|Several Insights at the Start of 2013|
Several Insights at the Start of 2013
I am a judge and I understand that we, judges, normally address a person through the judgments delivered by the court. Thus, I greatly appreciate the opportunity that I have to address you directly in the beginning of every year. Understanding how extraordinary this opportunity is, I also feel an even greater responsibility for the words said and thoughts expressed. Just like every year, I would like to express my joy, even a pride, about the work of the judges and the entire team of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania (LVAT). After all, 2012 was full of efficient work, achievements and evaluations. However, today it is worth recalling the basic concepts of law and justice, human rights and freedoms as well as the special role played by a judge in ensuring and protecting them.
Search for justice in court judgments
We have been looking for an answer to a question what the law is and even more so – what is just – for a long time. The issues of law and justice were of interest to the philosophers of both Ancient and Medieval times. An intensive search for justice performed in the 19th – 20th c. In Western European countries finally dismissed the ideas of legal positivism and answers were found in the concept of the rule of law, which recognizes that legal thinking is to be based on values of natural law. The concept of law and justice in Lithuania has also changed over the years. Over the last century, Lithuania lived a period of legal positivism, when law was considered to be only a matter precisely laid down in legislation, i.e. whatever was considered as law by the state. However, 22 years later, we are coming to back to the idea of law defined much more broadly than what is stated in laws or legal acts. Law, justice, human rights and freedoms are the concepts often heard during the discussions judges have in the deliberation room, where they more and more often replace the previously used concepts of a “legal act” and “fact”. Still the search for justice should be reflected even more in the motives of court judgments. Even if the latter type of thinking might seem more complicated or less convenient. In formal assessment, the conduct of a judge may be twofold. He/she may be precise in reading and applying a law or other legal act, citing it in his/her decision. However, a judge may select a different path, which requires more effort and time: it is to think, what is just and what is not, when examining a case; to hold the hierarchy of legal values in his/her mind, the purpose of administrative justice and assess whether the law is in accordance with the Constitution, whether it defends human rights and ensures true justice. I have always wished and still wish for myself and my fellow judges to follow the second path, even though it requires more effort.
The clarity of court decisions
In the enforcement of justice, the clarity of court decisions is extremely important. Each judge in his/her decision, no matter whether it is 7 or 70 pages in length, tries not only to resolve a dispute justly entrusted to him, protect human rights that had been infringed, but also to ensure that his/her decision is well-grounded, i.e. to lay it out in a way that it would be understandable to those for whom it is intended, relevant in a specific case, and to all those reading it. The improvement of the quality of decision texts should be a constant objective of a judge.
The right to good administration is one of the fundamental human rights
Guarantors of the rule of society are an effective protection of human rights and the equality of individuals before the courts. Fundamental human rights and freedoms (such as the right to life, dignity, freedom of speech and others) are ensured and protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and other international documents. On 1 December 2009, upon the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, general principles of administrative law gained a new fundamental aspect. Following these amendments, the European Union law confirmed the fact that the main character can no longer be and is not only merely a homo economicus or homo politicus – a human being is. The principle of good public administration was recognized to be a general principle (having a constitutional status). In addition to this – as of now, the right to public administration is regarded as one of the fundamental human rights, i.e., it is important as others. Thereby, as a judge takes on the duty of giving a deeper thought about the content of this right, it is necessary to define it as well as to understand its true meaning. This meaning determines and will determine even more in the future the activities of public administration and decisions adopted by courts. I wish for every person addressing the court to understand his/her rights and take an interest in them, moreover, to never doubt whether it is worth defending them.
The President of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania