Latvia employs a three-tiered judicial system. The Constitution of the Republic of Latvia lays down that judgments are made in Latvia's district (municipal) courts, regional courts and the Supreme Court; in a state of war or emergency the military courts are also used.
District (municipal) courts are the courts of first instance for civil, criminal and administrative cases.
Regional courts can be both courts of first instance and courts of appeal. A regional court is the court of first instance where procedural legislation lays down that a specific case must be heard in a regional court at first instance. This usually applies to cases which are more complex or have a greater scope.
Regional courts operate as courts of appeal for civil, criminal and administrative cases that have been heard in a district (municipal) court or by a sole judge.
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia consists of (1) the Senate, and (2) two chambers: the Chamber of Civil Cases and the Chamber of Criminal Cases. The Chambers serve as courts of appeal for cases heard at first instance in the regional courts.
The Supreme Court Senate acts as the court of cassation in all cases heard in district (municipal) courts and regional courts. The Senate is the court of first instance in cases relating to decisions adopted by the State Audit Office under Section 55 of the State Audit Office Act. The Senate is made up of four departments: the Department of Civil Cases, the Department of Criminal Cases, the Department of Administrative Cases and the Department of Disciplinary Cases.
The Constitutional Court is an independent judicial authority.
Judges are independent and are subject only to the law.
At present the judiciary in Latvia is regulated under the Act on the Jurisdiction of the Courts. However, it should be pointed out that the Parliament (Saeima) is currently reviewing a draft Act on the Judiciary which is due to regulate the judiciary in Latvia once it has entered into force.
The Act on the Jurisdiction of the Courts also regulates the activities of the regional courts' registry departments which are responsible for the registration in land registers of immovable property and the rights associated with such property.
The jurisdiction of the courts is represented by the judge's oath, the assessor's oath, the robe and the badge of office. Judges perform their duties wearing robes and the badge of office. Judges are granted the badge of office when they take up their posts, at which time they also offer their oath to the President.
Judges working at the land registry department do not wear robes but are granted badges of office for land registry department judges when they take up their posts.
All courts and land registry departments bear insignia made up of a large State coat of arms and the name of the court or land registry department.
The Act on Civil Procedures , the Act on Criminal Procedures and the Act on Administrative Procedures lay down the jurisdiction of the district (municipal) courts in civil, criminal and administrative matters.
The district (municipal) court is the court of first instance for civil, criminal and administrative cases except where otherwise specified (see the section on regional courts).
In district (municipal) courts civil and administrative cases are heard by judges acting alone. Where the chair of a court considers an administrative case to be particularly complex it can be heard by a collegium of three judges. In district (municipal) courts criminal cases are heard on a collegial basis by one judge and two court assessors. In certain cases specified under legislation proceedings are heard by a sole judge.
The following district (municipal) courts exist in Latvia:
The District Administrative Court (see the section Administrative Courts).
There are six regional courts in Latvia: Riga Regional Court, Kurzeme Regional Court, Latgale Regional Court, Vidzeme Regional Court, Zemgale Regional Court and the Regional Administrative Court.
The regional courts are the courts of first instance for civil and criminal cases falling under the jurisdiction of the regional courts pursuant to legislation. The regional courts serve as courts of appeal in civil, criminal and administrative cases that have already been heard in district (municipal) courts or by a sole judge. Civil and criminal cases are heard in regional courts at first instance on a collegial basis by a regional court judge and two assessors. Civil cases are heard in regional courts by a collegium of three judges.
The collegium of judges in a regional court is headed by a chair who may at the same time work as the deputy chair of the regional court. The collegium is made up of judges; where the number of judges in a collegium exceeds fifteen, two separately designated court collegia may be established.
The Supreme Court of Latvia is made up of:
Each chamber consists of a chair and the Supreme Court judges belonging to this chamber. A chamber acts as a court of appeal in cases that have been heard at first instance in a regional court.
Proceedings in chamber are heard on a collegial basis by three judges.
All Supreme Court judges form a plenary (general meeting of judges).
The Supreme Court Senate acts as the court of cassation in all cases heard in district (municipal) courts and regional courts.
The Senate is made up of a Supreme Court chair and senators (Senate judges).
The Senate is made up of four departments: the Department of Civil Cases, the Department of Criminal Cases, the Department of Administrative Cases and the Department of Disciplinary Cases. In the Supreme Court Senate cases are heard on a collegial basis by three senators. Where specified under legislation cases are heard by a larger number of senators.
The Plenary is the general meeting of the judges of the Supreme Court chambers and the Senate. The Plenary is used to debate issues concerning current interpretation of legislative provisions.
The Plenary establishes the departments of the Chambers and the Senate and issues statements giving grounds for the suspension of the Supreme Court chair or the dismissal of the Prosecutor General.
The Act on Administrative Procedures lays down that the administrative courts have special responsibility under discretionary powers to monitor the justice of administrative acts issued by an authority or an authority's actions and aspects of their expedience, to ascertain the public legal obligations and rights of private individuals, and to hear disputes arising from public legal conventions.
The remit of the Regional Administrative Court and the District Administrative Court covers Latvia's entire administrative territory.
In certain cases referred to under the Act on Administrative Procedures the court also hears claims of a non-administrative legal nature.
An administrative court establishes the circumstances of a case by conducting oral or written proceedings.
Administrative cases are in principle heard at first instance in a regional court, but where a participant in the administrative case registers a complaint about the ruling made by the regional court, the Regional Administrative Court hears the case at second instance under appeal proceedings.
A participant in an administrative case can appeal a second instance ruling under cassation procedures at the Department of Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court Senate.
Land registry departments work under the regional courts for the purposes of managing land registers. Land registry departments are court authorities.
Land registry department judges are responsible for registering immovable property in land registers and for recording the rights associated with such property. The legal status of land registry department judges corresponds to that of district (municipal) judges. Land registry departments are part of the judicial system and are established for the purposes of registering immovable property and recording the rights associated with such property in land registers. Land registry departments fall under the jurisdiction of the regional courts but their organisational management is undertaken by the Court Administration.
The land registry department is composed of land registry department judges.
The Conference of Judges:
A conference of land registry department judges can be called to examine current issues relating to the practice of registering immovable property and recording the rights associated with such property.
The Ministry of Justice is the leading State authority with regard to court administration and performs the following functions as laid down in legislation:
The Court Administration organises and provides for the administrative work of the district (municipal) courts, the regional courts and the land registry departments and is responsible to the Ministry of Justice.
The Justice Minister:
The Constitutional Court is an independent court authority that hears cases on the compliance of acts and other legislation with the Constitution and other cases assigned to it under legislation within the framework of responsibilities laid down in the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia and the Act on the Constitutional Court.
Pursuant to Section 16 of the Act on the Constitutional Court the Court examines cases relating to:
The Constitutional Court is not entitled to bring actions on its own initiative; it hears cases only upon application by persons specified under legislation.
Current legislation lays down that claims may be brought before the Constitutional Court by the President, the Saeima, at least twenty parliamentary deputies, the Cabinet, the Prosecutor General, the State Audit Office, the Latvian National Human Rights Office and local authorities (councils); applications may also be made by courts of general jurisdiction hearing a civil, criminal or administrative case, land registry department judges registering immovable property or recording rights associated with such property in the land registry, and any natural or legal person whose fundamental rights as laid down in the Constitution have been infringed.
Cases relating to the compliance of acts and Cabinet regulations with the Constitution are heard at the Constitutional Court with a full quorum of judges.
All other cases are heard by a chamber of three judges unless specified otherwise in a decision by the Constitutional Court.
Judgments by the Constitutional Court are final. They enter into force upon their promulgation and are binding on all State and local government institutions, authorities and officials, including the courts, and also on natural and legal persons.
Any legislative provision which the Constitutional Court has found not to be in compliance with another legislative provision with greater legal force is considered invalid from the day on which the Constitutional Court's judgment is published unless otherwise specified by the Constitutional Court. Where the Constitutional Court has found that an international agreement signed or concluded by Latvia does not comply with the Constitution, the Cabinet is immediately required to draft amendments to the agreement in question, to denounce the agreement, to suspend its application or to revoke adherence to the agreement.
The Constitutional Court's rules of procedure lay down the structure of the Constitutional Court, the organisation of its work, legal procedures and disciplinary liability of judges in accordance with the Act on the Constitutional Court.Top
Last update: 10-09-2007