President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear Colleagues!
We have gathered today to discuss matters related to the development of the Russian judicial system. Since 1991, our judicial system has come a long way: in fact, it has developed on the basis of previous experience and in light of new principles. Ideas for judicial reform were worked out and subsequently implemented. We made laws in light of these ideas, which in the end resulted in a profound modernisation of the domestic judicial system. We have identified the types of courts that exist in our country, taken the necessary decisions on their status, and established bodies operate in tandem with the judicial authorities — in short, we have done everything that distinguishes the best modern judicial systems and is generally consistent with the principles of international law.
However, every system requires improvement. And today there are a number of policy issues that we need to address to strengthen the judicial system. I think that this involves mainly questions of internal procedures and the status of courts, rather than improving civil and criminal procedural legislation. We have recently done a lot in these areas.
What is our main objective? Our main objective is to achieve independence for the judicial system. It is a well-known principle that courts must be subject to the law, and, indeed, this is the basis of respect for justice and for the belief in its fairness. This is our basic task and it is hugely important. To move in this direction, we need to consider a range of issues associated with preparing a series of measures aimed at eliminating the miscarriage of justice. As we all know, when justice fails it often does so because of pressure of various kinds, such as surreptitious phone calls and money – there is no point in beating around the bush. We also need to establish measures to accelerate decision-making where this is possible. I mean eliminating red tape but of course without adversely affecting the functioning of the system.
We need to clarify a number of regulations and make changes in legislation, perhaps those concerning qualifications for the bar and terms of office. I think that we'll talk about amending the law on magistrates and the Code of Administrative Offences.
There is the separate but perennial question of financial and logistical support for the courts. In this regard we have done some things, but a great deal more remains to be done. We know how important electronic forms are for the receipt and introduction of evidence, and the role they play in the process as a whole. I’m thinking of Moscow and many of our larger cities – in many others this is not the case. Therefore, I believe this is also one of the most important objectives for improving justice in our country.
Another important subject for the judiciary is personnel, and this is a crucial issue. Certainly, we have a good system for training them, but in recent years — and this is no secret – there has been a torrent of new lawyers, weaker law schools have become pre-eminent, and as a consequence there has been an exodus of specialists from the system. It is obvious that these new people are making decisions that affect human lives. In this sense, we must also improve the education system in the country and think about ways of introducing more uniformity in legal training.
In other words, we need to introduce some significant, maybe even radical changes in legislation concerning the judicial system. The main reference point for us is the independence of the courts and their effectiveness.
Based on our discussions today I will give the appropriate orders. I think we will create a special working group, like the one that addresses the issues we discussed yesterday [fighting corruption – translator’s note], that will be charged with quickly producing a set of legislative initiatives on these topics.