THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE UNDERSTANDING OF JUDGE INDEPENDENCE IN LATVIA
Keywords:Constitutionalism, separation of powers, judge, judicial independence, financial independence
Latvian people’s craving for freedom culminated in the beginning of 1990-s. The activity of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia was renewed, and the state power was returned to the people. From this moment, the work on dismantling the Soviet legal system in Latvia had started. A legal system had been redirected to the principles of the Western legal branch. The hard core of these principles was already in the Article 1 of the 1920 Constitution of the Republic of Latvia which states that Latvia is an independent and democratic republic. A key element of a democratic state is of a legal state. The division of powers, which is an essential element of a judge's independence, is in force in a legal state. Up to 2009 the judge’s independence was based on the understanding of the institutional independence, when the other branches of state power must not sit as a court, and on the understanding of the personal independence, when the pressure to the judge is not acceptable during the administration of justice. Only after the complication of the financial situation, there were also highlighted other elements of the judge’s independence principle, including financial security. Separate present cases in society, these together produce a variety of problems understanding the judge’s independence principle.
It is positively characterized, that by expanding cooperation with foreign judges, the independence of Latvian judges’ self-consciousness is increasing. But these are not just demands for greater freedom. Currently, the Latvian legal system has identified several problems: 1) the admissibility of the judges participating in discussions with other government representatives, 2) the stability of judges' salaries, 3) the judges’ progress in their careers, 4) the best model for evaluating judges’ professional qualifications, 4) the need of judges’ administrative immunity; 5) the need of the Honour Judge Institute. The decisions of the Constitutional Court had a great impact on the understanding the content of the judge’s independence principle. The Constitutional Court at least in six cases have extended the judge’s independence principle, have given its clarification and the methodology of application.However, in practice, the main obstacles achieving the optimal model of freedom are not the rules of law. During economic problems the public do not attach importance to nuances of a freedom’s narrow aspect in the constitutional model. The public psychological portrait has not significantly changed during 20 years. Soviet people's fears and worry, lack of understanding the activity of state’s democratic elements make it difficult to improve the democratic state’s legal system. In addition it should be noted that the judiciary and the executive and the legislative powers are unable to negotiate with each other. Therefore, during the next few years the provisions of international rules and the arguments of the constitutional court’s decisions will, however, remain as implementation tools for the judge’s independence principle.