Judiciary of Russia
The Judiciary of Russia interprets and applies the law of Russia. It is defined under the Constitution and law with a hierarchical structure with the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court at the apex. The district courts are the primary criminal trial courts, and the regional courts are the primary appellate courts. The judiciary is governed by the All-Russian Congress of Judges and its Council of Judges, and its management is aided by the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court, the Judicial Qualification Collegia, the Ministry of Justice, and the various courts' chairpersons. And although there are many officers of the court, including jurors, the Prosecutor General remains the most powerful component of the Russian judicial system.
The judiciary faces many problems and a widespread lack of confidence but has also made much progress in recent times. There have been serious violations of the accepted separation of powers doctrine, systematic attempts to undermine jury trials, problems with access to justice, problems with court infrastructure, financial support, and corruption. But the judiciary has also seen a fairer and more efficient administration, a strengthening of the rule of law, moves towards a more adversarial system, and increased utilization of the justice system under Putin.
General scheme of judicial system of Russian Federation
CourtsRussia has a trifurcated court system, with constitutional, ordinary, and commercial courts. The Constitutional Court of Russia is considered a separate, independent court. Constitutional courts of federal subjects of Russia are separate and independent too. The district courts are the primary criminal trial courts, and the regional courts are the primary appellate courts.
The ordinary courts are responsible for civil cases, administrative cases, criminal cases and cases of administrative offenses and have the following hierarchy:
- the Supreme Court of Russia
- cassation ordinary courts and cassation military courts
- appellate ordinary courts and appellate military courts
- regional courts and military courts of military districts/fleets
- district courts and garrison military courts
- magistrate courts
- the Supreme Court of Russia
- arbitration county courts and the Court of intellectual rights
- arbitration appellate courts
- arbitration courts of subjects of Russian Federation
Constitutional CourtThe Constitutional Court of Russia is responsible for cases concerning conformity with the Constitution, judicial disputes between 2 or more federal bodies, between a federal body and a member of the Federation, and between members of the Federation. As such, it practices "constitutional review" and decides whether federal laws, presidential decrees and directives, and local constitutions, charters, and laws comply with the federal constitution, as well as treaties between the national government and a regional governments and between regional governments.
It is composed of 19 judges, and may sit in plenary sessions but is otherwise divided into 2 chambers. The Constitutional Court consists of two chambers with 10 and 9 judges respectively. The Chairman presides over one of the chambers, the Deputy Chairman presides over the other chamber.
Constitutionality of laws, disputes concerning competence of governmental agencies, impeachment of the President of Russia, and Constitutional Court's proposals of legislation must be dealt with by the plenary session. The Constitutional Court may also submit to the plenary session any other issue at its discretion.
In general, the court hears cases referred by the President, the Federation Council, the State Duma, one-fifth of the members of either chamber of the Federal Assembly, the Government, the Supreme Court, or other bodies of legislative or executive authority. It also hears complains by citizens of allegations of constitutional rights violations.
Constitutional courts of federal subjectsConstitutional courts of Russia's federal subjects hear cases relating to conformity with regional constitutions of laws adopted by regional legislatures, and in this category of cases constitutional courts are courts of single instance.
Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court of Russia is the highest court, and supervises inferior courts of general jurisdiction. It occasionally sits as a court of first instance in cases where important interests of state are at issue; in this case it normally consists of a judge and a jury, but occasionally consists of three judges.
There are 115 members of the Supreme Court. At plenary sessions the Supreme Court studies the judicial decisions of lower courts on various topics and adopts resolutions, which establish recommendations on the interpretation of particular provisions of law for lower courts for uniform application.
The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court represents Russia's final court of appeal. The Presidium consists of thirteen judges: the Chairman of the Supreme Court, its first deputy chairman, its six deputy chairmen and five other Supreme Court judges. Only the Prosecutor General has the right to appeal to the Presidium, and as a result, very few criminal cases reviewed by the three-judge panels of the Supreme Court make it to the Presidium. Only 0.4% of criminal cases in 1998 ended with an acquittal in the Presidium.
The court is divided into several chambers or collegia, and each chamber normally sits with three judges:
- civil ;
- criminal ;
- administrative ;
- on economic disputes ;
- military ; and
- appeals, which can review decisions of the other chambers.
In fact, after the merger of old Supreme Court and former Supreme Court of Arbitration the new Supreme Court of Russia leads 2 subsystems of Russian judicial system: ordinary courts and arbitration courts.
Ordinary courtsOrdinary courts hear all criminal cases. Also ordinary courts hear administrative cases, civil cases, cases of administrative offenses with the exception of cases under the jurisdiction of arbitration courts. Ordinary courts are divided into 2 types: military and non-military.
Cassation ordinary courts and cassation military courtsCassation courts became operational on October 1, 2019. They carry out the cassation review of cases which were heard by district courts or garrison military courts as the courts of first instance.
Appellate ordinary courts and appellate military courtsAppellate courts became operational on October 1, 2019. They carry out the appeal review of cases which were heard by regional courts or military courts of military districts/fleets as the courts of first instance.
Regional courts and military courts of military districts/fleetsare the courts at the regional level, though are not all named as such. This includes the supreme courts of the Republics of Russia, courts of the krais, courts of the oblasts, city courts of the federal cities of Russia, courts of the autonomous oblasts, and courts of the autonomous okrugs.
The courts sit as both courts of first instance and appellate courts. As courts of first instance, they hear more complex civil cases, serious criminal cases and administrative cases with participation of regional authorities. A judge and a jury, or alternatively 3 judges, hear these cases. As appellate courts, they hear decisions of district courts that have not yet entered into force, and consist of 3 judges.
The jurisdiction of military courts of military districts/fleets is similar to jurisdiction of regional courts, but military courts of military districts/fleets hear and review the cases relating to the military personnel only.
District courts and garrison military courts, which were called People's Courts until 1996, are primarily courts of first instance but sometimes hear appeals from magistrate courts. They are formed in areas, urban areas, and cities. Decisions of the court are appealed to the regional court.
As courts of first instance, they handle criminal cases where imprisonment is for more than 3 years, and consist of 1 judge and a jury where required. As courts of appeal from decisions of the magistrate courts consisting of 1 justice of the peace, they consist of 1 judge and retry the case.
The jurisdiction of garrison military courts is similar to jurisdiction of district courts, but the garrison military courts hear the cases relating to the military personnel only. Furthermore, unlike district courts, the garrison military courts do not carry out appeal procedure.
Magistrate courtshandle criminal cases where imprisonment is for less than three years such as petty hooliganism, public drunkenness, and serious traffic violations of a non-criminal nature, minor civil cases such as simple divorces, some property cases, disputes over land, and some labor cases, as well as some cases of administrative offenses and administrative cases. The magistrate courts were expected to hear two-thirds of all civil cases and close to 100,000 criminal cases. It consists of one magistrate or justice of the peace.
Arbitration courtshear cases dealing with a wide matter of contractual issues, such as rights of ownership, contract changes, performance of obligations, loans, bank accounts, and insolvency of jurudical persons and natural persons. They operate independently of the other courts. The system of arbitration courts is supervised 30-Judge Economic Collegium that is part of an expanded Russian Supreme Court effective from August 8, 2014.
Arbitration county courts and the Court of intellectual rightsArbitration county courts carry out the first cassation review of cases which were heard by arbitration courts of subjects of Russian Federation as the courts of first instance.
The Court of intellectual rights became operational on July 3, 2013. The Court of intellectual rights carries out the cassation review of cases relating to the copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets which were heard by arbitration courts of subjects of Russian Federation as the courts of first instance. Furthermore, the Court of intellectual rights hears some civil and administrative cases relating to the intellectual property issues as the court of first instance; such cases are heard by a panel of 3 judges of the Court of intellectual rights; appellate procedure is not provided for such cases; the first cassation review of such cases is carried out by the presidency of the Court of intellectual rights and the second - by the collegium on economic disputes of Supreme Court of Russia.
Arbitration appellate courtsArbitration appellate courts carry out the appeal review of cases which were heard by arbitration courts of subjects of Russian Federation as the courts of first instance.
Arbitration courts of subjects of Russian FederationArbitration courts of subjects of Russian Federation hear the vast majority of cases under the jurisdiction of arbitration courts as the courts of first instance.
AdministrationPursuant to the 2002 Federal Law on Organs of the Judicial Community, which is the legal basis for the judicial organs of self-government, the All-Russian Congress of Judges is the supreme body of the judiciary. The Congress elects the members of the Council of Judges, the self-government body of the judiciary.
The Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of Russia is responsible for administration of the courts, such as selection and training of judicial candidates, working with law institutes, and qualifications of judges and other court officers. It is expected to enhance the independence of the judicial branch. It also supports the Council of Judges and the Supreme Qualifying Collegium.
Judicial Qualification Collegia are bodies of judicial self-regulation that were established at the regional and national levels. They play a key role in the appointment, promotion and dismissal of judges.
Some judges serve as a court chairperson. The court chairperson is solely responsible for the allocation of cases to judges, has considerable powers in the matters of appointment, and makes the initial recommendation for disciplinary measures, in particular dismissal.
JudgesJudges are appointed by the Federation Council, and serve for life. Candidates are recommended by the Qualification Collegia / Supreme Qualification Collegium to the President, who in turn recommends candidates to the Federation Council.
The judges of the Constitutional Court are nominated by the President and appointed by the Federation Council for 12 years, and the judges must be at least 40 years old and must retire at 70 years old. The also must have served as a lawyer for at least 15 years and have a "recognized high qualification" in law.
The Russian Minister of Justice is responsible for appointing judges to regional and city courts; however, in practice, many appointments below the national level still are made by the chief executives of subnational jurisdictions.
Judges of the district courts are appointed by the President. A candidate must be at least 25 years old, is expected to have received a higher legal education, have at least 5 years of experience in the legal profession, and pass an examination from the Ministry of Justice. A candidate for a position of a judge of military court has to meet the same conditions as for a candidate for a position of a judge of non-military court. Initially, a candidate for a position of a judge of military court had to have a military rank of commissioned officer, because judges of military courts were military personnel ; however, since 30 June 2009, when the amendments, contained in Federal Constitutional Law of 29 June 2009, №3-FKZ, entered into force, judges of military courts are no longer military personnel and candidates are no longer necessary to have military rank of commissioned officer.
Justices of the peace are usually appointed by the regional legislature, but may also be elected. Justices of the peace require most of the same qualifications.
ProsecutorsThe Prosecutor General of Russia is the highest prosecutor in Russia, and both he and his office are independent from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power. The Prosecutor General remains the most powerful component of the Russian judicial system.
The Prosecutor General is entrusted with:
- prosecution in court on behalf of the State;
- representation of the interests of a citizen or of the State in court in cases determined by law;
- supervision of the observance of laws by bodies that conduct detective and search activity, inquiry and pre-trial investigation;
- supervision of the observance of laws in the execution of judicial decisions in criminal cases, and also in the application of other measures of coercion related to the restraint of personal liberty of citizens.
The Prosecutor General leads the General Prosecutor's Office of Russian Federation. The prosecutor's offices of subjects of Russian Federation are subordinate to the General Prosecutor's Office of Russian Federation, and the prosecutor's offices of cities and raions are subordinate to the prosecutor's offices of subjects of Russian Federation. There are specialized prosecutor's offices which are subordinate to the General Prosecutor's Office of Russian Federation and have own subordinated prosecutor's offices. Finally, there is the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office of Russian Federation which is subordinate to the General Prosecutor's Office of Russian Federation and have own subordinated military prosecutor's offices which in turn have own subordinated military prosecutor's offices.
Prosecutors in a broad sense are directly prosecutors, their deputies, senior assistants and junior assistants. All of them are federal government officials, have special ranks and wear special uniform with shoulder marks. Military prosecutors are military personnel, have military ranks of commissioned officers and wear military uniform with shoulder marks but they are not subordinate to any military authority.
Investigators/detectivesRussian Criminal Procedure Code provides 2 formes of criminal investigation : directly investigation and initial inquiries. In this connection, there are 2 categories of investigators : directly investigators and persons conducting an initial inquiry, in Russia. The both of these categories of law-enforcement personnel are not among operational personnel which carry out the crime detection activity.
There are 3 law-enforcement authorities where investigators serve, in Russia:
The investigative departments of subjects of Russian Federation are subordinate to the Investigative Committee, and the investigative divisions of cities and raions are subordinate to the investigative departments of subjects of Russian Federation. There are specialized investigative departments which are subordinate to the Investigative Committee and have own subordinated investigative divisions. Finally, there is the Chief Military Investigative Department which is subordinate to the Investigative Committee and have own subordinated military investigative departments which in turn have own subordinated military investigative divisions.
Investigators of the Investigative Committee in a broad sense are directly investigators, senior investigators, heads of investigative divisions and their deputies, heads of investigative departments and their deputies, Chairman and Vice-Chairmen of the Investigative Committee. All of them are federal government officials, have special ranks and wear special uniform with shoulder marks. Military investigators are military personnel, have military ranks of commissioned officers and wear military uniform with shoulder marks but they are not subordinate to any military authority.
There are 5 law-enforcement authorities where persons conducting an initial inquiry serve, in Russia:
- Ministry of Internal Affairs
- Border Service
- Federal Bailiffs Service
- Russian State Fire Service of Ministry of Emergency Situations
- Federal Customs Service
An examination is administered by the qualifications commission of a court for admission to its Advokatura. To sit for the exam, one must have a higher legal education and either two years of experience in legal work after graduation or a training program in a law firm after graduation. The exam is both written and oral, but the main test is oral. The written exam takes place in the form of computer testing and includes issues of the professional conduct of advocate and advocate's professional responsibility. After successfully passing of the written exam the candidates are allowed to take the oral exam. As part of the oral exam, the candidate must demonstrate his knowledge in various bodies of law and solve some mimic a real-life legal tasks. The candidate who does not pass the qualification exam can try to pass it again after 1 year only. The qualifications commission is composed of seven advocates, two judges, two representatives of the regional legislature, and two representatives of the Ministry of Justice.
After successful passing the qualification exam a candidate should take the oath of advocate. From the moment of taking the oath, he becomes an advocate and a member of the advocate's chamber of the relevant federal subject of Russia. Advocate's chamber sends relevant information to the territorial subdivision of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, which includes the new advocate in the register of advocates of the relevant federal subject of Russia and issues to him an advocate's certificate, which is the only official document confirming the status of an advocate, on the basis of this information. The status of an advocate is granted for an indefinite period and is not limited by any age. There is only 1 advocate's chamber in each federal subject of Russia. Each advocate can be the member of only 1 advocate's chamber and can be listed in the register of advocates of the relevant federal subject of Russia only. In case of relocation to another region, the advocate ceases to be a member of the advocate's chamber and should be excluded from register of advocates at the old place of residence, and after that he becomes a member of the advocate's chamber and is included in the register of advocates at the new place of residence without any exams. Each advocate can carry out his professional activity throughout Russia, regardless of membership in particular regional advocate's chamber and regardless of particular regional register where he is listed in. Advocates carry out their professional activity individually or as the member of advocate's juridical person. Advocate can open own cabinet after at least 3 years legal practice in collegium or bureau. An advocate, who has opened own cabinet, can not be the member of any advocate's juridical person, and an advocate, who is the member of one advocate's juridical person, can not be the member of any other advocate's juridical person. Advocate is obliged to report to advocate's chamber any changes in his membership in a collegium or a bureau and, equally, opening and closing a cabinet.
An advocate can not be an individual entrepreneur, government official, municipal official, notary, judge, elected official. An advocate can not work under an employment contract, with the exception of scientific and teaching activities. An advocate may combine his status with the status of a patent attorney, a trustee in bankruptcy. An advocate may be a shareholder/owner of business juridical persons and a member of voluntary associations and political parties. Russian advocate may have a status of advocate in foreign jurisdiction, subject to above conditions.
Advocate's chambers are professional associations of advocates, which are based on mandatory membership of advocates. All regional advocate's chambers are mandatory members of Federal Chamber of Advocates of Russian Federation, which is professional association at the federal level.
In 1988 there were 25,000 lawyers, and in 2002 there were 47,000 defense lawyers in all of Russia. As of 2018, there were 49,4 advocates per 100000 people in Russia.
JurorsA juror must be 25 years old, legally competent, and without a criminal record.
The right to a jury trial is provided by Constitution of Russian Federation but for criminal cases only and in the procedure defined by law. Initially, the Criminal Procedure Code, which was adopted in 2001, provided that the right to a jury trial could be realized in criminal cases which should be heard by regional courts and military courts of military districts/fleets as the courts of first instance; the jury was composed of 12 jurors. In 2008, the anti-state criminal cases were removed from the jurisdiction of the jury trial. From 1 June 2018, defendants can claim a jury trial in criminal cases which are heard by district courts and garrison military courts as the courts of first instance; from that moment on, the jury is composed of 8 or 6 jurors.
LawThe judiciary is primarily regulated by the Constitution of Russia, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the 1996 Federal Constitutional Law on the Judicial System of the Russian Federation. The Constitution states that the judicial branch is independent of the legislative and executive branches.
There is no usage of precedent, as used in common law legal systems. As such, the law on appeal may depend on the composition of the chamber deciding the appeal. A chamber normally consists of 3 judges, out of the dozens of judges within the court. Without the legal principle of stare decisis, for each case a chamber may come to a different, even contradictory, conclusion, even compared to chambers within the same session. If they come to relatively consistent decisions, those in civil law legal systems call this jurisprudence constante.
Criminal procedureEveryone has the right of legal assistance. The accused have the right to a defense lawyer from the time they are detained, put in custody, charged, or declared a suspect. According to the 2001 Code of Criminal Procedure, defense lawyers can participate in investigations with the consent of the prosecutor, meet privately with a client, collect evidence independently of the prosecutor, identify defense witnesses, present expert witnesses, be present for all court procedures, access to the prosecutions evidence after the investigation, and to file appeals regarding court procedures.
For serious and specific crimes, the accused have the option of a jury trial consisting of 12 jurors. The crimes that may be tried by a jury are murder, kidnapping, rape with aggravating circumstances, child trafficking, gangsterism, large-scale bribery, treason, terrorism, public calls for violent change in the constitutional system or for the seizure of power, and select other crimes against the state. The Constitution of Russia stipulates that, until the abolition of the death penalty, all defendants in a case that may result in a death sentence are entitled to a jury trial.
Jurors are selected by the prosecution and defense from a list of 30-40 eligible candidates. They are similar to common law juries, and unlike lay judges, in that they sit separately from the judges and decide questions of fact alone while the judge determines questions of law. They must return unanimous verdicts during the first 3 hours of deliberation, but may return majority verdicts after that, with 6 jurors being enough to acquit. They may also request that the judge show leniency in sentencing.
Analysis and criticismThe arbitrazh courts have been singled out as particularly effective in dealing with business issues. Also, the number of people seeking assistance of the judicial system has increased from 1 million under Yeltsin to 6 million under Putin.
However, Transparency International found that 78% of respondents reported they did not expect to find justice in the courts. Both public perception and comments from senior judges point to bribery as prevalent at the trial court level. Carnegie's Moscow Center states that judges only give out not-guilty verdicts once every seven years, and that those verdicts will be repealed.
There have been serious violations of the accepted separation of powers doctrine. Constitutional Court Judge and Council of Judges member Vladimir Yaroslavtsev, in a 2009 interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, claimed that the presidential executive office and security services had undermined judicial independence in Russia. Constitutional Court Judge Anatoly Kononov, who had frequently dissented from decisions taken by the majority of the court, in his interview to Sobesednik supported Yaroslavtsev, claiming that there was no independent judiciary in Russia.
There have been accusations of systematic attempts to undermine jury trials, including juror intimidation and bribery, and systematic trial delays. The number of jury trials remains small, at about 600 per year, out of about 1 million trials. Lawmakers are continuously chipping away at what types of criminal offenses merit a jury trial. Juries have granted acquittals in 15-20% of cases, compared with less than 1% in cases decided by judges. Juries may be dismissed and skeptical juries have been dismissed on the verge of verdicts, and acquittals are frequently overturned by higher courts.
Compared to other industrialized nations, Russia has historically had a small number of lawyers in relation to its population. In 2002 there were 47,000 defense lawyers in all of Russia, while the courts sentenced about 1 million people for criminal offenses and considered 3 million administrative offenses and 2.5 million civil cases, and the Russian Census of 2002 put the resident population at more than 145 million people. For a comparison to the United States, the number of active lawyers practicing before the judiciary of California as of was more than 179,000, while the 2010 United States Census put the California population at more than 37 million people.
The court chairperson has sole discretion for allocation of court cases, and there is no systematic procedure for allocation based on objective criteria. There have been reports where the chairperson always assigns sensitive cases to particular judges or transfers cases to another judge during an ongoing trial.
There have been allegations of corruption concerning the oral exam required for admission to the Advokatura, known as being "called to the bar" in commonwealth countries.
The crucial question of contemporary Russian judiciary is the specialisation of judges and courts. One of the significant event on this topic was the International conference - First Siberian Legal Forum "Specialisation of judges and courts: International experience and Russian perspective", held in Tyumen city and organised by Tyumen State University and Dmitry Maleshin
HistoryTrial by jury was first introduced in the Russian Empire as a result of the Judicial reform of Alexander II in 1864, and abolished after the October Revolution in 1917. They were reintroduced in the Russian Federation in 1993, and extended to another 69 regions in 2003. Its reintroduction was opposed by the Prosecutor General. Magistrate courts were first created in 1864, abolished in 1917, and gradually reintroduced from 2001 to 2003.
Lay judges were in use in the Soviet Union. After a 1958 reform they were elected for 2 years at general meetings of colleagues at their place of work or residence, or at higher levels appointed by the soviet. The incidents of lay judges overruling professional judges was rare, and was officially reported in only 1 case by the late 1960s. Unlike the juries of the United States, lay judges were not selected from panels that are cross-sections of the entire population, but selected by institutions in each district.
On 25 May 2001, President Putin proposed the Federal Law "On Amending the Federal Law On the Status of Judges In the Russian Federation", which was passed by the Duma, and signed by President Putin on 15 December 2001. The law introduced disciplinary and administrative responsibility for judges. The Federal Law on Organs of the Judicial Community, which is the legal basis for the judicial organs of self-government, was passed in 2002.
Constitutional Court Judge and Council of Judges member Vladimir Yaroslavtsev, in a 2009 interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, claimed that the presidential executive office and security services had undermined judicial independence in Russia. Constitutional Court Judge Anatoly Kononov, who had frequently dissented from decisions taken by the majority of the court, in his interview to Sobesednik supported Yaroslavtsev, claiming that there was no independent judiciary in Russia. In October the Constitutional Court in an unprecedented motion accused Yaroslavtsev of "undermining the authority of the judiciary" in violation of the judicial code, and Yaroslavtsev eventually resigned from the Council of Judges but remained a judge; Kononov resigned from the Constitutional Court on, seven years ahead of schedule.
The VIII All-Russian Congress of Judges met from.