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Cablegate: Riga Judicial Conference: A Model Rule of Law

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1. (U) Summary: Embassy Riga, in cooperation with the Latvian
Supreme Court and the Latvian Ministry of Justice, hosted an
international conference entitled Judicial Reform, Ethics,
and Transparency July 2nd - 3rd. At Ambassador Bailey's
invitation, US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito came to
Riga to be the key note speaker. In addition to the Justice,
Ambassador Bailey opened the conference which featured
speakers such as then President of Latvia Vaira
Vike-Freiberga (VVF), the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice
of the Latvian Supreme Court and other high ranking members
of the Latvian Judiciary and government. Every court in
Latvia had representation at the conference. Delegations
from Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Georgia also attended.
The conference highlighted and opened the dialogue on the
rather controversial topics of ethics and transparency within
the Latvian judicial system and encouraged the discussion on
issues that are usually difficult to broach, let alone talk
about openly. Media coverage was intense and interested in
the novelty of the topics which brought the issues to the
public forum. End Summary.

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Conference Background

2. (U) According to recent surveys, the Latvian Judiciary is
the least trusted organization by the general public.
Latvian political leadership, both past and present, is often
uncomfortable discussing the reality of high level public
corruption both in government and in the courts. Political
will in these areas remains weak at best but more often
non-existent. Were it not for the work of independent
institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (KNAB) and
the Prosecutor General's (PG) office, little real progress
would exist. More so than its Baltic neighbors, Latvia still
struggles with corruption on all levels and has consistently
scored in the bottom three on Transparency International's
Public Corruption Index for Europe.

3. (U) Currently, Latvia's justice system has the
institutional framework necessary to promote the rule of law
but still struggles to address issues such as corruption,
ethics, and transparency in the courts and government. As
stated in Post's Mission Strategic Plan, focusing USG
attention on the development and sophistication of Latvian
law enforcement and judicial systems, Embassy Riga hopes to
build Latvia's ability to govern justly and democratically,
thus enabling them to tackle these difficult issues.

Organization and Participation

4. (U) At Ambassador Bailey's invitation, US Supreme Court
Justice Samuel Alito agreed to visit Riga and be the key note
speaker at a conference for the Latvian Judiciary. In
addition to Justice Alito, Post also brought three highly
respected US Law Professors -- recommended by Alito-- from
all over the country to serve as guest speakers and
panelists. They were Professor Geoffrey Hazard of UC
Hastings College of the Law; Professor Stephen Burbank of the
University of Pennsylvania; and Professor Ronald Rotunda of
George Mason University. Because of this opportunity, Post
partnered with the Latvian Supreme Court and the Ministry of
Justice to organize a conference entitled Judicial Ethics,
Reform and Transparency. Though July is typically a
difficult month to obtain high level participation in formal
activities, every court in Latvia was able to send a least
one representative to attend the conference. Approximately
250-300 people attended the conference including members of
the press corps, University students, representatives from
non-governmental organizations, legal professors from the
three largest Law Faculties in Latvia, Parliamentarians, and
private attorneys.

5. (U) Recognizing that Latvia is a key contributor to
stability and strengthening of democracy in the region,
Embassy Riga believes it is important for Latvia to leverage
its experiences in democratic transition and accession to
Western and Transatlantic institutions so as to assist its
regional allies in duplicating those successes. Working with
our colleagues in our respective embassies, Post used the
opportunity of this conference to facilitate contact and
communication with Latvia's priority countries for assistance
by bringing representatives from Georgia and Moldova to
attend the conference and participate in the discussions.

6. (U) Delegates from Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia and Moldova
joined their Latvian colleagues for the conference. The
Estonian delegation included several high ranking judges, the

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Chancellor and deputy Chancellor of Justice and the Deputy
Secretary General on Criminal Policy from the Estonia

Ministry of Justice. The Georgian delegation, funded by
USAID, was comprised of judges from the Georgian Supreme
Court, the Appellate Court and a consultant to the High
Council of Justice from the Georgian Department of Judicial
Ethics and Disciplinary Proceeding. The Lithuanian
delegation brought Justices from the Constitutional court as
well as the Supreme Court, the dean of the Law Faculty from
their largest University, the advisor to the President of
Lithuania on legal affairs, a representative from the
Ministry of National Defense, the Director of the Lithuanian
Center for Human Rights, and the deputy Prosecutor General.
Finally, as guests of the Latvian Ministry of Justice, the
Moldovan delegation consisted of a judge and a counselor to
the Minister of Justice of Moldova.

7. (U) Speakers and panelists included then President of
Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis,
Latvian Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Andris Gulans,
President of the Latvian Constitutional Court Gunars Kutris,
Head of the Lawyers Ethics Commission Lauris Liepa, Minister
of Justice Gaidis Berzins, Head of the Supreme Court
Administration and Chief Advisor to the Chief Justice Anita
Kehre, Journalist -- and now Pres Secretary to the new
Latvian President -- Inta Lase, Head of the Parliament's
Legal Affairs Bureau Gunars Kusins, and Deputy Chief Justice
of the Latvian Supreme Court Gunars Aigars.

Public Diplomacy

8. (U) Educating the public as well as the press corps on
these issues is a high priority. Post is pleased to report
that 21 media outlets were in attendance throughout the two
day conference. Representatives from both the Latvian
language and Russian language news syndicates were present.
The two largest national papers extensively covered the
conference as well as the major news television stations and
wire services.

9. (U) Justice Alito gave two interviews, one to the most
influential daily publications and the second to the largest
circulating legal monthly. Each of the visiting US
professors also gave several interviews to a variety of news
outlets. In one of her last addresses as President, VVF
referenced the Judicial Conference hosted by the Embassy as
being an important event where crucial issues for Latvia's
future could be discussed.

Reaching Out to the Next Generation

10. (U) Both as a public diplomacy tool and as a means to
continue outreach to the next generation of leaders, Embassy
Riga conducted a nationwide essay contest for Latvian high
school students in eleventh and twelfth grads. The students
were asked to write an essay in English on the question "What
Does Justice Mean to Me?" The judging panel consisted of the
Parliamentary Secretary from the Ministry of Justice, the
Supreme Court Chief Justice's Senior Advisor and a member of
the Embassy staff. The panel chose three finalists and the
final winning essay was selected by Justice Alito who
presented the award on the first day of the conference.

Session Summaries

11. (U) Conference Opening: Ambassador Bailey kicked off the
conference emphasizing the importance of the issues of
ethics, reform, and transparency and welcomed the sharing of
best practices between our two countries. VVF showed her
support by stating that all nations must continually fight to
promote and maintain the rule of law. VVF expressed her
desire to see Latvia undergo the transformational reforms in
its justice system just as the US did during the civil rights
movement. VVF highlighted the three main areas of concern in
the Latvian Judiciary: Latvia needs to improve the way it
trains and educates judges, including continuing education
for sitting judges; courts must build trust by increasing
their transparency and availability of decisions; and the
country needs to eliminate circumstances that breed
corruption such as long waiting times before cases are heard,
which creates an environment open to bribery.

12. (U) Panel I - The Role of the Judiciary in Promoting and
Maintaining the Rule of Law. The President of the

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Constitutional Court, Gunars Kutris, focused on the
importance of the separation of powers not just between the
different branches of government but also between the
different elements of the judiciary. He stressed that judges
must uphold the law for the law's sake, regardless of their
personal feelings and the judiciary must retain the power to
discipline judges. He asked to what degree should judges
participate in academic and policy debates. Professor Hazard
remarked on the impact that both high profile and routine
cases have on the integrity of the judiciary. Hazard
stressed the need for ethical codes to consider both
circumstances as well as informal involvement of lawyers
acting as legal advisors. Hazard argued that the public
debate surrounding the adoption of ethical codes is just as
important to promoting proper conduct as the actual code
itself. The head of the Ethics Commission for Latvia's
lawyers noted that it take great courage for judges to
maintain the rule of law in the face of political pressure.
He asked how society can best ensure that judges are able to
resist political influence and maintain the balance of power.
During the discussion, suggestions were made as to how to
increase transparency such as making judges' rulings
accessible on the internet, televising court proceedings, and
facilitating the media in their investigations and reporting
on issues related to the courts.

13. (U) Day Two - Opening: Ambassador Bailey took this
opportunity to encourage the judiciary to be just, be
moderate, and be brave in their work. The Prime Minister and
the Minster of Justice both emphasized the importance of
facilitating and conducting these types of open discussions
on improving the state of Latvia's judiciary. Justice Alito
delivered his address focused on how to gain public trust in
the judiciary, highlighting that the judiciary must first
deserve the trust and then conduct itself in a transparent
and open way. Justice Alito shared with the audience the US
experience in general as well as his experience serving both
as a Federal Judges and a Supreme Court judge. During the
question and answer session, Justice Alito encouraged a
discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of televised
court proceedings, judicial involvement in drafting
legislation, judicial discipline, and the role of
international law. Professor Burbank then addressed the
issue of judicial independence and accountability. He
stressed the importance of the independence of the Judiciary
as a whole rather than the independence of the individual
judge. Burbank also led a discussion on the US experience
in judicial discipline.

14. (U) Panel II - The Relationship Between the Judiciary and
the Press. Professor Rotunda opened the discussion by
arguing that even though judges prefer not to be criticized,
and may be disparaged unfairly at times, the remedy for
unfair speech is more speech, not less. Inta Lase of
Latvia's Journalist Union -- and now press Secretary to the
new President -- highlighted the challenges the press deal
with when it comes to the courts. She believes that simply
putting cameras in the courtroom and putting rulings online
is not enough. She argued that all court activities must be
available in an organized database so as to facilitate
analytical research. This all must be coupled with laws that
protect the press' right to have anonymous sources. Anita
Kehre, Head of the Supreme Court Administration, expressed
concern over the tendency of the media to sacrifice loyalty
to society in favor of loyalty to their consumer by focusing
on the entertainment value of their work. Professor Hazard
closed the discussion with the suggestion that the research
of the media on judicial issues could be facilitated by
establishing a professional liaison office comprised of
experts who would assist anyone who wishes to research court

15. (U) Panel III - The Relationship Between the Judiciary
and the Legislature and the closing of the conference.
Gunars Kusins, of the Parliament's Legal Affairs Bureau
opened the discussion with his point of view on how the
Legislative and Judicial branches interact. Kusins stressed
that judges must be wary of appearing too involved in
politics should they choose to participate in drafting
legislation. Professor Hazard entered the discussion by
stressing the need for established methods of communications
between the judiciary and the legislature, especially when it
comes to how the judiciary communicates its perspective on
legislation that affects the administration and budget of the
courts. Hazard emphasized the importance of public debate on
all legislative proposals prior to any official vote and that
this is an opportunity for judges to criticize potential
legislation that would threaten the rule of law. Kusins
suggested that perhaps the best way forward in the judicial
and parliamentary relationship would be to invite judges to
participate in small working groups in the early stages of

RIGA 00000520 004.2 OF 004

developing legislation at a time when they can lend their
expertise, without appearing too political. Professor
Rotunda concluded the conference with a discussion of the
role of sentencing and establishing strong sentencing
guidelines as a means to fighting corruption.

The Way Forward

16. (U) As immediate follow up, Professors Burbank, Hazard,
and Rotunda have agreed to develop ties within the Latvian
academic legal community and serve as resources for future
projects. Additionally, each professor has agreed to provide
post with the two articles or publications -- free of charge
-- on issues that were discussed during the conference. Post
plans to use residual SEED funds to translate the articles
and provide them to all conference participants, the Law
Faculties, and the Latvian Judicial Training Center.

17. (U) We believe this experience an be adapted for use at
other posts facing these issues and would be happy to share
our experience. Riga POC is Alexandra Z. Tenny email


17. (U) Feedback provided to the Ambassador from conference
participants and speakers has been both positive and
enthusiastic. Post views this conference not in isolation,
but as the kick off event for a long and much needed dialogue
on ethics, transparency and other related issues which hinder
the battle against corruption in all its forms. The fact
that the discussions even took place in such a candid manner
and were carried to the public via a very interested media is
an immediate success both of the conference and of Justice
Alito's visit.

18. (U) USG assistance to the Latvian legal community --
including police, judges and prosecutors -- has often proved
challenging in the past because participants, though always
interested to learn about the US, often cite vast differences
between the US and Latvian legal systems when it comes to
cooperation. However, the success of this conference is
evidence that ethics and transparency are areas and issues
which transcend different legal systems and were the US and
Latvia can have a productive exchange of best practices.

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