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Latvian government supports creation of courts for economic affairs

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Latvia’s Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns

On Tuesday, 5 November, Latvia’s government supported Justice Ministry’s initiative to found a specialized economic affairs court, which could start working 1 January 2021.

Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens is against law amendments. He says development of regulations did not take into account objections from the Justice Council. Additionally, he says amendments will not resolve the problems the coalition is committed to fighting.

Interior affairs minister invites performing an audit of the justice sector prior to adopting new amendments.

«We have to perform an audit of the justice sector, assess all legislative acts and mistakes of the past to move forward. I want to wait for the audit first and only then start working on new legislative acts,» says Ģirģens. He also says the new regulation creates corruption risks.

Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns, on the other hand, says each reform has supporters and opponents, adding the law amendments were developed using audit results. At the same time, Bordāns stresses that corruption risks are mentioned to slow down creation of a new court.

Justice ministry’s representative explains that the Justice Council did not respond to the offer to provide an opinion about the legislative draft. Still, the council will be able to submit its opinion once it has been submitted to the Saeima for review.

After listening to the two ministers jousting with words, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš admitted the government does not have a shortage of good lawyers. Nevertheless, the prime minister invited this project’s review in the Saeima.

The legislative draft was supported by all ministers except Ģirģens.

Vice-chairman of Riga Regional Court and Justice Council member Juris Stukāns also opposed the plan for the creation of an economic affairs court. His letter of response was added to the agenda of the meeting held by the Cabinet of Ministers. In his letter, Stukāns stressed that authors of the idea and the legislative draft have «identified faulty problems». He also mentioned authors of the idea basically believe the general courts of justice are not qualified enough to perform their duties and have judges with questionable reputation who are unable to differentiate crimes from civil disputes or apply relevant rules of the Law on the Criminal Process, which allegedly results in delays with viewing of cases.

More on this topic: Latvian Justice Minister: Court of Economic Cases would tear up crippling schemes

In his letter, Stukāns voiced certainty there is no judge in Latvia who has a spotless reputation. Judges are already able to differentiate between crimes and civil disputes and view cases in accordance with the law. This makes it so that authors of the idea have identified the wrong problems, have made the wrong conclusions and therefore have proposed the wrong solutions.

It was previously reported that a specialized first instance court would help create ten new judge posts and 27 court employee jobs. The total funding amount for its creation is EUR 1 004 712, which includes single-time expenses of EUR 86 609.

EUR 918 103 will be secured from the state budget.

Appeal instance specialized court would create four judge posts – four out of the currently vacant jobs 0 and six court employee jobs.

The Justice Council led by Supreme Court of Justice chairman Ivars Bičkovičs mentioned in its letter addressed to Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš that they are critical about Justice Ministry’s idea to create a specialized economic affairs court. Nine members of the council voted against creation of such a court, whereas only two voted in favour.

According to the council, the ministry’s concept for economic affairs court lacks the cause of the problem and any adequate analysis of consequences. If the problem is the long case review process, particularly when it comes to economic crimes and corruption, it is necessary to survey the root cause of this problem, the council concluded.

The letter also explains that the developed concept is too abstract as to how specialization could help speed up reviews of cases and quality or rulings. The council believes the concept of a new specialized court is against the model introduced for courts and judges in the last reform. The council also mentioned that the lack of succession in the planning of justice system’s development does not contribute to stability or development. The council also invites Justice Ministry to refrain from radical and controversial reforms in the future.

The Justice Council also mentioned several possible reasons for the problems outlined in the concept, such as investigation quality, accusation quality, as well as the inefficient regulation of the Law on Criminal Process. As for civil cases – there is a problem with low quality pleas, poor quality of work done by lawyers and judges.

In reaction to this letter, Bordāns informed both Bičkovičs and Kariņš that the letter sent on behalf of the Justice Council about the concept of the specialized economic affairs court does not accurately reflect opinions of all members of the council.

Bordāns believes the chairman of the Justice Council acted against the principle of collegiality of the the Law on Judicial Power that governs the work of the Justice Council.

Bordāns believes the letter of the chairman of the Justice Council contains the opinions of judges present at the meeting and the prosecutor general. According to the minister, the letter does not contain any mention of opinions in favour of the creation of the specialized economic affairs court or considerations associated with it.

Bordāns claims during the 3 June meeting three the Justice Council members voiced conceptual support for the idea of having a specialized court. He as Justice Minister, chairman of Saeima’s Legal Affairs Office and chairman of Latvia’s Sworn Notaries Council. Additionally, the chairman of Latvia’s Sworn Bailiffs Council did not take part in this meeting.

Read also: Minister: Economic Court may be established in Latvia in 2021

Provision of a one-sided opinion to the government and parliament creates the risk of an important matter being discussed only on a surface level. According to him, submission of a single opinion from a collegial institution «chairman’s is both confusing and unacceptable in a democratic country».


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