Three judges put to pasture mull constitutional case

Three Supreme Court Judges are considering the option to bring a constitutional appeal against their current status as officially unemployed, despite being appointed to their positions for life and continuing to receive a salary. However, because of a court reforms loophole they have been formally forced out of active service on the court. Neither the Supreme Court leadership itself, nor the Saeima seem to have been able to unravel the contradictions that led to this absurdly ineffective and disrespectful situation.

The legislative branch of state government now faces an unexpected conundrum – what to do with three extra veteran judges who have somehow been deemed superfluous. The Honorable Ludmila Poļakova, Jānis Tiltiņš and Ervīns Kušķis had worked as Criminal Case Chamber Judges of the Supreme Court, however the department was liquidated as of the New Year. Though there are reportedly other vacancies on the Court, their colleagues have not hired them for the job openings, reported LTV news program Panorāma Tuesday.

“Well, personally, this is quite hard on us,” said Judge Poļakova. “This is an unpleasant feeling. I’ve worked 32 years as a judge, 27 on the Supreme Court, for instance. Put a lot of time teaching at the Judicial Education Center…”

Nobody at the head of the Supreme Court could explain why the judges had not been picked up for the vacancies. Hoping that the issue will be settled by Saeima, the Legal commission behind closed doors heard arguments that deputies later acknowledged to be more emotional than rational.

As Saeima Legal commission leader Gaidis Bērziņš (National Alliance) remarked, “and in fact now it’s so this commission and Saeima as such must be like an alternative court that these people wish to arbitrate.”

Nevertheless, the Saeima seems to want to shirk from the role and would like to hear more suggestions on the part of the judicial branch as to what to do.

Supreme Court Chairman Judge Ivars Bičkovičs lobbed the ball right back at the legislature:

“Not to throw stones back and forth, but the Judicial Council and Supreme Court have both concluded that the regulatory acts in effect have been observed. In effect, precisely according to the law. And if the procedure doesn’t provide for the desired results, then the procedure ought to be amended, probably. But the Supreme Court has no right to amend the regulatory acts. Just like the Judicial Council hasn’t even any bill introduction rights,” the Chief Justice justified.

The parliamentary commission promised to look over possible amendments, but abstained from ruling on the Judicial Council’s recommendation to move the three judges over to the Riga District Court. Later they explained that such a demotion would trigger court proceedings by each of the honored higher judges, who are already mulling bringing their case to court.

According to Judge Poļakova:

“We’ve planned to turn to the Consitutional Court, as there is a precedent from Germany where the entire Supreme Court must be dissolved, not just a department thereof, for a judge to be freed of their position. The judge must then be found another position on the Supreme Court, a new assignment given, that’s the practice in other civilized EU states. And I think that if there were an objective view on this question, it would long since have been figured out,” she fumed.

However, before launching a case, it may be worth waiting for a Saeima vote.

There is little doubt that Saeima will reject the demotion of the judges to the lower District Court. Attempts to find them a role on the Senate of the Supreme Court are reported to be under consideration.

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