President Medvedev: "We Must Combat Extra-Procedural Requests to the Courts." Do Judges Suffer Pangs of Conscience?

posted 19 May 2011, 14:27 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 May 2011, 14:28 ]
Source: hro.org (info), 11/05/11

· The Courts · Moscow City & Moscow Region

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered that recommendations be drawn up to combat the practice of so-called extra-procedural petitions to courts on particular cases.

As Kommersant writes, according to Medvedev the practice of behind-the-scenes petitions to the chairpersons of courts by corporate groups and government officials to “ensure an objective, full and thorough consideration of the case, to take a case under their personal control” are not necessarily corrupt in nature, but nevertheless violate not only ethical, but also constitutional norms. As the President said, “the principle of equality of all citizens before the courts and before the law” is being violated because “only a very small circle of people can turn to the courts with such requests.”

These requests might be interpreted as “disrespectful and showing a lack of trust in the courts because authors of the demands a priori presume that the courts might arrive at wrong decisions.” Requests that a court review a case before it “more attentively” is “a direct violation of the principle of the independence of the courts and of the judge,” said Medvedev.

According to Medvedev, “the practice of making extra-procedural petitions to the courts has become standard practice,” and this is because interdepartmental correspondence is shrouded in secrecy. As a result, “these kinds of petitions cannot affect the reputation of the petition’s authors.” “No one could suspect such a person of unlawful usage of their official position. Meanwhile, for the majority of politicians, their reputation is of the utmost importance, since it is their reputation that is the chief reason they occupy a position in government.” President Medvedev proposed that a mechanism be found to make public all petitions to the chairpersons of courts at every level. He also noted that the Supreme Arbitration Court has already “taken steps in this direction”.

As Grani.ru has noted, Anton Ivanov, the chair of the Supreme Arbitration Court, promised soon after his appointment that he would make “telephone law” public. In particular, he proposed that judges kept a note of all telephone calls and other requests of an “extra-procedural nature” in special books, as is done abroad. The first step has been the publication in a special section of the website of the Supreme Arbitration Court of petitions related to court cases. The first petition to be published, on 27 March 2009, was from Nikolai Vinogradov, the governor of Vladimir Region. Vinogradov petitioned on behalf of the Italian group Ferrero, which was in litigation with the Russian company Landrin over trademark violations.

The Supreme Arbitration Court’s site has now published 55 petitions. Many of these come from deputies of the State Duma, including vice-speakers Oleg Morosov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

On 24 June 2009 the Supreme Arbitration Court ordered all arbitration courts to publish petitions of this kind on their websites. However, only on the websites of four out of ten appeal courts can special sections for these petitions be found, and there are only a handful of these petitions. For example, the Federal Arbitration Court of the West-Siberian District published two petitions, and the courts of the Urals and Far East districts each published two. Only on the site of the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Moscow region could as many as 22 petitions be found.

Several jurists doubt that the practice of publishing these petitions will be an effective tool against “telephone law.” The retired vice-chairperson of Moscow Regional Court, Anatoly Efimov, said that when he was in office there were not many petitions. The few petitions that he encountered were sent by deputies and administrations of different levels about particular cases. “At first, they were the ones to receive the complaints and requests and then they directed these to the courts. Such petitions did not influence the courts”, said Efimov. He thinks that if these petitions has been published, then there would have been no tangible change, since the petitions in any case were added to the case files and were accessible to the participants in the court proceedings.
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Rights in Russia,
19 May 2011, 14:28
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