In a letter to Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform), Estonian Association of Judges chairperson Anu Uritam had requested the reinstatement of special pensions for judges. Lauri, however, would not agree to it.
In their letter, the association complained first and foremost about the excessive burden judges are faced with and cited the need to figure out how to resolve this issue.
Uritam referred to a survey according to the results of which just over half of judges are considering leaving office due to the high workload.
"Several respondents indicated that in addition to the high workload, judges lack development prospects in the court system and lack measures for professional recognition, and that only the salary alone is no longer sufficiently motivating," the letter noted.
According to information cited in the letter, 64.5 percent of judges found that what would motivate them to continue working as judges would be the implementation of additional social guarantees, particularly the reinstatement of special pensions for judges. "71.8 percent of respondents indicated the need for this," Uritam underscored.
Uritam proposed that the minister of justice resolve the matter of social guarantees for judges, as otherwise Estonia will be faced with a wave of judges leaving the field.
In her response to Uritam, however, Lauri said that the Ministry of Justice considers the matter of judges' high workloads to be very significant, however it does not support the reinstatement of special pensions for judges.
"The social agreement does not call for the implementation of additional social guarantees, including the reinstatement of judges' special pensions," Lauri wrote.
According to the minister, current judges' high workloads will begin to be relieved by new judges slated to take office soon.
Lauri noted that based on the results of proposals from the court system and discussions held in the Council for Administration of Courts, the Ministry of Justice has drawn up amendments to the Courts Act that will allow for solutions to be sought in part for cited problems as well.
"The bill in question will update the management structure of county courts, meaning that specialty departments will be established at county courts, allowing presiding judges to become head of their specialty," the minister explained. "The regulation for judges working outside of court will be simplified as well; with prior notice, judges will be able to return to the same court at any time."
According to Lauri, the bill of amendments is expected to reach the government before the end of the month.
Editor: Aili Vahtla