Within the scope of existing EU regulations and international conventions, the Latvian Civil Procedure Law has been reviewed in terms of recognition and execution of an adjudication of a foreign court.
An adjudication of a foreign court means a binding adjudication made by a foreign court irrespective of its designation. According to the EU Council Regulation No. 44/2001 of Dec. 22, 2000, on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, court decisions of EU member states basically have to be enforceable in another EU member state without examination of the substantive part of the decision.
Based on these regulations, amendments to the Latvian law were carried out by April 2004. The amendments concern not only decisions from EU member countries but also all foreign court decisions as far as reciprocity stipulations and bilateral agreements with non-EU member countries and Latvia or the EU do not state something else. Thus a substantive examination of a foreign court decision by a Latvian court is forbidden.
However, a foreign court decision will not be accepted without examination of some principal points that are outside a substantive examination. For example, the foreign court is not competent to adjudicate the dispute in accordance with Latvian law. A case might be considered when, for example, a dispute relating immovable property obviously has to be decided by a Latvian court;
the adjudication has not come into legal effect;
the defendant was denied the possibility of defending his or her rights, especially if the defendant who has not participated in the adjudication of the matter was not in a timely and proper manner notified regarding appearance in court;
the recognition of the foreign court's adjudication is in conflict with the public structure of Latvia; and
the law applied by the foreign court was not applied in conformity with the regulations of Latvia's international private law regarding conflict of norms.
The foreign court decision has to be translated and submitted as a certified copy, and it has to be proved that the court's decision has gone into legal effect. Furthermore, it must be proven that the defendant was notified of the time and place of the foreign adjudication in a timely and proper manner.
In conformity with these exceptions, the Latvian court has to declare the foreign adjudication as enforceable guided by the circumstances that are established by the adjudication of the foreign court. The foreign adjudication shall then be executed according to procedures of the Latvian law. As there is no common praxis yet, it is difficult to foresee how the Latvian court will handle these amendments.
However, the amendments to the Latvian Civil Procedure Law will probably make it easier for foreign plaintiffs to carry out court decisions of their home country without being dependant on a substantive examination by a Latvian court. They will also have an impact on the fact that the out-of-court debt collection procedure in Latvia in the future could be avoided, and money claims might be easier to carry out as well.
The recognition and execution of adjudications from foreign arbitration courts has been reviewed at the same time as the amendments mentioned above, but no elementary changes have been carried out. Latvia is a member of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards since 1992.
Bjorn Kurz is attorney at law and head of legal affairs at Rodl & Partner in Riga