Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Estonia
A message to readers of the yearbook of Estonian courts
This overview of the activities of our courts and judiciary in 2021 comes at a time of extraordinary turmoil and tension, when the world is gripped by the horrors of war. The past year has been a complicated one, a year of hopes and disillusionment, ebb and flow, fear and anxiety. The waves of the pandemic and protests alternated with respites when we could come up for air, only to be replaced with shock over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Add in soaring electricity prices and a change of government in Estonia. Freedom vs. restrictions, the possibility to travel again and related fears, plans for cooperation and assembly and the risk of the plans again being subsumed by fears of a virus or war. The continuing migration of life to virtual reality. All of this have been hallmarks of the past year and, we can say with trepidation, will probably continue to characterize years to come.
Yet the courts and judges have diligently gone about their everyday business in the middle of it all. They have done their work well, but close to the limits of their capabilities, often fatigued and burdened. When judges who are already under heavy workload and stress face an increasing pace of work, an enervating, time-consuming and often malfunctioning information system, pandemic restrictions and obstacles that may be established overnight, disgruntled people and overly high expectations, all this inevitably leaves a mark. The impact is especially negative if accusations from the public or politicians are often voiced about the slow pace of work, or supposedly wrong or biased decisions, with only rare praise for the judiciary for the selfless side of their efforts. Yes, we must accept that a judge’s job is a lonely one, where lack of condemnation and criticism is often what constitutes high praise. It is rare indeed when the judiciary merits something more than that from the public. But we ourselves know, as does anyone who is well versed in judges’ work, that we do a good job. Decision-makers know this, too. Let’s take joy in the fact that the trustworthiness of the courts is seen as better than ever before – this is the result of our collective efforts.
This year, the yearbook is a little different from the past ones, somewhat more varied. The editorial panel felt that the yearbook should offer interesting reading to people with different interests, and it might be good to get some feedback about it as well. Readers are treated to an overview of the work of the judges’ self-governing bodies, ruminations of a more academic stripe about jurisprudence, such as pandemic restrictions or person intimidating their neighbour, and facets of judges’ and court officers’ lives outside work are also explored. As a new feature, the yearbook also includes interviews, such as with a long-serving lion of the Supreme Court Jüri Põld, whose retirement marked the end of an era. I would like to thank the editorial board and in particular, Supreme Court justice Nele Parrest for superb work, whose fruits we can now enjoy here.
All the best and bonne lecture!