Ministry wants parties' names in civil court cases to be confidential

Maris Lauri.
Maris Lauri. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Ministry of Justice has tabled a legislative amendment which, if it passes, would make private individuals' names confidential in civil court cases, including in reports of in-force judgments.

Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) said that: "We must make sure that people are not afraid to go to court just because they are afraid of getting into the media with their name and personal problems."

The Ministry of Justice approved legislative amendments at a round table held on Wednesday, attended by representatives of the media and the judiciary.

The resulting draft bill will be put before the Riigikogu.

"Even the draft's feedback largely supports the notion that the names of all participants in court proceedings do not have to be made public in cyberspace. This is not the principle of publicity of court proceedings, which is prescribed by the Constitution," Lauri continued, according to a press release.

At the same time, Lauri said, journalists would have access to comprehensive solutions, who do not have to provide separate justifications.

She said: "The ministry believes in, and will rely on, the ethics of journalists in disclosing people's problems."

The practice of company names being made public in court judgments, as well as names of individuals convicted or acquitted in criminal proceedings, will remain intact, while in the case of those acquitted, individuals will get the right of non-disclosure of their names in public, if they request it.

The situation where civil and administrative hearings are closed to the public will remain the case also.

The justice ministry also wants to make pending court decisions public before they enter into force, ERR reports. These are to be published in the state gazette, the Riigi Teataja, immediately after their publication, with the note: "Not entered into force". 

If the decision enters into force or is revoked, the corresponding note will be automatically removed from the decision and the new status inserted.

The draft also allows a person outside the proceedings to submit an application for access to the court file in a case discussed in civil and closed proceedings, or in a case terminated in criminal proceedings.

In addition to court judgments, a number of court ruling categories, such as conditional release from custody, apartment and co-ownership, and access to a public road, are subject to disclosure upon entry into force of the draft.

A court hearing may be transmitted online at the initiative of a court, with notice of the broadcast to be published via the Riigi Teataja website, under the new draft, under the presumption that this will be used for administrative matters of wider public interest.

The Code of Criminal Procedure will also be supplemented

Individuals who have been required to maintain the secrecy of circumstances which have become known at a hearing will also be able to appeal that obligation, under the new regulations, if they pass.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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