On Tuesday, 18th June, the Sub-commission for Justice Policy of the Commission for Legal Affairs conceptually supported the amendments of the Ministry of Justice to the Law on Judicial Power and the Law on Disciplinary Responsibility of Judges.
Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns: “The independence of courts is a measure of democracy and rule of law, but it cannot be absolute and must be balanced by the responsibility. The principle of equality and interaction of state powers excludes the possibility of control of one power over another or interference in its processes; therefore, we must develop tools to allow the judicial power to respond to the lack of professionalism and violations of judges. I am satisfied that the legislator has supported further direction of the law amendments, aiding the balance of independence and responsibility.”
Bearing in mind that on 1st January 2020 the Administrative Liability Law will enter into force excluding administrative arrest as a punishment, the amendments plan to revoke the immunity of judges in administrative violations cases, simultaneously providing that it will be possible to hold judges disciplinary responsible in cases when a decision is taken against a judge concerning application of an administrative punishment.
In order to ensure operative decisions in cases of removing judges from the office, the amendments, among other things, define the authorities of the Disciplinary Collegiate of Judges to remove a judge from the position at its own initiative during the examination of the disciplinary case.
Currently the law sets the overall limitation period of disciplinary responsibility – two years following the moment of the violation. This time period is insufficient to assess in all statutory cases violations in the performance of the official duties of judges and to exclude any doubts about the professionality of judges. Therefore, the amendments will extend the overall limitation period of responsibility of judges from two years to four.
The law amendments will also extend the authorities of chairpersons of courts, awarding the rights to ask the judges qualification collegiate to carry out an extraordinary assessment of a judge’s professional activities in case of any shortcomings recognized therein.
The amendments to the law also intend to introduce a new model of selection of candidates to the position of judges and make the overall selection process more effective.
The amendments set forth other essential changes too and these are yet to be assessed by the Commission for Legal Affairs and Council for the Judiciary. The amendments can be accessed at the website of the Parliament (Saeima).