Attorney: The draft regulation on the Court Information System is in conflict with three laws

According to Mari Männiko, an attorney-at-law specialised in media disputes, the draft regulation amending the statutes of the Court Information System submitted to the Ministry of Justice for review is in conflict with as many as three laws: the Courts Act, the Constitution, and procedural law, an analysis commissioned by the Estonian Newspaper Association and published in Õhtuleht reveals. According to Männiko, the draft regulation disproportionately restricts the independence of the courts in deciding whether or not to disclose information about acts of administration of justice, as well as fails to guarantee the public nature of court hearings and the freedom of information provided for by the Constitution. In addition, the regulation contains a number of other problems. ‘The regulation may not establish restrictions relating to the publication of court proceedings provided for by the Constitution and procedural law,’ Männiko said to Õhtuleht. In other words, even if the draft regulation is adopted, it does not mean that information on court hearings that must be published under procedural law will not be published in accordance with procedural law, Männiko finds. In her view, the statement presented in the explanatory memorandum, claiming that access to data prevents compliance with the time limits for the processing of personal data, is incorrect. She also takes issue with the claim that restrictions are necessary because access to all court proceedings in Estonia is currently unrestricted. ‘First of all, this allegation is incorrect, because access is not provided to hearings declared in camera by the court. Secondly, the constitutional requirement that court hearings be public extends to all Estonian courts, so the absence of restrictions is appropriate.’ According to Männiko, the explanatory memorandum to the draft fails to fully substantiate the assertion that the possibilities provided for in procedural law do not ensure that the interests of the parties to court proceedings are not harmed by the publication of court decisions. ‘Existing procedural law ensures the protection of personal data both during court proceedings as well as when a judgment is made public. If necessary, steps could be taken to raise the awareness of judges about the need to protect personal data in court proceedings, but in no case can the protection of personal data come at the cost of restricting the public nature of hearings,’ the attorney added. The Ministry of Justice plans to reduce the accessibility of data related to court hearings, as the state cannot ensure the protection of personal data if it is entered into alternative databases. According to the Minister of Justice Raivo Aegi (from the political party Isamaa), the purpose of the draft regulation is to ensure that databases created by the state are not used for commercial purposes, and thereby prevent the emergence of alternative databases. Source: ERR