regional court to substitute for him/her.

A judge of a district (city) court or a judge of a regional court shall be removed from office by the Parliament, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice. Judge of the Supreme Court shall be removed from office by the Parliament, upon the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be removed from office by the Parliament, upon the recommendation of the Cabinet of Ministers.

A judge shall be removed from office:
pursuant to his/her own request;
in connection with election or appointment to another office;
due to his/her state of health if it does not allow him/her to continue to work as a judge;
in connection with reaching the maximum age for fulfilling the office of a judge as specified by law.

Does any authority (body) independent of the government and the administration take part in the appointment and promotion process:
if yes, how is this authority composed? Is a certain share of judges fixed?
how are the members selected?
what are the detailed competence of the authority with respect to the appointment and promotion of judges?

The Judicial Qualification Board is a self-governing judicial institution, the purpose of which is to strengthen the professional independence of judges.

The Judicial Qualification Board shall be composed of two judges from Senate of the Supreme Court, one judge from the Chamber of Civil Matters of the Supreme Court, one judge from the Chamber of Criminal Matters of the Supreme Court, two judges from regional courts, two judges from district (city) courts and two judges from Land Registry Offices.

The chairperson of the Judicial Committee of the Parliament, the Minister of Justice, the Prosecutor General, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Latvia, the Chancellor of the Police Academy or persons authorised by them, as well as the authorised representative of the Latvian Association of Judges, may participate at meetings of the Judicial Qualification Board in an advisory capacity.

The Judicial Qualification Board:

shall evaluate the preparedness for the office of a judge of each candidate who has been nominated for the first time, and shall conduct the qualification examinations of a candidate for a judge;

shall give opinions concerning the nominations of judges for district (city) courts, regional courts, the Supreme Court and Land Registry Offices;

shall certify judges and grant them a qualification category;

shall decide the issue of lowering the qualification category of a judge upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the chief judge of a regional court, the chief judge of a district (city) court, or the Head of a Land Registry Office;

shall approve the regulatory provisions for the work of the Judicial Qualification Board and for the procedures for certification of judges.

How are the courts’ activities funded? Do judges have any say whatsoever in decisions concerning funding or in managing the budget?

Is the creation of a Council of the Judiciary contemplated? If yes, what will be its competence?

The Draft Law on Courts Organisation envisaged the Council of Judiciary as a consulting and co-ordinating institution, which participates in the development of policy and strategy of the court system as well as in the improvement of the court system activities.

The following functions of the Council of Judiciary are envisaged in the Draft Law:

Expressing of the standpoint on the budget.

The Court Administration summarises the budget request of the district courts, administrative district courts, regional courts and administrative regional courts and submits them to the Council of Judiciary for expression of the standpoint. The Supreme Court shall submit its budget request to the Council of Judiciary. After receiving the standpoint of the Council of Judiciary, the Court Administration submit the above budget requests to the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice – by attaching to the documents the standpoint of the Council of Judiciary – submits the budget requests to the Minister of Finance. Diverse standpoint of the Council of Judiciary of the elaborated budget request does not stop submitting of it to the Ministry of Finance.

Confirmation of the content and volume of the qualification examination for the candidates to the post of a judge.

The Draft Law envisages that before confirming the content and volume of the qualification examination for the candidates to the post of a judge, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall co-ordinate with the Council of Judiciary.

Analyses of the annual reports of the Judges Qualification Board.

The Draft Law envisages that once a year the Judges Qualification Board submits a report on its work to the Council of Judiciary.

Convening of the Supreme Court Plenary Session (in exceptional cases).

The Council of Judiciary convenes the Supreme Court Plenary Session in which an issue on the candidacy of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be settled.



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