Estonian civil service chief to become Supreme Court justice

By on 24/09/2018
Estonia's Heiki Loot, has been appointed to the Supreme Court.

Estonia’s most senior civil servant, state secretary Heiki Loot, has been appointed to the Supreme Court after the country’s parliament (the Riigikogu) ratified his candidacy last week.

Loot served as Secretary of State at the Government Office for the past 15 years, successfully working under four prime ministers and seven different governments. In May he announced that he would be stepping down, saying he wished to devote himself to work in the field of law.

The Supreme Court is the highest of the three tiers in Estonia’s court system, reviewing cases on appeal and acting as the court of constitutional review. Loot will move into his new role on the judges’ bench in December when his predecessor, Indrek Koolmeister, retires.

Back to his roots

Estonian news organisation ERR News reported that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Priit Pikamae, wrote a letter of recommendation to the Riigikogu pointing to Loot’s “diverse civil service experience and his role in launching legislative reforms and strengthening national institutions.”

The letter said: “’Heiki Loot is an experienced and noted lawyer, whose past experience allows him to make a significant contribution to the Supreme Court and the development of administrative law.”

Loot began his career at the Supreme Court, working as assistant to the chief justice after graduating from law school in 1994. He quickly rose through the ranks and just a year later was leading the Department of Public Law in the Ministry of Justice.

Legislating his job away

Whilst serving as Secretary of State, Loot oversaw a number of reforms including the transformation and modernisation of the Government Office – the office responsible for the civil service as a whole.

He was one of the longest-serving state secretaries, and oversaw a set of civil service reforms – including the introduction of five-year terms for departmental leaders, which came into force in 2013 following the passage into law of the Civil Service Act. Top officials now have to re-apply for their positions or move into a new one after five years in office; Loot’s own term as state secretary would have come to a close in December.

Back in 2015, Loot told Global Government Forum he did not intend to re-apply for his post as State Secretary. Following his resignation earlier this year, Loot told ERR News: “For me, this is a natural choice if I want to both continue in the legal field whilst serving the state at the same time. I don’t want to go into politics, so the judiciary is the perfect choice.”

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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