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The Quality of Latvian Court Judgements

Year: 2003
Financed by:  The Soros Foundation-Latvia; Open Society Institute Justice Initiative Program; JI; Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative; LGI
The study has been prepared as part of PROVIDUS Public Policy Fellowship Program
Language:  English, Latvian

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Year: 2003
Financed by:  The Soros Foundation-Latvia; Open Society Institute Justice Initiative Program; JI; Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative; LGI
The study has been prepared as part of PROVIDUS Public Policy Fellowship Program
Language:  English, Latvian

The policy analysis “The Quality of Latvian Court Judgements” identifies what the problems with the quality of Latvian court judgements are and how they can be resolved. In addition, the study analyzes whether these problems find their origin in the quality of legal education, in the system for appointing judges, in judicial training, in the way in which the work of judges is controlled, or in other factors.

The conclusions of the policy analysis are based on 60 judgements made by Riga's city courts in administrative law, from 2000 - 2001. The study analyzes both the form and the content of these judgements.

The study uncovered three main problems regarding the quality of court judgements:

  • Court judgements tend to be difficult for the reader to understand. 
    Courts pay minimal attention to the outward appearance of a judgement and to the arrangement of the information included. The conclusions drawn by the court are often not separated from each other and the position of a reference to the applicable provision and the form of this reference can render the judgement unclear, even unconvincing. Likewise, court judgements often contain unnecessary information.
  • Court judgements tend to contain incomplete information.
    Disputing parties often use general phrases in their claims or objections and do not explain why one or the other party defends a certain position. Court judgements frequently fail to separate a description of the circumstances as seen by the disputing parties from the facts that have been established in order to apply a specific provision. A lack of precision in regard, for example, to the date when a law has been adopted or the correct title of the law also suggests that the judgement contains incomplete information. Similarly, in cases that call for the application of another provision, or require the court to consider the hierarchy of provisions, or to interpret a provision, the judgement contains incomplete information.
  • The conclusions drawn by the court tend to lack argumentation.
    The courts' argumentation is brief and laconic and the courts basically use only arguments based on the applied laws or regulations, thus rendering the adequacy of their arguments suspect.  In cases where courts include the arguments of one of the parties in the descriptive part of the judgement, but fail to consider them in the court’s reasoning, they do not make it clear whether they have considered these arguments when making their decision.

The policy analysis concludes that a major factor effecting the quality of court judgements in Latvia is the level of a judge's legal education and opportunities to improve professional qualifications. Also, ineffective apprenticeships for candidates prior to their judicial examination and the actual conduct of the judicial examination may have a negative impact on the quality of court judgements, if the procedure leaves much to the discretion of those evaluating the suitability of judicial candidates.

In order to prevent the problems identified in this policy paper, guidelines for the preparation of court judgements should be developed. These guidelines should explain in greater detail the requirements of the law regarding the components of a court judgement and the information that each part of a judgement must contain. Legal scholars are invited to publish, on a regular basis, analyses on the issues currently of interest to the court’s case law, and the Judicial Training Center is invited to undertake an active role in organizing discussions on those analyses. In addition, the policy analysis recommends an evaluation of the effectiveness of legal education in Latvia, the procedure for evaluating judicial candidates, the amount and content of judicial training, and the judges’ control mechanism. An informative booklet for litigants may also serve as a good tool in the struggle against low quality court judgements.

 The Quality of Latvian Court Judgements (228.00 KB)

 The Quality of Latvian Court Judgements (in Latvian) (245.47 KB)

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