Summary of the most common reasons for litigation with public authorities

08.11.2021 Summary of the most common reasons for litigation with public authorities

At the beginning of the article, it is necessary to draw the readers' attention to several important aspects that have been identified in the process of writing the article. The court work data portal currently established in Latvia, which is managed by the Court Administration, prohibits searching for statistical data on court proceedings according to such parameters as, e.g., cases initiated by legal entities or entrepreneurs. Consequently, the word "entrepreneurs" has been deleted from the title of the article, as it is not possible to determine whether the proceedings have been initiated by entrepreneurs or individuals. It is also not possible to search by a defendant if it is a public authority. Thus, the article will not provide a precise analysis of statistical data according to the criteria stated in the title of the article but will provide a summary of the reasons for litigation with the element “public authority”, the establishment of which is further developed in the article.

The court work data portal (dati.ta.gov.lv) compiles information on-court work in Latvia, based on the actual accumulated data. This information is compiled from court activity accounting and register systems, combining them in analytical statements and reports, thus providing information on work results, indicators, trends, etc. Thus, the court work data portal accumulates only those data that are compiled in court activity reports or result from court register systems. The author of this article accepts this fact as an axiom and will not perform the analysis of data collection of court work statistics. However, even with available court statistics, readers will have an idea of common directions in proceedings with a “public authority” element.

The term public institution is explained in the State Administration Structure Law, where Article 1 stipulates that an institution is an authority which acts on behalf of a public person and to which authority whose competence in State administration is specified by a regulatory enactment, financial resources are allocated to implement its activities and which has its own personnel.  In order to be named a state institution, all of the following criteria must be met: the institution must have the status of a public person, it must have the competence specified by regulatory enactments and available financial resources, as well as it must have its own personnel. The Republic of Latvia is like the original legal person under public law, while derived public persons are public persons or institutions established by or on the basis of law, as well as local governments. The Administrative Procedure Law also includes a definition of an institution, indicating in Article 1(1) thereof that an institution is a legal entity, a unit or an official thereof on which specific State authority powers have been conferred in the field of State administration by a legal act or contract governed by public law.

In the context of the article, there is an important reference to the Administrative Procedure Law, which is applicable in administrative proceedings in an institution. It can then be used to compile the reasons necessary for the proceedings, as only this process is applied within the institution, which in turn means that statistics on administrative cases are likely to form the categories of cases that are most valuable to analyse in the context of the article. Statistics on administrative offence cases would be worth mentioning, but these cases are initiated after the offence for which the penalty has been imposed, and the commission of the offence can hardly be considered as a reason for legal proceedings against the state. In addition, due to the lack of volume of the article, only the categories of cases in the appellate instance (as in the highest court instance) and only for the last three years are analysed.

The table below summarises the categories of cases whose titles include an indicator of the public authority or the direction of the public authority and the number of cases received and dealt with in return. The number of cases received and dealt with varies from one year to the next, as complaints can be received in one year but adjudicated within the following year.

Case category

2020

2019

2018

Received

Adjudicated

Received

Adjudicated

Received

Adjudicated

State Revenue Service

182

245

242

243

254

296

Construction and spatial planning

105

101

93

79

91

92

Health Inspectorate, State Commission for Health and Health Examination Doctors, Medical Risk Fund

56

68

57

39

37

33

Civil service and military service

49

64

61

40

50

44

State social insurance

32

38

35

38

50

50

Prison administration, issued administrative acts, actual actions

26

43

38

14

0

0

Enterprise Register

25

13

10

7

9

15

Citizenship, migration and asylum issues

20

31

24

17

24

19

State aid for entrepreneurship, distribution of European structural funds (LAD, LIZDA, LAA, LIAA, etc.)

19

22

16

17

24

20

Environmental law

12

18

29

23

25

17

Consumer rights

3

5

5

3

14

16

 

It follows from the data summarised in the table that the largest number of complaints reviewed in courts is directed against the State Revenue Service. Persons are suing on issues within the competence of the State Revenue Service, most likely in connection with taxes and fees, submission of documents to the State Revenue Service or the actual actions of this institution. In the second place according to the largest number of received and reviewed cases are construction and spatial planning issues, which indicate the participation of the municipality in legal proceedings accordingly. The reasons for litigation in this case could be related to the construction at any stage, as well as to obtaining the relevant permits, decisions, as well as aspects of compliance / non-compliance with spatial planning. In the third position are complaints against the Health Inspectorate, VDEĀVK (State Commission for Health and Health Examination Doctors) and the Medical Treatment Risk Fund. In 2020, there was an increase in complaints against these public authorities observed, most likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Health Inspectorate is responsible for the areas of healthcare, public health and pharmaceuticals. The VDEĀVK is responsible for granting the status of disability, while the Medical Treatment Risk Fund has been established to provide patients with the opportunity to receive compensation for health damage. Accordingly, health care issues are the third most common reason for litigation with public authorities. Institutions such as the State Civil Service and the Military Service, the Prison Administration and challenging administrative acts or actions of such institution in court and challenging decisions issued by the Enterprise Register are also worth mentioning. It follows from the competence of these authorities that the grounds for prosecution would relate to civil service and military service, imprisonment, aspects related to the registration of legal persons and application for changes in the status of legal person, as well as other related issues. Relatively fewer people sue public authorities in the categories of cases concerning citizenship, migration and asylum, state aid to business, the environment and consumer rights.

If, however, it is assumed that the word “entrepreneurs” appears in the title of the article and the more common reasons why entrepreneurs sue the state are summarised, then one should look for such issues in the data of the table that could directly affect legal persons. These would definitely be issues within the competence of the State Revenue Service, construction and spatial planning, the Enterprise Register and state support for entrepreneurship and institutions operating in the distribution of European structural funds, e.g., the Rural Support Service (RSS) and the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIDA).