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Last update: 21-08-2007
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Jurisdiction of the courts - Latvia

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court? A.
B. How can I find out where exactly to submit my claim and which court has jurisdiction over my case? B.
I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher courts of first instance and if so which one is competent for my case? I.
II. Territorial jurisdiction II.
1. The basic rules of territorial jurisdiction 1.
2. Exceptions to the basic rules 2.
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court? a)
b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)? b)
c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise? c)
C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address? C.

 

A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court?

The Act on Civil Procedures guarantees the right of every natural and legal person to go to court to defend their legitimate interests and civil rights where these rights have been infringed or contested. As a general rule all civil disputes are subject to court action and must be heard under judicial claims procedures. In exceptional cases and only where specified under legislation civil disputes can be settled under other extrajudicial procedures. Where provided for under legislation the court also hears claims presented by natural and legal persons which are not by nature civil. However, in all cases the issue of arbitrating a dispute is decided by a court or a judge. If a court or a judge recognises that a dispute is not subject to court action the decision to this effect indicates the body responsible for adjudicating the dispute in question.

The parties to a dispute are entitled by mutual agreement to take their case to a court of arbitration. The parties can decide to go before a court of arbitration to resolve a dispute that has already arisen or that may arise in the future. Any civil dispute can be brought before a court of arbitration except certain disputes specified under legislation. Where the parties have agreed to take their dispute to a court of arbitration an application must be made to the appropriate court of arbitration.

B. How can I find out where exactly to submit my claim and which court has jurisdiction over my case?

Civil cases are subject to substantive examination in the court of first instance, with the exception of certain cases specified in legislation which are heard in the regional courts.

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Cases do not undergo substantive examination in a court of higher instance before they have been heard in an lower court. The court of first instance for civil cases is the district (municipal) court or regional court under whose jurisdiction a case falls. Jurisdiction in civil procedures means the assignment of civil cases subject to court action to the courts of first instance for their substantive examination, on the basis of their jurisdiction on substantive or territorial grounds.

Cases subject to court action are heard in district (municipal) courts with the exception of certain cases specified in legislation which are heard in the regional courts. The following cases subject to court action are heard in regional courts:

  1. disputes over property rights relating to immovable property;
  2. cases arising from contract law, where the amount of the claim exceeds LVL 150 000;
  3. cases concerning patent rights and the protection of trademarks;
  4. cases concerning the insolvency and liquidation of credit institutions.

If several claims are being brought within a single case where some claims are subject to the jurisdiction of district (municipal) courts and others should be heard in a regional court, or where a counter-claim which falls under the jurisdiction of a regional court has been submitted before a district (municipal) court, the case is heard in a regional court.

Courts adjudicate civil cases pursuant to acts and other legislation, international agreements binding on Latvia, and European Union legislation. If an international agreement approved by the Saeima (Parliament) lays down provisions that conflict with those laid down in Latvian legislation the provisions of the international agreement are applicable. Where a judicial matter is regulated by European Union legislation directly applicable in Latvia, Latvian legislative provisions are applied to the extent allowed for under European Union legislation.

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I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher courts of first instance and if so which one is competent for my case?

In civil cases the assignment of jurisdiction to the various levels of courts of first instance is called jurisdiction on substantive grounds because civil cases falling under the jurisdiction of these courts are classed according to the category (type) of case or the material (character or amount) of the claim. In either of these cases the territorial jurisdiction of courts of the same instance must also be taken into account.

See the information given above on the distinction between lower and higher courts of first instance.

II. Territorial jurisdiction

1. The basic rules of territorial jurisdiction

General procedures concerning territorial jurisdiction lay down that a claim against a natural person is brought in a court determined by the person's place of residence (Section 26 of the Act on Criminal Procedures). A claim against a legal person is brought in a court determined by the legal person's location (legal address). This means that a case is brought before a court of first instance in view of its categorical or material jurisdiction but also taking into account the rules governing territorial jurisdiction.

2. Exceptions to the basic rules

The Act on Civil Procedures also specifies exceptions to the rules on territorial jurisdiction relating to civil cases, whereby a claimant can choose to bring a case pursuant to the general provisions on territorial jurisdiction, i.e. apply to the court where the defendant lives or is located, or the claimant can decide to bring a claim in a different court of first instance which operates on the same level and is indicated under legislation as an alternative court.

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a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court?

A claim against a defendant whose place of residence is not known or who does not have a permanent place of residence in Latvia is brought in a court determined by the location of any immovable property belonging to the defendant or by the defendant's last known place of residence.

Rules relating to jurisdiction selected by the claimant are laid down under Section 28 of the Act on Civil Procedures, which gives a detailed list of types of case and alternative courts where a claim can be brought:

  1. A claim relating to the actions of a subsidiary or representative office of a legal person may also be brought in a court determined by the location of the subsidiary or representative office.
  2. A claim regarding recovery of support or determination of paternity may also be brought before a court corresponding to the place of residence of the claimant.
  3. A claim relating to personal delicts (Sections 2347-2353 of the Civil Act latviešu valoda), which have resulted in disability, other damage to health or the death of the person concerned may also be brought before a court corresponding to the claimant's place of residence or the location where the delicts were inflicted.
  4. A claim relating to damages inflicted on a natural or legal person's property may also be brought before a court corresponding to the location where the damage was inflicted.
  5. A claim relating to the recovery of property or compensation for the value of such property may also be brought before a court corresponding to the claimant's place of residence.
  6. Maritime claims may also be brought before a court corresponding to the location where the defendant's vessel was seized.
  7. An action against several defendants who reside at or are located in various places may be brought before a court corresponding to one defendant's place of residence or location.
  8. An action relating to a divorce or a marriage annulment may be brought in a court corresponding to the claimant's place of residence where:
    1. minors are residing with the claimant;
    2. one of the parties seeking a divorce has been formally recognised as mentally incapacitated or is in guardianship (Section 365 of the Civil Act);
    3. one of the parties seeking a divorce is serving a prison sentence;
    4. the place of residence of one of the parties seeking a divorce is unknown or is abroad;
    5. the spouses have submitted an application to this effect when deciding to seek divorce.
  9. A claim relating to an employment contract may also be brought in a court corresponding to the claimant's place of residence or place of work.
b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)?

Exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases also relates to exceptions not only from general territorial jurisdiction in civil cases, but also from all other types of territorial jurisdiction. Jurisdiction of this type is applicable to certain court cases:

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  1. claims relating to property rights and any other rights of ownership of immovable property or its effects, and claims relating to the registration of such rights in the land register or deletion from the register and exclusion of such rights from the descriptive deed are brought before a court corresponding to the location of the property in question;
  2. a creditor's claim in respect of the entirety of an inheritance, where the confirmed heirs or the legatees are not known, falls under the jurisdiction of the court corresponding to the testator's place of residence. Where this place of residence was not in Latvia or is not known, the claim is brought before the court corresponding to the location of the estate or part of the estate;
  3. exclusive jurisdiction may also be applicable under other legislative acts.

The provisions set out below also apply to cases subject to special judicial procedures:

  1. an application relating to adoption approval shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the place of residence of the adopter, but an application for adoption annulment shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the place of residence of one applicant. An application from an alien or a person living in a foreign state relating to adoption approval shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the place of residence of the adoptee (Section 259 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  2. an application to declare a person incapable of acting because of mental illness or mental deficiency shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the place of residence of the person or, if the person has been placed in care, corresponding to the location of the medical institution (Section 264 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  3. an application to impose guardianship on a person whose dissolute or spendthrift lifestyle or excessive use of alcohol or narcotics threatens to bring about privation or poverty for themselves or their family, shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the person's place of residence (Section 271 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  4. a case regarding trusteeship of property belonging to an absent or missing person shall be adjudicated by a court corresponding to the last place of residence of the missing or absent person (Section 278 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  5. an application to declare a missing person as deceased shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the last place of residence of this person (Section 282 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  6. an application to determine legal facts shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the place of residence of the applicant (Section 290 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  7. an application for the annulment of rights relating to immovable property shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the location of the property; where the application relates to other rights the application is submitted to a court corresponding to the applicant's location, this being the place of residence of a natural person or the location (legal address) of a legal person, unless otherwise specified under legislation (Section 294(2) of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  8. an application for the annulment of lost, stolen or destroyed documents and renewal of rights relating to such documents shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the payment location indicated on the document, but if the payment location is not known, then to a court corresponding to the debtor's place of residence if the debtor is a natural person, or location (legal address) if the debtor is a legal person; if the location of the debtor is also unknown, then corresponding to the place where the document was issued (Section 299 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  9. applications regarding redemption of immovable property shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the location of the immovable property subject to redemption (Section 336 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  10. cases regarding the insolvency of an undertaking or a company shall be adjudicated by a court corresponding to the location (legal address) of the undertaking or company. Cases relating to the commencement of insolvency proceedings under Article 3(1) of Council regulation (EC) No 1346/2000 shall be adjudicated by a court corresponding to the location of the centre of the debtor’s main interests; cases relating to the commencement of insolvency proceedings under Article 3(2) of this Regulation shall be adjudicated by a court corresponding to the location of the debtor’s undertaking (within the meaning of Article 2(h) of the above Regulation) (Section 342 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  11. cases regarding insolvency or liquidation of credit institutions shall be adjudicated by a court corresponding to the location (legal address) of the credit institution (Section 364 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  12. an employer may submit an application to declare a strike or an application to strike illegal under the grounds referred to and the procedure set out in the Act on Strikes latviešu valoda. An application to declare a strike or an application to strike illegal shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the location where the strike is to take place (Section 390 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  13. employee representatives may submit an application to declare a lock-out or an application to lock-out as illegal under the grounds referred to and the procedures set out in the Act on Labour Disputes latviešu valoda. An application to declare a lock-out or an application to lock-out illegal shall be submitted to a court corresponding to the location where the lock-out is to take place (Section 3941 of the Act on Civil Procedures).

Cases relating to undisputed execution of liabilities:

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  1. applications for the voluntary sale of immovable property at auction by judicial means shall be submitted to the district (municipal) court corresponding to the location of the immovable property (Section 395 of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  2. applications for undisputed compulsory execution of liabilities involving monetary payments or the return of movable property shall be submitted to the district (municipal) court corresponding to the location of the debtor's place of residence (Section 403(1) of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  3. applications for undisputed compulsory execution under immovable property pledge documents or under an obligation to vacate or return leased or rented immovable property, shall be submitted to the district (municipal) court corresponding to the location of the debtor's residence (Section 403(2) of the Act on Civil Procedures);
  4. applications for undisputed compulsory execution under a mortgage bond for a ship shall be submitted to the district (municipal) court corresponding to the place where the mortgage bond is registered (Section 403(3) of the Act on Civil Procedures).

Exclusive jurisdiction does not apply to the compulsory execution of liabilities under caution procedures where a claim is brought before a court corresponding to the place of residence or location of the debtor, and no exceptions are applicable to such cases with regard to the jurisdiction of a regional court: a caution can be served on a debtor even if the amount of the claim exceeds LVL 150 000, since the court does not have to pass judgment on disputes under caution procedures. The debtor is given a caution in respect of the claim which allows the debtor to opt for either settlement or court action. If the debtor does not accept the claim the dispute is heard under claims procedures according to the rules on the jurisdiction of the courts in court proceedings.

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c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise?

Yes, this possibility does exist: Latvian national legislation provides for jurisdiction by agreement whereby the parties are granted the right to attribute the territorial jurisdiction of their case by agreement. When concluding a contract the parties can specify the court of first instance where any future disputes relating to the contract or fulfilment of its terms are to be settled. However, the parties may not alter the substantive jurisdiction under which a case falls (Section 25 of the Act on Civil Procedures), that is the attribution of a civil case to different stages of the court of first instance; the parties also cannot alter exclusive jurisdiction (Section 29 of Act on Civil Procedures). Jurisdiction by agreement is subject to two restrictions:

  1. this form of attributing jurisdiction can only used in respect of contractual disputes;
  2. an agreement to change territorial jurisdiction must be reached at the time a contract is concluded and the specific court of instance which would hear a potential dispute must be indicated. Since, when concluding a contract, it is not possible for the parties to anticipate the amount of the claim relating to the potential dispute the contract must allow for an alternative choice of court of first instance, that is, both a specific district (municipal) court, and a regional court, before which the parties would bring disputes, depending on the amount of the claim.

C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address?

Under Latvian legislation courts of general jurisdiction in Latvia hear both civil and criminal cases. Latvia does not have specialised courts, for instance family courts, or judges who specialise in particular legal issues, as is the case in other countries.

As referred to above, civil cases are subject to substantive examination in a court of first instance and do not undergo substantive examination in a court of higher instance before they have been heard in an lower court. The court of first instance for a civil case is the district (municipal) court or regional court under whose jurisdiction the case falls. Under general provisions all civil disputes are subject to court action and must be heard under judicial claims procedures.

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Last update: 21-08-2007

 
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